Friday, 18 August 2017

Puella Magi Madoka Magica Book 2

"I don't regret anything!" - Sayaka Miki

So onwards we go with the manga adaptation of the acclaimed twelve episode anime of the same name.  Magical Girls are teenage girls who are picked by a small bunny-cat creature called Kyubey who offers them one wish in return for creating a Soul Gem and turning them into a Magical Girl.  They have enhanced strength, healing, ability to create magical weapons and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.  Their job is to fight Witches who are Lovecraftian abominations that lurk in Labyrinths luring humans inside to eat. Defeating a Witch gives the victor a Grief Seed, a Witches egg which is used to cleanse the corruption caused by using magic from the user's Soul Gem.  In Book 1, veteran Magical Girl Mami was killed by a witch in front of Sayaka and Madoka who Kyubey had tapped as potential Magical Girls. This frightened Madoka off the idea, which pleased the mysterious Homura who is a Magical Girl with unknown motives attempting to prevent Madoka making a contract with Kyubey. At the end of the previous book Sayaka revealed she was now a Magical Girl and saved Madoka from a Witch.  We were also introduced to Kyoko Sakura, who is the one in red on the cover at the very end.  Her and Sayaka's (in blue on the cover) complicated relationship will play out through most of this volume as some terrible secrets about the true nature of Magical Girls are revealed.

The manga is unflipped so reads from right to left, and honourifics have been kept for those who use them.  A note about Kyoko's name.  It's spelt "Kyouko" in the book, but the "u" is silent, it's a guide to how you stress the "oh" sound, which makes it pronounced "Kyoh-ko" to us.  Also I use her name sans the u as a forum handle so I'm just used to seeing it like that. Also you should know I am team Kyoko x Sayaka, my shipping goggles might affect my view of things. Anyway, let's crack on.
A wish granted.
We jump back a short while and Sayaka is standing on the hospital roof with Kyubey, it asks if she is sure and she says she is, Kyubey touches her with its ears and creates a Soul Gem and a new Magical Girl is born. At school the next day Hitomi tells them she had passed out with a large group of people (they were under the influence of the witch Sayaka killed) and she'd been busy with the police trying to figure out what happened.

After school, Sayaka and Madoka sit on a grass verge and Sayaka admits she feels "good for the first time in a while".  Madoka asks if she is scared and Sayaka says maybe a tiny bit.  But the thought of losing her and Hitomi frightens her more.

Sayaka: "From now on, the peace of Mitakihara Town is in the capable hands of Magical Girl Sayaka!"

Then she muses that she does have one regret, not making a contract earlier which might have saved Mami's life.  Madoka looks very miserable as she contemplates her words.

Sayaka reassures her that she shoud only become a Magical Girl if she has a wish she is willing to stake her life on, "I became a Magical Girl because I had to!". So Madoka shouldn't feel guilty.  Then she leaves to visit Kyosuke in the hospital.
A boy healed.
He tells her he still needs rehab on his legs but his hand is fine now, "there are miracles just like you said Sayaka!" He apologises for yelling at her but she brushes it off.  Then she pushes him in a wheelchair to the roof where his family and friends are waiting, his father gives him his violin and he plays a beautiful melody as Sayaka thinks, "how could I regret this?  Mami-san... my wish was granted!"

Kyoko is standing atop an observatory spying on Sayaka.  She thinks she looks like a "pushover".  Kyubey tells her not to expect things to go to her plan, there is another Magical Girl about and it knows nothing about her.  She hasn't a contract with Kyubey, "she's exceedingly unusual.  I don't have any clues as to what moves she'll make."  Kyoko says it suits her fine, "It means I won't be bored!"

Madoka and Homura are sitting in a cafe, Madoka wants to talk to her about Sayaka.   She says she's afraid of what'll happen to her, if she'll die like Mami.  But although she gets into fights, she's a "very good girl".  She is sweet and brave and willing to do anything for people she cares about.

Homura: "That could be fatal for a Magical Girl. Too much of that sort of kindness leads to mistakes.  Those who are reckless let their guard down. And there is no reward given for self sacrifice."

That's why Mami lost her life and Sayaka should never have entered into the contract.   Homura says she should have guarded her more carefully but now, "I regret to say that you must give up on her."  And she leaves an upset Madoka thinking "but... why...?"

That night Sayaka gets ready to go out on patrol, Kyubey asks if she is nervous and Sayaka admits she is.  Outside is Madoka and she shyly asks if she can come along with Sayaka to support her.  Sayaka says of course she can, she holds Madoka's hands saying hers can't stop shaking, but with Madoka along "I'll feel a whole lot better".
Off on a witch hunt.
Kyubey climbs on Sayaka's shoulder and speaks privately to Madoka telepathically that she'll make a contract if Sayaka gets into serious trouble.  They go hunting and find evidence of a Labyrinth, Sayaka transforms and starts to attack then her sword is batted away and the Familiar escapes.

