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Don’t Stop Her Now: The Infectious Enthusiasm Of Whitley & Charretier’s ‘The Unstoppable Wasp’ #1 [Review]

Elsa Charretier & Nicolas Bannister / Marvel Comics
Elsa Charretier & Nicolas Bannister / Marvel Comics

 

This week sees the release of The Unstoppable Wasp #1 by Jeremy Whitley, Elsa Charretier, Megan Wilson and Joe Caramagna, which takes the daughter of Hank Pym from Avengers rookie to solo star. The first issue is packed with charm, heart and style, and proves to be not only an incredibly strong debut issue, but an even stronger statement of intent for the series at large.

The Unstoppable Wasp really excels in its portrayal of Nadia, who embraces all culture with a joie de vivre that’s refreshing to see from a character raised by Soviet spymasters. Nadia isn’t the grim, brooding, tortured hero that we already have plenty of, and instead her approach to life is to take it by the horns and experience everything she missed; something you don’t see a lot of in superhero comics.

 

Elsa Charretier & Megan Wilson / Marvel Comics
Elsa Charretier & Megan Wilson / Marvel Comics

 

While Jeremy Whitley is somewhat new to Big Two superhero comics, he has a proven track record from his creator-owned series Princeless that shines through in the structure, pacing and character interactions of The Unstoppable Wasp. The moments shared between Nadia and Mockingbird feel especially important in advancing the series’ apparent goal of encouraging young girls to become interested in STEM, and it’s never once boring or dry when showing the reader why science is cool.

It would be so easy to do a series like this poorly, and perhaps in some alternate universe there’s a Wasp comic that talks down to its audience as if girls have never heard of science or superheroes before. Thankfully, The Unstoppable Wasp speaks to its readership with respect, and the under-appreciation of women in science ends up being a plot point that drives Nadia forward.

 

Elsa Charretier & Megan Wilson / Marvel Comics
Elsa Charretier & Megan Wilson / Marvel Comics

 

Now, if 2017 isn’t the year of Elsa Charretier, I’ll go out and buy a new hat just to eat it, because her art is so vibrant and dynamic that Nadia’s own infectious enthusiasm leaps right off the page. A lot of her work from 2016 reminded me of Bruce Timm, or the more exaggerated work of Darwyn Cooke, but in the sequentials of Unstoppable Wasp she proves a little more restrained as she plants her own definitive style on the series while providing an overall “Marvel Universe” feel to the surroundings.

Charretier also does some excellent work with panel layouts, and doesn’t feel constrained by any one particular style. There’s an excellent recap page that features panels structured in the shape of Ant-Man’s helmet, and when the giant robot shows up — of course a giant robot shows up — Charretier throws in tokusatsu style sharp reaction panels around it for each character.

 

Elsa Charretier & Megan Wilson / Marvel Comics
Elsa Charretier & Megan Wilson / Marvel Comics

 

If the issue has one failing, it’s the few stabs at pop culture jokes and teen-speak that don’t quite hit the mark. Ms. Marvel talking about the LOLs and the feels of her fan-fic seems a bit forced, and Nadia mispronouncing Harry Potter and The Empire Strikes Back only serves to reinforce the culture shock that was already better established elsewhere in the book.

It’s a very small quibble though, and more than anything feels like the title and the character finding their feet. By the end of the issue, the creative team has established a strong hook for the series that even spills over into the title’s backmatter.

The biggest success of the title is perhaps in the ways it gives the excitable Nadia a focus and a purpose that’s going to be really interesting to see develop over the course of the series. Ultimately, “Unstoppable” proves to be the perfect adjective for the series, because Nadia represents a kind of determination and perseverance that’s both admirable and inspiring.

 

Art by Elsa Charretier
Art by Elsa Charretier

 

The Unstoppable Wasp is a worthy addition to the Marvel Universe as a character, as a concept, and as a title. There are other books operating in a similar space, but there’s no-one doing quite what Whitely, Charretier, and company are doing here, and superhero comics are better for it.

 

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