"Ridiculously cute" is a phrase I often use to describe things that rate especially high on my squee-meter. When I can apply this description to a comic book, it indicates that I'm extra squee-pleased. And I can confidently say that Wasp #1 is a ridiculously cute book with a ridiculously cute heroine. Hooray! If you’re into that sort of thing (which, I assume you are).
I picked this up on a whim while visiting Visionary Comics in Downtown Riverside, CA (the first comic book shop owned and operated by a disabled Black woman and Latinx man). After picking out a few items to buy, the co-owner I chatted for about an hour, and he told me to take The Unstoppable Wasp—on the house! I had asked him earlier if he had read it, and he hadn't yet had the chance to, so I promised him that for giving it to me for free, I would read it and let him know my thoughts. And now that I have, I'm more grateful than I already was to this awesome and generous person. Debt repaid.
What first caught my eye about this book was that Wasp is not a character I would imagine getting her own series. Despite the fact that Wasp was an original Avenger (I'm still bitter that we won't get Janet in the MCU until Ant-Man 2). I always try to support female-led books, especially Marvel ones. But I wasn't interested enough in The Unstoppable Wasp to add an unknown to my purchases, which already included a manga and a volume one graphic novel (both of which are more expensive than a single issue comic book). Three of my items were already unknowns.
The first surprise of the book is that this Wasp is not Janet Van Dyne, but Nadia Pym, daughter of Hank Pym (the original Ant-Man and founding Avenger) and Maria Trovaya. The story opens with what is clearly a story started in another book. Ms. Marvel and Nadia Pym are already acquainted. Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) is helping Nadia to get herself situated in the world outside the Red Room, where she has spent her entire life so far, and they're on their way to the immigration office to get Nadia's citizenship sorted out.
The next scene is Nadia and Kamala in the office with Nadia handing out Pakistani sweets to people. Everyone is smiling and happy (not generally the mood in an immigration office) and thanking Nadia. When she meets her case worker, she reduces the worker to tears with her tragic story of escaping the Red Room and searching for her father who never knew of her existence, only to learn of his "death." The exchange between the case worker and Nadia is clearly meant to be a "description of this character in one panel" moment for the readers.
Case worker: They kept you locked away all those years, and look at you. You’re a little ray of sunshine.
Nadia: Well, if I spend the rest of my list being bitter, then I never really escaped, yes?
Case worker: You are too precious, Nadia. Too good for this world.
Basically, if there's one takeaway from this book, it’s that. Nadia Pym is a precious cinnamon roll, too good for this world, and too pure.
Naturally, a giant robot driven by a mad scientist steps onto the street at that very moment. Mockingbird tries to take her down. Wasp and Ms. Marvel jump in to help when it appears as if Mockingbird is going to be squashed to death by a giant robot hand. What follows is a hilarious, and yes, ridiculously cute, battle scene full of pop culture references and very lighthearted fun. I was strongly reminded of the battles in Ms. Marvel.
During this scene the reader realizes that all four main characters in this book are women, and three of them are scientists. Nadia fangirls over both the "good" scientist and the villainous "bad" scientist. This book is a love letter of appreciation to women who do science. The post-battle smoothie break scene (which is how all battles should end TBH) where Nadia gleefully affirms Bobbi as a female adventurer and a scientist, had more than Bobbi misty-eyed. Later, Bobbi returns the favor to the young girl who looks up to her and shows why she does what she does when she charges Nadia with moving up the list of the smartest people in the Marvel universe (According to Bobbi, until very recently, the highest ranked woman came in at #27), and consequently changing the world and doing "great things."
Nadia starts a movement called Genius In Action Research Labs ( G.I.R.L.) for lady scientists. This is like the Carol Corps of Captain Marvel. At the end of each issue, the Unstoppable Wasp team plans to profile real "lady adventure scientists." The column is called Agents of G.I.R.L. (the scientists are the agents). In issue one, they profile Rachel, a proboscidean paleontologist (she studies elephant fossils), and Marina, an analytical chemist. Very cool.
I'm excited about this series! I feel like the creative team wanted to pay homage to Bobbi Morse after her very excellent book, Mockingbird, written by Chelsea Cain, was canceled last year. The Bobbi in this book seems careworn, a bit worried about being put out to pasture with all these really young heroes running about (Marvel time is slippery and hard to pin down, but it's not unreasonable to assume that Bobbi is in her early 40s), but still dedicated and wanting to make sure Nadia has the support being a female scientist she herself never had.
If you enjoy purposely and unapologetically empowering feminist agenda books like Captain Marvel, Mockingbird, and Ms. Marvel, or adorable girl character books like The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (and again, Ms. Marvel), you'll really enjoy this book. It's cute and it's fun and it's very, very smart—just like its protagonist.