The person who interfered is Kyoko.   When Sayaka tries to go after the Familiar, Kyoko points her spear at her throat. Sayaka says that it'll murder someone.  Kyoko says that's the point,  after it eats four or five people it'll become a Witch and give a Grief Seed when it's killed, "what's the good of killing the chicken before it lays its eggs?"

Kyoko: "The Witches eat the weak humans.  And we eat the witches.  That's an obvious natural law, don't you think?  You learned it all in school, right?  That 'food chain' thing?"

She then sneers that Sayaka made a contract based on justice and rescuing people which she considers a joke.  This enrages Sayaka and she attacks.  But Kyoko slashes her brutally sending her bleeding body flying.
Kyoko and Sayaka meet.
Sayaka stands and Kyoko is surprised, she should have been temporarily crippled by that attack.   Kyubey tells Madoka that because Sayaka's wish involved healing, she has a much increased recovery power.  They clash again and an annoyed Kyoko say she is going to kill Sayaka, who thanks to her healing is able to stay in the fight despite the grievous wounds being inflicted on her.

Madoka watches in horror, saying neither of them are witches so why are they fighting?  Kyubey can't stop them but he says she could if she makes a contract with him.  As Sayaka is knocked to the ground and Kyoko leaps in the air for the final blow, Madoka starts to make a wish but Homura glides past saying "that will not be neccesary" and somehow Sayaka is now behind Kyoko whose spear has hit empty ground.
Homura somehow saves Sayaka.
Kyoko angrily turns her spear on Homura but Homura seems to teleport behind her.  Kyoko notes she's that "unusual skank that I've heard rumors about". Angrily Sayaka yells at Homura to stop butting in, so Homura thumps her on the back of the neck, knocking her out cold.  Kyoko asks whose side she is on:

Homura: "I am an ally to the level-headed... and an enemy to fools who start useless fights.  So which are you Kyoko Sakura?"

Kyoko is surprised and wonders if they have met before.  "Who can say?" Homura says gnomically.   Kyoko decides she's had enough of this and leaps up and over the alley roof and is gone.

Madoka thanks Homura for coming to the rescue.  Homura shows signs of irritation and anger saying she told her not involve herself with all this, "just how much of a fool are you?"  She turns and leaves while Kyubey watches her intently and Madoka sits by Sayaka's unconcious body.
Proper disposal of dangerous waste.
Later in Sayaka's bedroom she uses the Grief Seed she got from killing Kirsten and cleans her gem.  Now the Grief Seed is dangerous so Kyubey pops it in a compartment it has in its back which will keep it safe.   Now she'll need to find a new Grief Seed, eating them when they have been used is one of Kyubey's "duties".  Sayaka asks how important it is to keep the Soul Gem clean.

Kyubey: "The more magic you use, the more your Soul Gem becomes packed with impurities.  To be able to exert your full magic power, you have to take out the impurities.... and restore the gem back to peak condition".

Kyubey  goes on to say that Kyoko is strong because she fights with her gem in top form, and has natural talent and lots of experience.   Mami was the same.  Sayaka think this is unfair, that she apparently doesn't have any natural talent. Kyubey then says there is someone with natural talent alone who could beat Kyoko - Madoka Kaname.   But Sayaka refuses to get her involved saying this is her battle.

Kyoko is playing on a DDR machine in an arcade as Homura comes up to speak with her.   She asks Kyoko to leave Sayaka alone, that she'll deal with her.  She tells Kyoko in a fortnight's time a witch called "Walpurgis Night" (named after the German festival of the same name, literal meaning "Witches Night") will be coming to this town.  Once it's defeated, Homura will leave and Kyoko can take over the town.  Kyoko finishes having got a new high score and agrees to help, offering Homura a Pocky to seal the deal.
Kyoko, DDR demon.
Sayaka, Madoka and Kyubey return to the alley but there is no sign of the Familiar.   Madoka asks if she should talk to Kyoko, try and sort things out.  Sayaka scoffs saying what happened between them was "a full-on fight to the death."  She has no common ground with someone who'd allow people to be killed to get a Grief Seed. 

She starts to get angry, yelling that Mami died because the "transfer student" didn't come and help and just wanted the Grief Seed.  Madoka tries to tell her Homura was tied up, but Sayaka rants on saying if there is a human out there that is worse than a witch then she'll fight that person.   She says if Madoka doesn't want to come she shouldn't, it won't be a pleasant scene and she marches off.  Madoka asks Kyubey to say something to her but it says she's not in the mood to listen.
Yeah.. great advice.
That night Madoka talks with her mother Junko about how worried she is about Sayaka, leaving out the whole Magical Girl bit obviously. Junko says "good advice won't bring clear solutions to someone in that frame of mind".  She then advises Madoka to "screw up", somebody should make her mistakes for her.   She will realise that "in hindsight that a mistake was the right thing to do".  In the anime Junko is something of a lush due to coporate drinking culture, this may explain her rather poor advice.

