I’m going to go about this a bit differently this time around. Shortly after issue #44 was released, it was announced that Unbeatable Squirrel Girl would be ending with issue #50. This comic has a special place in my heart for a number of reasons, but Ryan North, Erica Henderson, and now Derek Charm have put together one of the most wholesome, supportive, inclusive, beautiful, and inspiring comics ever. They took an obscure set of characters and made them vital to the process in the Marvel comics universe, succeeding at taking them from oddball jokes into some of the most heartfelt characters in comics today. Seeing fans at cons in Squirrel Girl costumes always brings a smile to my face. Getting to read and write about this comic has been a true pleasure and while I look forward to the story that will wrap things up, I will mourn the world being slightly dimmer for its end. All of this was in my head when I opened this issue, and then North and Charm went ahead and made me cry.
Squirrel Girl is in the Great White North, hunting down a Frost Giant base in Canada with the Asgardian chaos god Ratatoskr who just won’t be a good person and do things the heroic way. After revealing that she does not see their mission as an attempt to save the world, but merely a vehicle to inflict more chaos while the rest of the world burns in the War of the Realms, Ratatoskr is sent packing by Doreen who insists on traveling to the base on her own. Rataoskr mind-controls some Frost Giants, including one named Daisy who helpfully psychoanalyzes the squirrel god’s major self-image issues. Ratatoskr is a creature of chaos and destruction and Squirrel Girl calling her out hurt her to her core. She decides to use her mind-controlled Daisy to find Squirrel Girl and finally do the right thing.
Meanwhile, Squirrel Girl is walking through the intense quiet of the forest, contemplating her friends, stuck in the Negative Zone, and she looks for a conveniently newly-public domain poem to help capture the moment. Robert Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” is one of my favorite poems that deeply affects me every time I read it or hear it. Having this treasure of American poetry narrate one of the consistently best-written comics in print elevates the pages to sublime art. North does not use allusions for cheap effect and using the complete text of “Stopping By Woods” is not a stunt. It encapsulates the dark beauty of snow in the forest, falling as the speaker marvels, soon realizing that he must leave it behind to keep the promises he made before the night is over. In Doreen’s case, her promises will help end the long night and the deep cold. She must continue, she must keep them.
In someone less nuanced in his balance between humor and beauty in his words, using “Stopping By Woods” would be cheap. North is not, and has never been, that writer. He is purposeful and knows when his scripts call for beauty and grace. Charms pencils and Rico Renzi’s color, while simple and comic-booky, capture the depth of the words and Doreen’s determination wonderfully.
To be completely honest, I feel like the issue should have ended after the final panel of the poem, a full page of Squirrel Girl marching towards destiny, repeating the final line, “and miles to go before I sleep.” But, there is more. A quick game of frostball with the indestructible bodies of Ratatoskr and Squirrel Girl gets them hurled to their destination with great haste where they skulk around town trying to find a non-mind control-based way to find the base and beat the Frost Giants. With a major cliff-hanger ending, the War of the Realms continues into issue #46 and then we have but four issues of this wonderful work ahead of us.