Review: ‘The Unstoppable Wasp Vol. 1: Unstoppable’
The Unstoppable Wasp Vol. 1: Unstoppable
Writers: Jeremy Whitley and Mark Waid
Artists: Elsa Charretier and Adam Kubert
Marvel Entertainment; $12.99
Rated T+ for teens 13 and up
Marvel has spent the last few years introducing a wide variety of new legacy characters in an effort to help diversify their traditionally white, male, and straight line-up of superheroes created in the 1960s. The introduction of the “All-New, All-Different” Wasp in the pages of The All-New, All-Different Avengers last year didn’t quite fit that pattern, as this Wasp, like the original Wasp Janet Van Dyne, was a white young woman—she was even brunette, like her namesake!
So, what was the point of introducing a new Wasp in the form of Nadia, the daughter of the original—and currently dead-ish—Ant-Man, Hank Pym? Well, it’s never easy to guess the motivations of an entertainment company like Marvel, and it’s quite possible that she was created so there would be a comics analogue to the Ant-Man film’s Wasp, who is the daughter of the movie’s Hank Pym, or perhaps editors wanted to create a legacy version of Pym, but since there was already a new Ant-Man, they gave this insect-themed, size-changing super-genius superhero The Wasp name instead.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter, because it gave us The Unstoppable Wasp, a remarkably good new comic book series by writer Jeremy Whitley and artist Elsa Charretier. Last-name-less Nadia was previously introduced in Mark Waid’s Avengers book, although her origin is quickly recapped here: She is the daughter of Pym and his first wife Maria, a Hungarian geneticist who was kidnapped and later died, but not before giving birth to a daughter Pym never even knew she was carrying. That daughter grew up in “The Red Room” in Russia, forced to work on mad science experiments. Once she began working on Pym particles as a teenager, she shrunk, escaped, and headed to America to find her father—only to discover that he was dead (albeit in a rather temporary, comic book-y death; he will almost certainly return before long).
Taken under the wing of Hank’s ex-wife (and original Wasp) Janet Van Dyne and the Avengers’ butler Jarvis, Nadia joined her dad’s old super-team and graduated to her own book which, as I’ve already stated, is really good.
Given that Nadia literally grew up in a bunker, Whitley plays her as the Marvel Universe’s answer to Kimmy Schmidt (who is Unbreakable, rather than Unstoppable, but close enough!). Like Kimmy, Nadia is ignorant of just about everything, and she has a relentless, almost manic cheerfulness about her, likely borne out of being kept away from all the little things the real world has to offer for her entire life. Nadia, however, is well-versed in Marvel super-science and knows heroes and villains mainly through their research papers.
Whitley grounds the first four issues of the series, collected in the redundantly titled trade Unstoppable, in a neat meta-observation. For a long time, whenever Marvel character teen super-genius Amadeus Cho would appear in a comic, he would be referred to as the “eighth smartest” person on the planet. (The Korean-American Cho, by the way, has since become one of those newer legacy characters that helps diversify Marvel’s line; he’s lately gained the ability to turn into a Hulk, and he has been appearing in The Totally Awesome Hulk and The Champions.)
Who the other seven were was, of course, the sort of game fans liked to play, but many of Marvel’s best-known super-geniuses were, of course, middle-aged white dudes, like Reed Richards, Hank Pym, Tony Stark, Henry McCoy, and Bruce Banner. In the first issue of The Unstoppable Wasp, Nadia runs into Mockingbird, an agent of SHIELD and a superhero/scientist, and hears of SHIELD’s list of the world’s smartest geniuses. Realizing that the list is biased towards the sorts of men who originally conceived of it—that is, men like Reed Richards, Tony Stark, and her own dad—she decides to devote herself to finding, recruiting and encouraging her fellow female teen super-geniuses.
Her bright idea is G.I.R.L., a terrible acronym for Genius In action Research Labs, and a put-upon Jarvis drives her around New York City to find girl geniuses while she, in absent-minded professor mode, neglects things like straightening out her immigration status so that she can stay in America.
There are some villains, including a female mad scientist she admires piloting a giant robot, bad guys from the Red Room sent to retrieve her, and a pair of wrestlers-turned-wrestling-based-supervillains-turned-protection racket. And there are guest stars, including the aforementioned Janet Van Dyne and Mockingbird, plus Ms. Marvel, Matt Murdock, and Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur.
The real fun parts of the book, however, are Nadia’s bemused bewilderment at the world outside the bunker she grew up in (and, this being the Marvel Universe, it’s even more bewildering than our New York City is), her strained, strange relationship with Jarvis (who becomes something of a beleaguered father figure because the Avengers no longer need his buttling services), and the way in which being a superhero is pretty low on her list of priorities, just something she occasionally engages in when not doing something more important, like inventing things or helping advance the cause of young women in science.
Whitley has a perfect collaborator in artist Elsa Charretier, whose cartoony style gives the book an almost iconoclastic, indie look, well suited to the tone of a technically Marvel universe super-comic, but also something of a parody of one. Their Unstoppable Wasp is yet another in a growing line of comedy comic books.
Tonally, it reminded me quite a bit of other Marvel female-fronted humor hero books like The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Mockingbird, and Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat. Hopefully it will find its audience fast, and said audience will turn out to be a sizable one, though, as two of those three terrific books have been canceled.
Filed under: Reviews
About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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