Who doesn’t love a good power rankings? I know I do, as any sports aficionado loves Mondays or Tuesdays for the deluge of NBA, NFL and MLB power rankings that drop, as that means we have plenty of content to engage with and then, invariably, be upset with when our team isn’t precisely where we believe they should be (unless it’s number one, in which case, that’s fair). Power rankings are fun because they’re a good way to provide order to chaos, but they’re also a great conversation starter. In that way, I imagine Doreen Green – aka Squirrel Girl – might be a fan, even if she might not like the inherently combative nature of them.
So with that in mind, as well as this week’s finale to Ryan North, Derek Charm, Erica Henderson, Rico Renzi, Travis Lanham and friends’ The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, I wanted to pay tribute with a Squirrel Girl power rankings. What am I ranking exactly? It’s a ranking of each of the arcs from the series, with a couple select cheats for particularly robust or notable issues. Normally for one of these I’ve actually develop a system for how I’d rank them, but in true Squirrel Girl fashion I instead only had one guide in this exercise: it was ordered based off how much I liked each arc. 1 I reread the majority of the series to make sure I got it right, but by and large, this is affinity based. That’s it!
Let’s get onto it then, as I deliver the world’s most perfect Squirrel Girl power rankings, and there is basically nothing you can do to convince me otherwise.
16. The One Where The Crew Teams Up with Ant-Man (Vol. 2, #12 – #14)
Why it’s ranked here: This is a very fun arc. It’s a very smart arc. But all arcs of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl are very fun and very smart. It finishes where it does largely because it’s maybe the most forgettable arc of them all, as it does a lot of things that happen in other stories but in maybe a 12% less interesting manner. They have a superhero team-up, but it’s with comic book Scott Lang, who is definitely no Paul Rudd. They hang with Squirrel Girl’s mom, Maureen, but it’s not quite as fun as the other times we chill with her. 2 And the crew faces insurmountable odds against a seemingly unbeatable enemy, but Enigmo is no Melissa Morbeck, Dr. Doom or Allene.
It’s a solid arc. It just feels like a less potent one than a whole lot of others it vaguely resembles. That’s a fun comic, but 16th in the Squirrel Girl power rankings.
15. The One Where a Skrull Poses as Squirrel Girl (Vo. 2, #37 – #40)
Why it’s ranked here: I really thought this one would finish higher than it did, as it was one I very much enjoyed when I first read it. But then when I was diving into the rest of the entries on this list, I realized how good the rest of the series was and this was more of a very solid entry in the Squirrel Girl oeuvre than it was an A+ one.
Part of that stems from the shifting premise of this arc, as it begins as “The Death of Squirrel Girl” essentially before we realize it’s more about Skrull-related activities (the dead Squirrel Girl was a Skrull, and she also wasn’t even dead). It brings in a lot of old faves, with some phenomenal Tony Stark beats within. The funeral issue is perfection, as are the costumes Nancy and Doreen wear to escape detection. But it feels maybe a little more minor than others, and it’s not something where I immediately look back and think, “Man, I loved (insert beat here).” That’s enough to knock it down a bit.
14. Animal House, or The One Where Squirrel Girl Teamed Up with Howard the Duck (Vol. 2 #6 and Howard the Duck Vol. 6 #6)
Why it’s ranked here: While I don’t love it as much as Squirrel Girl, Chip Zdarsky and Joe Quinones’ Howard the Duck was another favorite of mine. So a crossover with that title would obviously be fun, and sure enough, it was. Even more importantly, it was the first narratively chronological first appearance of the We3-like cyborg cat Biggs, who instead of killing everything loves to get petted. He’s an absolute delight.
But as enjoyable as it was, it was still just a two issue story, and one that perhaps lacked the narrative heft of the others further up the rankings even though it was still very, very enjoyable. This did have a murderer’s row of entertainment, including some Kraven the Hunter action (which is always a plus), a squirrel from the Weapon X program that is basically Squirrel Wolverine (Squirrelverine? It goes by Weapon II), the aforementioned Biggs, and, perhaps most gloriously, Joe Quinones art. But still, it’s here and that feels right.
