The Unstoppable Wasp: Unstoppable!
Ignore the hip-breaking weirdo disco cover — The Unstoppable Wasp is a new take on the shrinking hero that emphasizes science for girls. The first collection, Unstoppable!, reprinting the first four issues of the series, is due out August 30 in comic shops, September 12 in bookstores.
The new wasp is Nadia, the previously unknown daughter of Hank Pym, inventor of size-changing particles. She was raised in the Red Room by the same nefarious group that trained assassins such as the Black Widow, but when they discovered her scientific skills, they wanted her to replicate her father’s work. She did — she can shrink herself or other objects — and then she escaped.
Now she’s going to change the world by forming G.I.R.L., Genius In (Action) Research Labs and recruit other “lady adventure scientists”, brilliant and creative girls who have been overlooked because of their gender. Aided by Jarvis, her first stop is Moon Girl, but she also meets Taina, a roboticist; Lashayla, a physicist working on a teleporter; Priya, a geneticist; and rediscovers long-lost friend Ying, another Red Room trainee. (They’re also all women of color, and Taina is a wheelchair user.)
Jeremy Whitley (Princeless) plays up Nadia’s foreignness, making humor out of her lack of knowledge of smoothies or landline phones or The Empire Strikes Back. I’m a sucker for “naive fish out of water” stories, and it provides an interesting undercurrent to her immense powers and intellectual skills. He’s a relatively newer creator, so his efforts aren’t always as subtle as they need to be, but the intentions are well-chosen, and there’s plenty of humor (always a plus). He also does a great job weaving her into the Marvel universe.
Elsa Charretier manages to cope with all the dialogue and still capture the characters with distinct body language. That’s good, because with a lot of science girls, they could quickly become interchangeable if they weren’t each so unique. And she does a terrific job with the crazy mess of creativity that makes up Nadia’s lab, where she’s got dozens of projects and experiments all going at the same time.
It’s rare to see a hero so aggressively friendly as Nadia, and I love that. And she gets so excited when she meets her heroes. She and Mockingbird team up in the first issue, and instead of being impressed by her superheroing, Nadia geeks out over her biology work, which is a side of Bobbi Morse not everyone remembers. (She’s more often defined by her relationships, mostly with Hawkeye.) That idea of generational mentoring is something we’ve seen before in comics, but not with women.
Although there’s plenty of action (and wacky fights, including a giant rat and a wrestling tag-team), Nadia tries to talk things through first if she can. She talks to everyone, and she knows some cool people. Ms. Marvel guest-stars in the first issue, and Nadia’s lawyer (cause she’s got to get that citizenship thing worked out) is Matt Murdock (whom she first calls Modok). Unfortunately, this book ends on a cliffhanger, but Volume 2 is due in February (in which the GIRLs all team up to rescue Ying and we get a focus issue on Janet van Dyne, Nadia’s stepmother and the original Wasp, in which we learn some good sleep hygiene).
Also included in this volume is the Civil War II tie-in All-New, All-Different Avengers #14, co-written by Whitley and Mark Waid and drawn by Adam Kubert. In it, Nadia and Jarvis have gone to visit Janet, only to be interrupted by Russian officials who want to take her back.