The Unstoppable Wasp #5
The Unstoppable Wasp #5 is a Very Special issue that explores bipolar disorder. Nadia, the new Wasp, in a manic episode, doesn’t realize that her compulsion to protect her friends is actually hurting them. It’s written by Jeremy Whitley with art by Gurihiru.
I’ve been fascinated by a similar idea since Hal Jordan became Parallax in Zero Hour. Superheroes are vigilantes, which means by definition, they rely on their own judgement of what’s right and wrong without an established structure to guide them. So what happens when their evaluation of the right outcome is wrong? I’m not talking about turning evil. Supervillains want power, money, revenge, or for people to quit thinking an alien is better than them. I’m talking about when someone who has always made their own rules continues in the same path, only an outside observer knows that their choice, this time, is the wrong one. How do you stop them? How do you convince them?
That’s the situation we have here. Nadia is determined to continue with her lab work to protect her friends. She knows, without question, that it’s the best thing for everyone. Only since she is bipolar, she doesn’t realize that she needs rest. She hurts her friends, who are trying to stop her, because she’s so focused on what only she can do.
Eventually, she has a conversation with the one friend who stuck around. (The others, to protect themselves and their loved ones, leave the situation.) Nadia says,
That’s super hero stuff. If the world is against you, it’s your job to move the world.
But Nadia, given some reflection time (thanks to a micro-lab where time passes differently, because this is still a superhero comic), has realized that she’s the villain, once she’s calmed down enough to realize that everyone was only trying to help her. Then there’s a daring rescue, to provide more visual action and suspense. Overall, this issue continues the theme that make this series so appealing, about women working together to best use their variety of skills and support each other.
I appreciated seeing the combination of adventure and emotional discovery in this issue. It’s a balance that shows how an action genre can do more, shedding light on motivations and personal revelation. There’s also a two-page interview at the end with a professor of psychology who provides more information on bipolar and how to treat it. Whitley did an interview with Marvel that talks more about the issue, the condition, and his choices.
As an aside, picking this up to talk about it, it felt remarkably light for a $4 comic. It’s only 28 pages of content (but only four pages of ads, all for Marvel titles). I know it’s an old argument, but this pricing seems unsustainable in the long run. I recommend, instead, the collection, although I’m not sure when it’s out, what it contains, or how expensive it will be. Previews, for the comic shop market, says The Unstoppable Wasp: Fix Everything will be out April 24, reprinting the first five issues, for $16. Amazon says on May 7, the $18 paperback will have the first six issues. I like that idea better.