Written by: Jeremy Whitley
Illustrated by: Elsa Charretier
Colored by: Megan Wilson
Lettered by: Joe Caramagna
Published by: Marvel Comics
In the past several years there has been a sea change in the landscape of comics that I could never have seen coming when I was a nerdy teenaged boy that girls would mock for reading comic books. More and more comic books are starring female characters who are fun, smart, strong, and capable. Not only that but more and more comics are being made and collected by women who are fun, smart, strong, and capable. It’s an earth shattering change that someone like me could have never imagined taking place in the comic collecting days of my youth. Anyone who remembers the eighties or nineties will recall the times when female characters were certainly present and possibly strong and possibly smart but if they were in a comic book then they took second stage to their male counterparts and they had also better be squeezed into the sexiest looking outfit possible so as to not lose the attention of teenage boys who were primarily buying the books at the time.
Then along came the manga explosion. And Gail Simone. And Babs Tarr. And Sana Amanat. And several other female creators (as well as some male creators) who pushed their characters with two X chromosomes into the forefront of the comics market. Suddenly, comics were no longer the sole domain of overly muscles male sex power fantasy. Women became well rounded characters who took center stage and didn’t exist just for the objectification of a male audience. Out of this emergence of “new” female empowerment came characters like the new Ms. Marvel, the latest incarnation of Batgirl, and, yes, even a more nuanced and interesting take on everyone’s favorite DC icon Wonder Woman as imagined by Renae DeLiz.
Now stepping into this arena of positive female protagonists is Marvel’s Unstoppable Wasp which turns out to be a comic that resembles much of what Brenden Fletcher, Cameron Stewart, and Babs Tarr have done with Batgirl but ends up having its own wonderful agenda. Writer Whitley broke into the comics scene with his own fantastic female positive comic Princless and he brings much of the verve and thoughtfulness that he displayed in that book to The Unstoppable Wasp. The opening of The Unstoppable Wasp plays out in sort of the way many of the new crop of superheroine books do. Witty banter abides and Whitley plays very much with the “Stranger in a Strange Land” aspect of this new Wasp’s personality. It’s a fun opening and there’s plenty of comradery displayed between the Wasp and her teammate Ms. Marvel. A giant robot fight ensues with Mockingbird involved and the comics derring-do is lighthearted and upbeat. Once the superheroic antics are dispensed with, however, Whitley move into more interesting and, dare I say, Marvelous territory in The Unstoppable Wasp.
The second half of the book discusses a subject I’ve rarely seen explored in a superhero book. The narrative moves the story into a discussion of the central character’s intelligence and why women, as superheroes, are not more regarded for what their minds bring to the table than their fists or, more accurately, their bodies. “Why aren’t there more superheroine scientists?” becomes the core question of the book. Why are the super hero scientists at the top of everyone’s lists Davids and Reeds and Xaviers instead of Barbaras and Moiras and, in the end, Nadias (the central character’s real identity)? The last half of The Unstoppable Wasp brings a monumental change in the way that female characters can and should be addressed within comic book universes. While female characters in years gone past have been been regarded for their strength they are never, really, been regarded for their intellect. This book discusses that issue directly and in a fun way. By the end of the book my own personal understanding of what had been missing from superhero comics had been expanded and I began to see the comic as something truly important that I would, and will, be proud to share with my own young daughter. Beyond all that, I was also pleased to see the way that Whitley, in little more than a page of comic book dialogue, brought forth a deeper comprehension of one of my favorite female characters in the Marvel Universe: Mockingbird.
Elsa Charretier does a great job with the art chores. Cartoony, energetic, and direct, Charretier’s work is emblematic of the work that’s been embodied by the newest cop of talent in comicdom. Paired with the terrific coloring style of Megan Wilson the artwork of The Unstoppable Wasp pops off the page with a fun and breezy vitality that helps make the book the enjoyable read it is.
All in all The Unstoppable Wasp is that rare comic that is entertaining and pushes boundaries at the same time. It is a book that is important in its overtones but never feels like its hammering you over the head with an agenda. Whitley, Charretier, and team should feel proud of the work they’ve done on this comic and I wish the series all of the success it truly deserves if the rest of the run ends up being as strong and significant as this first issue.