She ruffles Madoka's hair saying she's grown up to be a good kid.  She should make her mistakes now, because adults have "our pride and responsibilities.. so it becomes harder and harder to make mistakes."  Then we cut to Sayaka outside of Kyosuke's house, he hadn't told her he'd been released from hospital.  She stands outside and enjoys the sound of him practicing.

Then Kyoko pops up and asks why she came all the way here and is leaving without trying to see him.  She identifies the fact Sayaka made her wish for the "little master of the house.".

Kyoko: "Geez! You had one chance in a lifetime to make a miracle, and you waste it on a useless gesture like that!  Listen, magic is only for granting wishes for yourself.  Nothing good happens when you use it on other people.  Didn't Mami Tomoe teach you anything?"

She then tells Sayaka now she has magic she should march in, break his bones and he'll have to depend on her for life.  Sounds harsh Kyoko, your flirting could use some work.  This pisses off Sayaka of course and they move to a motorway bridge for a showdown.

Then Madoka and Kyubey show up to try and stop them.  Homura also shows up, irritated that Kyoko has broken their baragin already.   She says she'll fight Sayaka instead of Kyoko who says she has as long as it takes her to finish eating what's in her mouth.

Sayaka manifests her Soul Gem and Madoka, thinking of her mum's amazing advice, grabs it and tosses it off the bridge saying she's sorry as she does so.  Homura says "this is bad" and vanishes.  Sayaka starts to shout at Madoka when suddenly her eyes go blank and she pitches forwards onto the ground.
Madoka does something wrong, predictably it backfires.
Kyubey scolds Madoka when it says "I never would have thought you capable of throwing your friend off a bridge.  That wasn't a sane act, Madoka!"  Kyoko grabs Sayaka and checks her pulse and cries out "she's dead, ain't she!?"  Kyubey then explains that when he creates a Soul Gem, it is literally the girls soul.  The body is now just empty "hardware".  Get the gem further than one hundred metres away from the body and it ceases to function, it's "just a hollow shell".

We see Homura climbing onto the truck Sayaka's Soul Gem fell on to.  Kyubey says it couldn't allow their frail bodies to fight witches normally, so by placing their soul in a compact form they are safe to take any amount of damage, and with a little magical repair work they can go right back into battle:

Kyoko: "You creep...!  Are you saying you just turn us into something like zombies!?"

No c'mon Kyoko, not zombies.  You might be undead but you are sapient, have magical powers and carry your souls around in phylacteries.  You're liches.  Let's keep to the right terminology here.  Anyway as long as their Soul Gem isn't broken, they are virtually immortal.
"Is it worth it" I imagine Homura thinking.
Kyubey sighs that whenever he tells people this the response is always the same, why do human place so much value on having their souls inside their bodies, "it's a complete mystery to me."  Then Homura returns with Sayaka's Soul Gem and Sayaka jolts back into life unaware of what just happened to her.

Sayaka returns home with Kyubey having been filled in on what Soul Gems really are.  When she asks why it didn't tell them, Kyubey says "because you didn't ask."  And not knowing like Mami didn't, doesn't hurt.  He says it's because they can fight witches more safely.  Sayaka isn't treating battle with the gravity it deserves.  For example if she was pierced through the stomach with a lance, it would be a huge shock to the body's pain receptors.

Then it puts its paw on her Soul Gem and forces her to feel how much pain that would be if she was feeling it in her body.  As she writhes in agony on the floor it carries on lecturing her:

Kyubey: "The reason you were able to fight Kyoko and live is because any pain that was too strong for you was stored away. That could only happen because your conciousness and physical body are no longer directly connected."

Kyubey then tells her she can shut the pain off completely but it dulls movement so Kyubey doesn't recommend it.  Sayaka gasps and asks why they have to go through all this.  Kyubey perkily says she made a wish and it was granted in return for a life of battle, "and that has certainly come true, hasn't it?" 

Next day Sayaka is absent from school, lying in bed under the covers holding her soul in her hands.  Then suddenly she gets a telepathic message from Kyoko, "how long are you planning to stay depressed, you half-wit?"  She tells Sayaka to come outside, she has some things to say to her.
"Come out" I promise I won't kill you!
Sayaka follows Kyoko silently as Kyoko says now she's thought about it, she isn't too bothered about what's happened to them, "if we live only for ourselves, we have no one to blame but ourselves."  She takes her to an abandoned Christian church.   Sayaka asks why she has brought her here, Kyoko says because what she has to say is going to take a while.  She offers her a highly symbolic apple, which Sayaka tosses away.  Kyoko grabs her collar and angrily tells her not to treat food like trash.

