If memory serves, about ten minutes passed between when I first heard that Unstoppable Wasp was getting a second series and when I changed my Twitter handle to “Kay, Agent of G.I.R.L.” I loved and treasured the original run in 2017. I read it in single issues and then bought the trades, heartbroken that the series had ended and hopeful that, given the final notes of the book, it would eventually return. And this Wednesday (October 17), that hope pays off. Welcome back, Nadia van Dyne; you have been missed.
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor: Alanna Smith
If you loved the first Nadia series, you are probably already on board, but in case you need more reasons to hit your local comic store (or preferred digital purchasing method) this Wednesday and bring this book home, here’s seven. This will be SPOILER FREE, I promise.
7. This is not Unstoppable Wasp #9, this is Version 2.0
In software, when something goes Gold, it’s ready for release. I want to be painfully clear; 2017 was not a beta release. The original run of Unstoppable Wasp is a fantastic comic that deserves a lot more attention than it got. Nadia’s infectious energy, her pure joy at being outside of the Red Room for the first time in her life, and the unapologetic love of science made the book incredibly fun to read.
Whitley didn’t leave behind the elements that made Nadia’s book incredible. We have a diverse cast. We have mentor characters that are present and supportive without being overwhelming. We have Nadia’s science facts. We have the Agent of G.I.R.L. interview with femme folks in STEM at the end of each issue.
And we have Nadia, amazing Nadia. Nadia, who is almost willful in taking joy from the world. After all, she grew up in the Red Room, the training ground for the Black Widows of the world, and she bears the scars of her time there. Whitley has said that this new run will dig into those wounds even further.
But along with that, Whitley serves up an intriguing adventure that fits a little more firmly into a traditional superhero narrative. In the 2017 run, there were action scenes and plotlines, such as the G.I.R.L. team coming together to save Ying from a bomb placed inside her skull. But Unstoppable Wasp #1 offers up immediate short, medium, and long-term goals for Nadia to achieve. From page one, I know what we’re here for, and I’m all-in.
Another distinguishing feature of 2017 Wasp was the dialogue. Snappy, fun, engaging, nuance – and really really wordy. I didn’t notice this when I read the book the first time, but when I went back to review a few things before reading this issue #1, I was shocked by the number of word balloons on the page. In some cases, there were so many that the art was almost obscured. In 2018, this issue is completely gone. Dialogue is incredibly crisp and pointed, but has lost note of its snap, fun, or nuance. Fewer words are used to convey what’s needed – and most importantly, Nadia’s joyful spirit continues to infuse every word she speaks.
This didn’t feel like a stylistic change to me. This feels like both the kind of polish you get when you keep writing, keep improving, and keep learning who your characters are. I get the feeling that Whitley has a very clear story he wants to tell here, and that he’s eager to share it.
When you think of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s run on Captain Marvel, it is inevitably paired with the phrase “Higher, faster, further, more.” I’m not sure how Whitley will go deeper and darker than he did with Wasp in 2017, but I feel confident that he will. And if there’s anything I know Whitley knows how to do in his writing, it’s the way you must pair funny with dark. When you know there’s light on the other side of the dark, you can go so very much deeper into the dark.
6. Whitley hits the ground running
If the 2017 run of Wasp was that first time you got to take out your mom’s car alone, this new run is the hitting the highway in a perfectly tuned sports car, hugging every curve of the road in a machine designed for nothing other than going fast and hard.
In 2017, Nadia was a little bit lost in the world. She had a Jarvis and a mission, but she – and if I’m being entirely honest, her book, just a little bit – felt like she was at loose ends. That worked for a girl who was entering the outside world for the first time, but it made for a somewhat unconventional book for one of the Big Two.
But now, Nadia’s been in the world a minute. At the end of 2017’s issue #8, we see Janet van Dyne bankrolling a new G.I.R.L. research lab (housed in Pym Labs) where Nadia – and Tania, Alexis, Shay, Priya, and Ying – can work on their inventions together. Now, the G.I.R.L. lab is a fully functioning entity. Nadia is no longer flying into missions alone; from a command center, the rest of the team flies in right along with her. We’re back fighting Monica Rappaccini (just like in 2017’s #1) but this time, there’s a lot more going on than a giant robot.
When a writer starts writing a character for the first time, it takes a couple pages (or issues) for the writer to find their version of the character. Whitley and Nadia figured each other out pretty quickly in 2017, but now, they know each other well. They dive into the story together, and I don’t think either one of them is going to hold back, even a little.
5. The art is incredible
I seem to live under a rock, because I had never heard of Gurihiru until they were announced as the artists on Unstoppable Wasp. Holy hell, they are incredible. I loved Elsa Charretier’s work in 2017, and she’s become one of my favorite artists, but Gurihiru’s take on Nadia and her team is absolutely phenomenal. Their posing is sharp, their faces are expressive, and they bring a rainbow of color to the world of G.I.R.L. When a penciller and inker work so closely that they have the same pseudonym, and as colorists to boot, there’s a synergy brought to the work that makes this fun book more cohesive artistically. What they’re doing is working stunningly.
In general, Wasp uses a pretty straightforward panel layout; clean and clear, with an obvious flow from one spot to the next. Only in the action scenes do things start to get angular and jagged; having this design element used so specifically is refreshing and supports the energy of those dynamic scenes.