13. The One Where The Crew Does an Escape Room with Kraven (Vol. 2, #32 – #35)
Why it’s ranked here: I really, really wanted to rank this one higher, as this was artist Derek Charm’s first story and he acquitted himself so nicely, it’s maybe the best Kraven story from the series (and it features the Kra-Van!), and it’s a very quintessential Squirrel Girl story in the sense that it starts with a chill hang and ends with her advocating for a man known for hunting humans. It has a lot going for it. It’s a very well-executed story, and one I’m quite fond of.
But ties must be broken, and my tiebreaker here is that while this fits everyone involved, it’s lacking a little of the juice that the arcs later on have. A little of the je n’ais ce quoi that sets the others apart from the rest. This is a very well done story, but it doesn’t have that one moment or more that demands it be ranked higher (besides maybe the Kra-Van, but that’s unfortunately not enough). That’s good enough to be ranked #13, but no higher unfortunately. But hey, I never thought I’d read a comic where Kraven the Hunter does an escape room, and now I can say I have!
12. The Forbidden Pla-Nut, or, The One Where Squirrel Girl Goes to Space (Vol. 2, #27 – #30)
Why it’s ranked here: I originally had this slated #14, but it moved up to #12 on my reread for a few key reasons. First, there’s a page where it’s just Doreen asking cat-themed heroes if they can speak to cats, which…yes. I love that. Second, there’s a role-reversal setup to this that’s quite lovely, as Doreen pairs with Loki, while Loki’s favorite human Nancy teams with Doreen’s best pal Tippy-Toe the squirrel. Third, the story stems from some dudes who paint themselves to look like the Silver Surfer (amongst other beings) to swindle space squirrels. Fourth, it features the one time where Doreen comes out swinging instead of talking, except it’s mistakenly against the real Silver Surfer, which, predictably, goes poorly. Lastly, THEY GO TO SPACE.
That last part was always in there, but it does lead to a Squirrel Girl story of a much different flavor, even if it does really nail the importance of why Squirrel Girl and her approach is so different and important. I’m a big fan of this one…but there’s a whole lot of goodness to follow, and even very good stories drop when the Squirrel Girl power rankings are concerned.
11. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe, or, The One Where Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe (The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe GN)
Why it’s ranked here: We have our first controversial ranking! Many fans might disagree with me on this, but while the Squirrel Girl graphic novel – or, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe – was a very good story with, most potently, an incredibly heartwarming and nearly heartbreaking ending, it also might have been a little less Squirrel Girl-y to me, in a strange way?
What I mean is when Squirrel Girl faces off against Squirrel Girl – as is the plot of this story, with Doreen accidentally being cloned but it isn’t really a perfect clone as this one (called Allene) is a bit of a megalomaniac – the final victory largely stems from a brute force answer. It’s a beautifully drawn graphic novel, with Henderson being inked by Tom Fowler and Renzi delivering his standard A+ colors. It has a whole lot of hilarious and wonderful beats. It has maybe the most destructive moment in the series when it seems as if Doreen’s best pal Tippy-Toe has perished in battle, which doubles as one of the best moments because of how perfectly Tippy reflects her and Doreen’s perspective on life. 3 That’s a pantheon Squirrel Girl story beat, and it’s not alone as a premium part.
But in the end, it requires Doreen with Thor’s powers and a whole mess of superheroes to defeat the evil-ish Squirrel Girl, and that’s a little less like the ideal Squirrel Girl story to me. It’s a necessary (and fun!) solution, but when you’re dealing with 16 great stories and the need to order them, you need tiebreakers. The relatively conventional nature of the final battle is the one that led to the graphic novel finishing where it did.
Let’s be honest, though, if it was in true Squirrel Girl fashion it’d probably be organized using an algorithm she wrote designed to track affinity, interest, importance, laughs per minute, joy delivered, and several other key metrics. But Doreen is better at this than I am, so…that’s fine.↩
They do get to go to Canada, which is fun, but even that’s less entertaining than the War of the Realms story where they do the same.↩
It also leads to Tippy telling Allene to take a long walk off a short branch, which was truly iconic.↩