Review by Frank Plowright
Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man, Giant-Man and Yellowjacket has a tortured past, including an early marriage to a Hungarian wife abducted and never seen again according to a 1960s story. The 21st century revealed that before she died, she gave birth to Nadia, who inherited her father’s scientific talent, but was imprisoned for years in a Russian facility, the timeline updated to allow this being at some point in the past recent enough for Nadia to be a teenager. She escaped by duplicating the technology enabling Hank Pym to shrink, and ended up in the USA fighting alongside the Avengers, only to discover that her father was dead. She really shouldn’t worry. It’s a Marvel series. He’ll be back in a couple of years with a story of having shrunk down between molecules at the last possible moment. In the meantime Unstoppable opens with the Russians taking the official approach concerning Nadia’s return to Russia during the second Marvel Civil War, but blossoms into something completely different under Mark Waid and Jeremy Whitley. It works if you accept the feeling of two stories bolted together, and Adam Kubert not really knocking himself out with the art.
The darkness of Nadia’s backstory belies her cheerful attitude and the generally upbeat tone of The Unstoppable Wasp, Whitley keeping things light and good natured, emphasising Nadia’s positive can-do attitude. What galls her, though, is how few women are ranked among the smartest people in the Marvel universe, a lack of respect she’s determined to set right. She’s learned of fair number of other genius level young women and Unstoppable shows her gathering them together to create a research and development team. Whitley takes a light comedy approach, so the threats Nadia and her allies face along the way are of a certain level, but dealt with in ways that diminish the fear factor. Counting for Nadia is her peppy personality, scientific genius and Avengers contacts, and counting against her is that her former Russian captors want her back designing technology for them.
Elsa Charretier perfectly captures the light hearted approach in her art, presenting a perpetually cheerful and optimistic Nadia unperturbed by changing circumstance, matching the enthusiasm of the plot. The same thought comes across for the remainder of the cast, with her Jarvis stiff, formal and awkward in his suit and tie, this deliberate as Charretier’s cartoon style adapts well to motion. Whether Nadia’s surrounded by the clutter of her own rooms, fighting a giant robot or in one of several New York locations, the environments are fully realised and Nadia at home in them. There are also some lovely little touches. It may be Whitley’s script suggesting Matt Murdock is accompanied by Daredevil’s shadow, but Charretier pulls it off beautifully.
Across the line Marvel has perhaps overcompensated for the past by introducing too many African American scientific geniuses, but in isolation Unstoppable reads fine. Most of Nadia’s solo content concentrates on her attempting to gather people to work alongside her, but Whitley’s plots ensure there’s enough action, commotion and conflict within that to satisfy anyone not just here for the deft character touches, nice art and smart dialogue. Things are set up nicely enough to make anyone who enjoys this want to pick up Agents of G.I.R.L. and if not, the cliffhanger ending surely will. Alternatively both graphic novels are combined in the smaller format G.I.R.L. Power.