4. The book is seriously funny
2017 Unstoppable Wasp was funny, and often made me giggle. In 2018, Nadia has mastered the quip. This comic took twice as long to read as it would have another time; I’m getting over a cold, and I kept laughing so hard it started up coughing fits. It was worth it.
Nadia’s not the only one who’s funny, though; Whitley has always been good for the long joke and the short one. Much of issue #1 focuses on a conflict with AIM, and Whitley is fully aware that your average beekeeper AIM dude is just a dude who is getting minimum wage. The economy is tough out there, and sometimes you gotta pull a double shift.
The steady laughs meant that the punches – both physical and emotional – that come in the second half of the book hit so much harder.
3. Girls do science
The underpinnings of Unstoppable Wasp have always been girls in STEM. The reason Nadia decides to start G.I.R.L. is that Lunella Lafayette (Moon Girl) had been completely missed by all the tests and lists that supposedly determined the smartest people in the world. She started to wonder how many other girls were out there, doing things, discovering things, and building things that were completely unnoticed by traditionally male dominated institutions.
I know it’s reductionist to talk about these things in terms of simple girls and boys, and I know that people have a much wider range of gender identities (I do not identify on the gender binary). Based on Whitley’s other work (specifically within Raven: The Pirate Princess), he is also fully aware that gender doesn’t have anything to do with what’s between your legs, and also that it’s not an either/or situation. In Wasp, Shay regularly presents in a more traditionally masc way – wearing a suit to the big celebration in issue #8, for example.
But it is also important to talk about how cis women are excluded from science and tech fields in specific and systematic ways. One of the best parts of Wasp and its presentation of STEM focused girls is that they don’t have to wander around spouting techno-babble to pass as scientists. They just walk around, you know, doing science. Tania is under a control panel, adjusting something when the emergency beacon goes off. Priya was in her lab experimenting when Tania started yelling. Ying is rocking out to Tegan and Sara while she does calculations on a white board and Shay is ostensibly working on a piece of tech (but is really watching her girlfriend dance).
STEM – and a love for learning, curiosity, and passionate engagement with the scientific arts – is threaded throughout Unstoppable Wasp, from Nadia’s Science Facts to the Agent of G.I.R.L. interviews at the end of each book.
2. Diversity is built into the story, not tacked on as an afterthought
Whitley has frequently said in interviews that he started writing comics for young girls that included non-white characters (often focusing on them) because he wanted books that he could share with his daughter specifically. He has continued to make his work inclusive in every way possible. I don’t wander around giving props to every straight person who dabs a little bit of gay in the corner of the story and says it’s inclusive, but Whitley does the homework. As a white person, I can’t speak to his ability to write people of color, but as a queer person, I have always been thrilled with how seamlessly queer identities are fused into his world.
In Unstoppable Wasp, we have Shay and Ying. Shay (described in her intro text as a “tiny gay disaster”) and Ying are together. The team thinks they’re adorable, and there’s no real discussion beyond that. They’re just there, they’re queer, and the team is used to it.
Much like the way STEM is just present in this book, the fabric of this world is more than white and straight. I do hope to see more engagement with gender identity as the book goes on. In real life, more “Women in Coding” event organizers have put in dedicated effort to ensure that people with nonbinary genders are welcome. I’d love to see, for example, a scenario where an enby character has to ask if they’re welcome at G.I.R.L. (because that’s a question I’ve asked, and have been told no), and Nadia makes it absolutely clear that they are. That would make my heart glow with joy.
1. The end of issue #1 will leave you desperate for issue #2.
I promised no spoilers, and I meant it. But if I’m entirely honest, when I finish a #1, it’s not often the story that has me eager for issue #2. I’m engaged because of the quality of the writing, or the style and talent of the artist, or because I know this particular writer is much better once they get their feet under them halfway through the first arc.
The end of issue #1 punched my emotions hard, and I tapped the “next page” button on my tablet more than once before I accepted that there were no more pages until November. Something that frustrates me regularly is comics authors who “write for the trade,” who write thinking that their books will be read all in one go, five or six at a time (and then those of us who decide to wait for the trade get blamed for series cancellations, but that’s a separate conversation).
2018’s Unstoppable Wasp #1 knows damn well that I have to wait a month to read what’s next, and it’s baiting me. It’s teasing me with what’s going to happen next, and it doesn’t mind that I’m squirming in my seat like a kid at Christmas. I can just hush and be patient if I want to find out what happens next.
Well, I will definitely be doing my best to be patient until the next issue comes out. This book is going to be a rare triple buy for me – one paper copy for my kids, one digital copy for me (easier for me to read), and the trade when it’s available. Once we have the trade, the floppies go to the little free library down the street because I will not manage bagging and boarding and storage, thank you very much. But this book – this is going to be worth it. It’s interesting: there’s only one other book that’s also getting that treatment right now. That’s Rainbow Brite, also by Jeremy Whitley.
If you’ve already read 2017’s Unstoppable Wasp, you will come into 2018’s run with a little more color and flavor to the world of Nadia and her friends, but you absolutely don’t need to have that background. Whitley does a great job of giving you enough of a hook to understand what’s happening and keep you engaged while the world is painted around you. I can’t wait to see what the book has in store; issue #1 starts off with a bang (well, a robbery and a voicemail, but whatever), and from what I’ve seen of Whitley’s work to date, it’ll only go up from here.
If you want to catch up on Nadia’s Unstoppable adventures to date, check out:
A copy of this comic was provided to GeekMom for review purposes