She tells Sayaka this used to be her father's church, "he was way to honest and way too kind".  He'd cry reading the newspaper and wonder why the world coudn't get any better.  He started preaching things which weren't in the church doctrine.  His congregation stopped coming, he was excommunicated by the main church.  His family wasn't able to feed itself (which scarred Kyoko as her food obssession shows), and Kyoko became frustrated that "nobody would even try to understand him.  I couldn't stand it anymore."

She made her wish, "I wished that everyone would seriously... listen to my father's words."  Suddenly he had parishioners aplenty and she was admitted into the world of the Magical Girls.

Kyoko: "I was a fool to be so excited, a fool to think... that between father preaching sermons and me fighting witches... we were going to save the world, from the inside and outside..."

But her bargain was discovered.  Her father lost it when he realised people were only following him due to magic.   He accused her of being a witch, "and it broke him.  He drowned himself in liquor and lost his mind.  In the end, he murdered our family, then killed himself.  Leaving me alone in the world."  Another orphaned Magical Girl.
Kyoko's tragic past revealed.
She made a wish for someone else, and it destroyed her family.  Because of that she vowed never to use magic for anybody else again.

Kyoko: "Miracles don't come for free.  For every iota of hope that goes into a wish, that same amount of despair gets scattered around.  It's that very zero-sum game that keeps the world in balance."  

They both made the same mistake, but shouldn't live a life of regret anymore.  Sayaka pauses, then says she misjudged Kyoko and apologises for that, but she has no regrets about her wish and doesn't think she paid too high a price for it.  She knows they can accomplish many things with their power, but those apples Kyoko has are stolen and she can't have any part in that.

As she turns to leave a frustrated Kyoko yells that "we're Magical Girls here! There's nobody  else out there remotely like us!!"  Sayaka turns and says she'll fight using her own methods and if she inteferes with Kyoko she can try and kill her, but she won't hold a grudge against her anymore.  And she leaves, with a vexed Kyoko lustily chewing on an apple watching her depart.

Next day Sayaka returns to school, reassuring Madoka she is OK.  Hitomi joins them and they all note Kyosuke has been released from hospital and is back at school.  In the classroom, Sayaka refuses to go and greet him, watching him with a thoughtful look on her face.
Hitomi confesses to Sayaka.
Later in a cafe Hitomi is having a chat with Sayaka over Kyosuke.  She admits to Sayaka that she's had feelings for Kyosuke for a long time. She says she's confronted her feelings and won't lie to herself anymore.  But she is also a "precious friend" of Sayaka, so if she wants first dibs, she has twenty-four hours before Hitomi will confess her feelings to Kyoksuke leaving Sayaka somewhat speechless.

That night, Madoka meets her outside her apartment to come witch hunting with her.  Sayaka starts to cry saying why is Madoka so nice to her?  She briefly, for a moment today, regretted saving Hitomi, "a total failure at being a hero!"  Madoka hugs her and Sayaka wails that she's going to lose Kyosuke, she can't do anything about it because she's already dead.  Just some walking zombie.  Funny thought, she feels awfully entitled to Kyosuke just because they have been friends a long time. Damn I just realise Sayaka is the female equivalent of a Nice Guy.  And a White (ish) Knight as well.  I'm surprised her Magical Girl outfit didn't come with a fedora she could tip while "M'ladying" people.

Later Homura finds Kyoko watching Sayaka fighting a witch called Elsa Marie.  Kyoko notes Sayaka is having a hard time with it.  Masses of branch-like tentacles attack Sayaka, cutting and slicing her.  Kyoko drops in saying she'll show her some moves, but Sayaka coldly tells her to leave her alone.  In a frenzy of hacking and bludgeoning Sayaka, drenched in her own blood takes down the witch while she hysterically cries:

Sayaka: "Ah ha ha... if I get in the right mindset... I can block out the pain completely!"

And she laughs madly as Kyoko and Madoka watch in horror.  Madoka can only whimper, "please... stop it"And I invite you to check out the same scene from the anime, which is my favourite moment from the show.  A magical blend of music, art and voice acting all to give us a young girl spiralling down into suicidal self harming behaviour.

Yes, that's sane.
With the witch gone, Sayaka heals up and tosses the Grief Seed at Kyoko saying that's what she wanted wasn't it?  As Sayaka stumbles away with Madoka, Kyoko watches them leave with a sad look on her face, and frustratedly says "that idiot" to herself.

