Squirrel Girl’s Chatty Superpower

Squirrel Girl (secret identity: Doreen Green, computer science major) was introduced as a character by Marvel in a 1992 Iron Man (included in the back of this volume, which was fun). The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is her first time starring in her own comic series. Squirrel Girl’s superpower is that she has squirrel blood and is part squirrel. This means she can talk to squirrels and use them to assist her in fighting bad guys, has a tail, loves nuts, etc.

Something that I didn’t notice while I was reading the graphic novel, but only looking back on it, is that she never actually fights a bad guy. Squirrel Girl “fights” Kraven the Hunter, Whiplash, and Galactus, but she never fights any of them; she talks them out of whatever they were planning to do. Squirrel Girl convinces Kraven that he should be off hunting the world’s biggest, meanest, most dangerous game instead of her. She is attacked by Whiplash because he thinks she’s Iron Man, but manages to escape and trap him with an army of squirrels. Squirrel Girl uses her computer science skills to locate a planet more delicious than Earth for Galactus to attack instead.  Squirrel Girl outwits villains instead of relying on brute force (even though she is super-strong). Even for an unnamed bank robber, she flees the scene and calls on some squirrels to form an empty squirrel suit to fight him.

Squirrel Girl talks a lot throughout this comic. Almost every page is filled with her dialogue, and it has very few action-filled, fight scenes (I think are) typical of most superhero comics. Again, this is an effort to evoke an image of a chattering squirrel as her superpower. Doreen is an excellent model for showing kids that they don’t need to resort to violence to solve their problems and encouraging people everywhere to sit down and talk things out.

 

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Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy

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I loved Lumberjanes!! The setting at a summer camp was wonderful and it was well thought-out, clever, and inventive. The problem-solving puzzles and magical monsters made the novel exciting but still allowed for enough characterization. I liked how Lumberjanes wasn’t as slow as some first editions; the plot was interesting and unpredictable and I will definitely read a second volume. The message of girl positivity and expression was great and will have an amazing impact on any little girl who picks up this comic.

The level of detail in this graphic novel was incredible. It was full of allusions to historical women (see this article for a cheat sheet), which a lot of work clearly went into. I also enjoyed that the word “girls” on their camp sign had been replaced with “hardcore lady types” and when reciting the pledge Jo includes “and then there’s a line about God or whatever.” I thought the layout was unique as well since it was made to seem like a guidebook with pictures collaged on and the beginning of each chapter was an excerpt from the handbook.

I feel like Lumberjanes is basically all I ever wanted out of Girl Scouts. My dad and uncle were Boy Scouts and would tell me about how they went hiking and did campouts in the freezing cold to earn badges, and I was always kind of like “Hey, I want to do that and not sell cookies and do crafts all the time. This is lame.” The badges the Lumberjanes have for archery, boating, and staying out all night (also Pungeon Master) are pretty much everything my eight-year-old Brownie Scout self dreamed of.

 

Giant Days, Vol. 1

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I liked Giant Days; I didn’t love it, but I think that could be chalked up to it being a first volume. I thought the plot was dull at times and didn’t have an overarching storyline, but I really liked the characters and the character development. There were some spots that I found really funny, too, but my favorite thing about this graphic novel was the characterization  of Esther, Daisy, and Susan.

The reader expects the girls to be stereotypes (goth, naive, and responsible “mom” friend, respectively) when they’re first introduced. I like how these stereotypes are broken and it makes the comic more relatable: Esther is kind and protective of Daisy, even if she’s still a bit dramatic, Daisy tries some pills and goes out clubbing on her birthday, and Susan is spiteful towards her old flame and though she’s a med/pre-med student, is strongly addicted to nicotine.

I think because of how much I liked Esther, Daisy, and Susan, I would probably read a second volume of Giant Days. I enjoyed the novelty (ha) of it being British, and the images were colorful and interesting to look at.

Archie, Vol. 1: The New Riverdale

If you walked into my basement right now and turned left at the bottom of the stairs, you would find a bookshelf more than half full of Archie comics. My mom saved every one she got in the mail when she was growing up in 1970’s, small-town Iowa. When I was in elementary school, I came across the stack of comics one day and I read them almost non-stop. After I finished all of her copies, I started begging my mom to buy me the newest one whenever we went to the grocery store, so I was excited to read Mark Waid’s revamp of the characters.

