The Unstoppable Wasp #1
Written by Jeremy Whitley
Art by Elsa Charretier and Megan Wilson
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Marvel has been doubling down on their diversity initiatives over the past few years and with female comic book readers at an all-time high, now’s as good a time as any to add more female characters to the mix. But with The Unstoppable Wasp, the company is being very deliberate in the kind of story they want to tell. Plenty of Marvel heroes have featured into coming-of-age stories that translate across gender lines but unfortunately, they’ve been overwhelmingly male. But as the success of Ms. Marvel showed, a good story can carry any character but there’s something powerful about readers being about to see themselves in the books that they read. So writer Jeremy Whitley (Princeless) and artist Elsa Charretier have their work cut out for them. But they spin a tale that is impressively evenhanded, relentlessly positive and actually, a lot of fun.
First and foremost, it’s a great reintroduction to Nadia Pym. She’s the lost daughter of Hank Pym from his first marriage and subsequently she’s one of smartest heroes in the Marvel Universe. While the tone of the book is really light, it does have a strong message at its core that comes across without being preachy. This is a book that puts female empowerment firmly at the center of its premise. In fact, there are only two male characters with very minor speaking roles. It’s sad that that’s kind of revolutionary but it is. And the best superhero books thrive on interactions that deepen the themes as well as develop characters realistically and effectively. The Unstoppable Wasp has that in spades, especially near the end, trading in the superheroics for some really sweet mentorship moments between Mockingbird and Wasp. There’s an element of these characters really seeing each other for who they are in ways that oftentimes readers and creators alike forget and ignore. Sadly, that problem is all too real for women and other minorities who find themselves underestimated for being different. To effectively communicate that feeling in a 20-page comic book that features a giant robot battle in its climax is impressive. Kudos to the creative team for not backing down from their message.
My biggest knock on the book is that we’ve seen the over excited new teen hero thing about a thousand times before. It’s fun to cast Ms. Marvel as the grizzled veteran to Nadia Pym’s overeager rookie but it takes a while to really parse out how Nadia is different from Kamala or Squirrel Girl. It’s clear that she’s far more intelligent than those two characters and she’s incredibly capable because of her training. But the “science facts” that Whitley throws into the book to give Nadia a more unique voice don’t really play all that well. But Nadia’s overall voice is something that should come into focus the more time that Whitley gets with her.
To wait this long to talk about Elsa Charretier’s contributions to this book seems criminal. Simply put, Charretier puts the book on her back and sells every single part of this script with aplomb. Her design for Nadia is modern and carefree. Her action sequences are very tight. Her overall style is definitely reminiscent of Babs Tarr’s work on Batgirl but that’s definitely not a bad thing. But Charretier might actually have a better handle on facial expressions than we saw at the beginning of Tarr’s run. Her layouts are very strong as well. She kept her pages looking varied without making them hard to read. She was able to give individual scenes a look that worked for them specifically, a highlight being the quick one page flashback scene. Megan Wilson deserves some of the credit for setting the tone of the book as well. It’s a bright book because the tone is optimistic but that doesn’t undermine the sadness of Nadia’s origins.
This feels like a book that’s going to make a certain section of comic book readership angry and I kind of hope it does. Science fiction, fantasy and superheroes have always existed as safe havens for outsiders but over time, they started catering only to certain sections of their fanbases. We deserve to get more stories that feature diverse casts, diverse experiences and diverse points of view. As readers, we deserve to see ourselves in the stories that we read. The Unstoppable Wasp may hew close to Marvel’s past success with Ms. Marvel in terms of approach but it is not apologizing for putting women at the center of its story. When was the last time you could realistically grab a Big Two book off the rack that someone of any age and any gender could realistically enjoy? It’s probably been a while but look no further.