Madoka and Sayaka wait at a bus stop.   Madoka says she shouldn't fight like that, it's not good for her.   Sayaka tiredly says she has no natural talent, it's the only way she can win.  Madoka says winning like that doesn't do her any good.  Sayaka scowls and says angrily, "what can possibly 'do me good?'"  She's just a worthless rock whose only job now is to kill witches.  Madoka says she just wants Sayaka to be happy.  "Then you fight those things!!" yells Sayaka.

She rants that she heard from Kyubey that Madoka has more natural talent than anyone.   So she should become a Magical Girl to "do me good".

Sayaka: "You can't right?  Of course you can't! Nobody would sacrifice her humanity simply out of pity!!"

She doesn't want to get into the hellish fights so she shouldn't talk like she knows what Sayaka is going through.  And she runs off into the night shouting at Madoka not to follow her.  But even as she runs, she cries wondering what she is even doing, and black blotches appear round her Soul Gem.

At Homura's place (she's also an emancipated teenage orphan), Kyoko and she are discussing tactics for the forthcoming Walpurgis Night battle. Homura throws out various facts and figures and Kyoko wonders how she knows all this stuff, but Homura keeps her cards close to her chest.  Then Kyubey appears, and angrily Kyoko manifests a lance coming out of her Soul Gem and points it at it.
Kyubey oh how everything from your mouth is manipulative and shitty.
Kyubey says that it has information for them.  Sayaka is exhausting herself at a rate much faster than expected.   She is bringing a curse down on herself.  Kyubey says things could get very complicated even before Walpurgis Night comes.  It looks at Homura and says "I imagine she knows, hmmm?"  Homura tells Kyubey to get lost and it departs.

Next day Madoka is hunting for Sayaka who never came home that previous night.  We see Sayaka hiding as she watches Hitomi and Kyosuke holding hands. Later that evening she goes and takes out her frustration on a Familiar.  Then Homura finds her and tells her she needs to just go after witches and tosses her a Grief Seed to cleanse her Soul Gem.

Sayaka refuses to use it, Homura says if she doesn't she'll die.  "That's fine with me" says Sayaka.  She says she's a different Magical Girl, she won't let people die and she doesn't want rewards, "if I can't beat a witch then this world has no more use to me."  Homura says she just wants to save Sayaka's life, why doesn't she trust her?

"Because you're a liar" says Sayaka.  Homura looks at everything through resigned eyes, she uses empty words, she says she is doing it for her sake but "in reality, you're thinking something entirely different, aren't you?"  Homura pulls a scary faces saying Sayaka is perceptive.  She is uninterested in saving Sayaka but she wants to protect Madoka from seeing the state she's in, "everything I do is for her sake."
Kyoko to the rescue!
If Sayaka is refusing her aid then all that is left for her to die and to stop her bringing more sorrow to Madoka "...then I'll do you the favour of killing you here and now". She starts to power up but Kyoko appears and grabs Homura from behind, and tells Sayaka to get out of there fast.  As Sayaka flees, Kyoko realises Homura can't use her power pinned down, but Homura drops a grenade out of her shield and Kyoko leaps back to avoid being kersploded, and Homura vanishes.

Sitting on a train, Sayaka hears two chauvanist pig men talking about how they use the women in their lives, treating them like dogs and dumping them when they get clingy.  Sayaka confronts them, and demands to know more about these women they treat so badly. They are bewildered at being stood up to by a fourteen year old, while Sayaka says to them why she is protecting this world, they must tell her. NOW. Later she gets off the train, dragging a bloodstained sword behind her before changing back into her school uniform.

Madoka is still hunting for Sayaka.  Kyubey says he can't undo what happened to her, but Madoka would be such a powerful Magical Girl she could do it no problem.   She would likely be "an omnipotent god".  It doesn't know why she is so powerful though.  Madoka decides to make a contract for Sayaka's sake, but before she can wish, Kyubey is instantly shredded into bits by a full clip of bullet holes and Homura stands there pointing an automatic pistol at where it was.
Homura's fave weapon, a Berreta 9MM.
Madoka is upset she killed Kyubey, but Homura's icy veneer cracks and she desperately cries at Madoka to wake the hell up and stop selling herself short.

Homura: "Why can't you realise that there would be people who'd cry if you were to vanish!? What do you think would happen to someone who's been trying to protect you!?"

She grabs ahold of Madoka who looks at her curiously asking if they have ever met somewhere before?  Homura just collapses, crying and completely overwhelmed.  Madoka apologises and says she has to go and find Sayaka and leaves.

Out of the shadows comes Kyubey.  It tells Homura she should know by now killing it is a waste of time.  "It's  little vexing to be ripped to shreds for no good reason" it says and it starts daintily eating the remains of its previous body.  It says it now knows what magic she uses now though - time manipulation.  "You're not from this timeline, are you?" it casually asks her. She says she knows exactly what it's plotting and she will change Madoka Kaname's fate.  She says she will make sure the future doesn't go as it plans, Kyubey "or should I say... Incubator."