When this comic begins, Archie and Betty have just broke up and Veronica Lodge is just moving to town. Now I was already set on Team Betty when I started reading, and by the end of it I hadn’t budged an inch. I don’t even blame Veronica that much, just Archie. I mean, he breaks up with Betty for being too girly and wearing too much makeup, then turns around and dates someone like Veronica? I understand his resentment that Betty tries to be someone that she’s not and hanging out around girls with a bad influence, but he handled the situation very poorly.

I think in the original series, Veronica is more likable and easier to sympathize with. In the newer one, she just comes off as kind of a brat and just tries to flaunt her wealth to get people to like her. Towards the end, it starts to seem more as if she genuinely cares for Archie, like when they dance at her party, but for most of the novel, she’s demeaning and mistreats him. I hope in further volumes Waid portrays Veronica in a kinder light, as she was in the original comics, so that the reader is less inclined to like Betty and dislike Veronica, instead understanding why Archie struggles to choose between them.

Final Thoughts on Americanah

I loved Americanah. As in, by far and away my favorite book that we’ve read this year. Last week, I only had a few pages left to read but I had to leave for a work meeting, so I brought the book with me and was literally reading it while stopped at a red light. I was overly invested in Ifemelu and Obinze’s relationship and I just had to know if they ended up together.

I expected Americnah to focus entirely on race but I actually like that it turned out to be more about finding true happiness and your own identity. I liked something that my teacher said: “it is a coming-of-age book, except the transition from child to adult is complicated by changes in geography and society.” Only a section of the novel aims to call out racism and prejudice in society. I think Adichie really just wants to expose readers to several issues that can’t be reduced down to only race. Adichie’s just trying to say “hey, this is happening in America right now and it’s not okay, but also some of it’s happening in London and in the rest of the world. Also there’s all these issues like political corruption, an extreme wealth gap, female oppression in Nigeria and Nigerian doctors aren’t informing their patients and people born in one country and raised in another don’t really feel like they belong and all that needs to be fixed too.” Americanah really just describes what it’s like to be Nigerian right now and draws attention to a variety of problems.

Religion and Keeping up Appearances

In the face of crisis, Kosi acts in a very similar fashion to Ifemelu’s mother. I discussed in one of my early blog posts, Ifemelu’s Maternal Figures as her Literary Foils, how Ifemelu’s mom hides behind her religion and delves deeper into it in times of internal turmoil and often uses the devil as an excuse for others’ unwise behavior. Kosi also uses religion to keep up her appearance in society and as a justification for immoral things, such as keeping her and Obinze’s marriage together despite him cheating.

Kosi is characterized as very religious and Obinze recalls being dragged to church events and references Kosi praying often. When Obinze tells Kosi he wants a divorce, Kosi reveals she already knew he was sleeping with Ifemelu and wants to continue to pretend to be a happy family. She yells at him that they made a commitment under God and that that should be protected. Obinze is upset with Kosi for already knowing and not confronting him about it, and I think this just confirms his suspicions that he never should have married Kosi. Obinze had hoped that Kosi would at least respect herself enough to not knowingly be cheated on, especially with all of her paranoia earlier in the novel that Obinze would have an affair at work.

I think the reason that Kosi tries so desperately to keep their family together is not, as she would leave Obinze to believe, for Buchi and not for money as it would be for most Nigerian women. Obinze promises her he would provide for her and Buchi if he left them and Obinze is a man of his word. Kosi cares about Buchi but wishes that she was a boy, and would of course still be able to see her if she and Obinze shared custody after a divorce. The most important reason to Kosi that she and Obinze remain a couple is her appearance to their wealthy friends and peers. Kosi tries very hard to put her best face forward, which is why she lays out clothes for Obinze and Buchi and dutifully attends church and various social events. Kosi tries hard to be a good wife, which in Nigeria means providing a son and not a daughter, not allowing Obinze to cook meals, and never asking questions about where Obinze has been. Kosi truly cares about her reputation in their high class circles, and hides behind her religion as we saw frequently with Ifemelu’s mother in the first part of the novel.