Sayaka is sitting slumped on a bench in a railway station.  Kyoko comes running up and sits next to her.  Sayaka apologises for being such a pain to her, which surprises Kyoko.  Sayaka says she doesn't know what was important anymore, what she was trying so hard to protect.  She had saved some lives, but balancing it out her heart filled with spite and hatred and she even hurt the friend she loves the most.

Sayaka: "What an idiot... I am".

And her Soul Gem transforms into a Grief Seed with her tears splashing on it and the existence that was Sayaka Miki comes to an end as with a hideous scream the witch Oktavia Von Seckendorf is born.  Sayaka's lifeless body falls to the ground as amongst the chaos of the forming labyrinth Kyoko screams Sayaka's name. We end with Kyubey watching the birth of Oktavia from afar as he smugly says girls who are fated to become witches are naturally called Magical Girls. He's such a shithead. To be continued...
Anime version here.
When I watched the anime, Sayaka's fate hit me very hard.  Although Kyoko is my favourite character, Sayaka is the one I identify with the most.  When I think how shitty my life was at fourteen, dealing with the separation of my parents and the onset of the bipolar depression that I still live with today, if some bunny-cat had come and offered me a wish I probably would have wished, had it backfire on me and because little things seem so damn important when you're that age and something huge like getting your heart broken for the first time due to self image issues means the end of the world, I could see a similar spiral into misery and witchiness.  That was the reason I included the names of the witches, all female you see.  All originally Magical Girls.  Sayaka's short time as a Magical Girl seems to be the norm and veterans like Kyoko and Mami are the exception.  Talking of Kyoko, it's only vaguely alluded to but she was kouhai to Mami's senpai before the disaster that befell her family and it was Kyoko's wish that Mami was thinking of when she warned Sayaka not to make a wish on behalf of someone else.  Kyoko is a fascinating character and her story will continue in the next Book.  It's pretty much canon that she develops romantic feelings for Sayaka, although you have to wait for Rebellion to see them reciprocated outside of this manga. When she realises they have more in common than not she drops the hardass act and starts looking out for her, its notable she is the one there when Sayaka dies.  We are still left with many questions though, why is Kyubey running this system of recruiting vulnerable teenage girls and creating witches from them?  Homura has been revealed as not from this timeline originally, just what are her motivations for keeping Madoka away from Kyubey and the world of Magical Girls?  Both she and Kyubey are warring against each other for Madoka's soul, but why is Madoka of all people so important? Well all will be answered in a few days as Book 3 wraps the story up in spectacular style.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Book 1

"But it did change your fate.  It makes me happy to have saved even one of you". - Homura Akemi

Puella Magi Madoka Magica was an acclaimed twelve episode seinen anime that debuted in 2011 that tells the story of five very different girls and their dealings with being who in return for granting them a single wish, turns them into super-powered Magical Girls who are then required to fight and defeat Lovecraftian monsters called Witches who create lairs full of familiars to entrap and feast on normal humans.  It's pretty much my favourite thing in the history of ever, a tightly plotted character drama full of twists and turns with moments of very real tragedy and packed full of dense symbolism. So how do you adapt such an anime, especially one that pushed the medium of animation to it's very limits?  Well the answer is... not very well.  Three volumes is far too little space to do it justice and the delicate pacing is rendered a completely rushed mess.  However, the basic story is the same, your required reading is Faust and I'll be linking to clips on Youtube to help show you just how awesome the anime is and why you should watch it even if you're like me and know next to nothing about the Magical Girl genre.  Four of the five girls featured are on this cover, colour coded for your convenience: Madoka Kaname (Pink), Homura Akemi (Black), Sayaka Miki (Blue) and Mami Tomoe (Yellow).  A fifth girl, Kyoko Sakura (Red) appears at the very end and will feature more heavily in Book Two. So five girls, all different colours and when super danger threatens they combine and turn into one giant Magical Girl.  Sorry, sorry, cheap joke I know.  Anyway if you want some idea of what the show looks like, check out this award winning AMV cut to a bitchin' tune.

Anyway, the main characters are eighth/ninth graders, dividing school years like this was a bit after my time here in the UK.  But I am reliably informed (well it's the wiki so you know...) that means Madoka and Sayaka are fourteen, Mami is fifteen, Kyoko is a bit older than Madoka and Sayaka and a bit younger than Mami and Homura is fourteen... technically.  So any off-colour jokes I make must be taken with the full knowledge that I am a terrible human being who shouldn't be allowed near a computer. The manga is unflipped so panels read right to left and the honorifics have been left in for those who use them. Also, if you haven't seen the sequel movie Rebellion I'll be making some jokes and allusions to it in places, so minor spoilers - you have been warned. Also be aware that the events of the three volumes actually take place over roughly one month lest the messed up pacing make you think it all happens in about a week. Let's begin.

So we begin, and already I'm annoyed.  The show starts with Madoka emerging from a black and white maze onto a floating platform, buildings crashing down from the sky and one teenage girl with long dark hair battling a strange giant creature floating above the devastated city as a cross between a bunny and a cat tells her only she can change what's happening.  The manga starts with two pages of Madoka staring through the mists as the long haired girl battles something unseen and the bunny-cat (with apologies to SF Debris) tells her only she can change the outcome. 
Consult a lawyer before signing contracts with bunny-cats.
The long haired girl sees it talking to Madoka and screams something at her, but Madoka can't hear her and bunny-cat says she "would you like to change destiny? You have the power within you to do that.  You can overturn everything that's come to be in this world"  and she should make a contract with him and become a "Magical Girl".  And then Madoka wakes up.  It was just a dream.

She gets up and goes through her morning routine with her mum, Junko.  Junko tells her to wear the pink ribbons in her hair and "your popularity will soar".  After breakfast she rushes off to school and meets her best friends Sayaka Miki and Hitomi Shizuki.  They note her ribbons and Sayaka jokes that she is trying to lure in the boys, "wow that sounds like a girl I'm going to marry!"

Later they are in class and their teacher has some gripes about her lovelife and how boys shouldn't grow up to be petty and girls shouldn't ever date a man who complains about how their eggs are fried.  She then introduces them to a new transfer student, Homura Akemi.  Madoka is very surprised to see she is the dark haired girl from her dream.  Homura catches her eye and fixes her with an intense gaze.
Homura and the legs that launched a thousand fanfics.
Breaktime comes and people crowd round her asking questions, she asks if Madoka can take her to the nurse's office as Madoka is the health representative for the class.  As they walk, Madoka stammers at her and Homura asks to call her Homura, Madoka finally asks if they have met before.  Homura stops turns as says to her, "Madoka Kaname! Your family and friends.  Do you... value them?"

Madoka says she does, she loves her family and friends very much, they are precious to her.  Homura says in that case, she will offer her words of caution:

Homura: "If you truly feel that way, then follow what I am about to tell you very closely.  For the forseeable future, no matter what may come to pass, you should never consider 'changing yourself' in any way. If you choose not to heed my  words... those things that you hold dear... will all be lost."

And with that she walks off on her own, leaving a bewildered Madoka in her wake.  Later after school in a cafe with Sayaka and Hitomi, Sayaka finds it amusing that a brand new student "master of atheletics and academics" appeared to Madoka in a dream

She goes on to say they are "two whom fate has bound together in a previous life. A mystery of the universe!"  Madoka tell Sayaka not to tease her, then Hitomi has to leave, she's from a very wealthy family and has a lot of extra-curricular stuff to do. Sayaka and Madoka go to a music store so Sayaka can look for a CD.  Behind them, an older girl is using a small gem like thing to search for... something.
Madoka finds the injured bunny-cat.
We then see Homura in her dream girl outfit hunting bunny-cat.  So bunny-cat uses telepathy to call Madoka for help.  Madoka goes into the corridors behind the shops and finds a batteres bunny cat.  She picks him up and Homura appears in her dream girl outfit and yells "get away from that thing!" She bears down on the both of them but then Sayaka blasts her with a fire extinguisher and the three of them make their escape.

But as they run, reality suddenly changes around them.   It's not illustrated very well, but weird spherical things with moustaches surround them as the place swims and distorts, but before they can hurt Madoka and Sayaka the older girl appears in a flamboyant outfit and summoning some muskets she blows away all the creatures.  Reality reasserts itself as Homura appears, silently contmplates the other costumed girl, then turns away and leaves without a word.
Mami Tomoe to the rescue.
The girl heals bunny-cat and he thanks her, calling her "Mami".  She tell him to thank the girls who found him so he addresses them as Madoka and Sayaka.  Mami then changes back into her school uniform and introduces herself as Mami Tomoe, a student like them.  She also introduces the bunny-cat as Kyubey.  Kyubey then says it has something to ask of Sayaka and Madoka:

Kyubey: "Listen...I want you to contract with me... and become Magical Girls!"

Next morning Madoka wakes up wondering if it was all a dream, but Kyubey pops up on her bed and wishes her "good morning".  She goes about her bathroom routine while Kyubey soaks in a bowl of water.  Her mother can't see it and she also mildly scold Madoka for getting in so late last night.

Madoka says a "senpai" asked them so come over to her house.  I'll quickly explain that senpai roughly means an older mentor to a "kouhai" or student. We then flashback to the previous night at Mami's flat, she's an orphan so lives alone as an emancipated child, not uncommon in Japan where adoption is rare.
A Soul Gem.. seems so innocuous doesn't it?
Mami tells them that now Kyubey has choosen them she can fill them in on what it's like to be a Magical Girl.  She shows them a gem, when a girl makes a contract with Kyubey it creates this thing called a Soul Gem and a duty to fight witches.  In return, Kyubey will grant a single wish. Sayaka asks what the witches are they'd have to fight.  

Kyubey: "If you think of Mami as a 'Magical Girl' who spreads hope to all... then witches are the opposite. The ones that litter the world with despair."

Mami continues that witches cause suicides and murders that happen for no reason, they wandered into a witches "wards" or labyrinth as the anime called them.  If Mami hadn't appeared they would be dead.

She advises them to think hard about entering into a contract.  Sayaka muses that there seems to be some nice perks, are there other Magical Girls?  Homura is one, and "quite a powerful one, I venture".  Sayaka wonders why she would attack Madoka and Kyubey say she was after it (Kyubey has no gender). Kyubey thinks she was trying to stop it making any more contracts.

Mami explains that every time you defeat a witch there is a certain reward and Magical Girls will clash over the "glory of defeating a witch".  She thinks Homura doesn't want another rival, "probably".   Mami then invites them along on some witch hunts so they can think about if they still want to contract after that.
Kyubey comes to school with them.
Back in the present, Madoka meets Hitomi and Sayaka with Kyubey on her shoulder who Hitomi can't see.   Madoka then speak telepathically to Sayaka using Kyubey's borrowed power.  As they talk mentally, Hitomi asks why they have gone so quiet.  She then reaches the entirely wrong conclusion that they had an overnight tryst and now can understand each other with just a glance:

Hitomi: "You mean this is Forbidden Love!??"

Haha, as if this series has and lesbian undertones, the very idea. Ahem.  In class, Sayaka asks Kyubey if he is safe here, "transfer student" is in their class too (Sayaka refuses to use Homura's name from now on).   Mami is there and can hear them too.  Homura comes in and frowns at seeing Kyubey on Madoka's lap.

Later on the school roof, Sayaka and Madoka wonder what to wish for.  Sayaka says they are "happy fools" who can't think of a wish so important they'd stake their lives on it.   Madoka wonders why pick them, there must be others with wishes so important they'd trade their lives for them.

Then Homura appears.  Sayaka is rude to her, but Homura says she is not here to fight.  She reminds Madoka of what they talked about the day before and "don't regret later that you ever listened to that thing's honeyed promises".  She starts to leave but Madoka asks what she wished for, Homura stops and pulls a pained expression, then leaves without a word.
Readying for a witch hunt.
After school, Sayaka and Madoka tell Hitomi they have errands and are going home early.  Hitomi sniggers saying they must be off to "consumate your forbidden love again tonight."  Later Mami, Madoka and Sayaka meet in a cafe.  Sayaka brandishes a baseball bat, Madoka however has been designing a Magical  Girl outfit much to the amusement of the other two.

They return to where the witch was the previous day, now in the anime when a witch is introduced it's name appears in a runic code.  The manga doesn't bother with that but I'm going to use their anime names for reasons which will becone apparent in the next two volumes.  Mami holds up her Soul Gem to track the witch, who is called "Gertude".

As they walk, Mami says she check places where accidents are likely to occur, as well as hospitals where a witch can feed on the weakened people.  Then she sees a woman about to jump off the top of an abandoned building.  Henshin!  A transformed Mami uses her ribbons to catch the woman as she falls.  The woman has fainted and Mami show Sayaka and Madoka the "witch's kiss" on the woman's neck which controlled her into attempt suicide, Gertrude is here.
Here's the anime version, sorry for no subs.
The walk into her labyrinth and using guns and a baseball bat (enchanted by Mami to damage familiars) work their way through to Gertrude herself who has a sluglike body and a rose bush for a head.  Mami, fires bullets into the ground which turn into ribbons and ensnare Gertrude, then Mami summons a huge gun and shoots Gertrude with it.  She dies and the labyrinth collapses around them, as normality is restored.

Mami shows them a spherical object with a spike under it.  This is a "Grief Seed.  It's a witches egg" Mami tells Madoka and Sayaka.  She holds her Soul Gem to it and the gem which is now muddy looking has the taint pulled off it into the seed and is shiny again, using magic is what makes a Soul Gem murky and a Grief Seed the only way to cleanse it, which is why Magical Girls will fight over them.
A Grief Seed.
Homura appears and Mami coldly offers the seed to her saying it has one more use in it.  Homura responds icily, "I don't need it.  That was your prey.  So just keep it for yourself".  And she leaves.  Sayaka says she gets on her nerves, but Madoka wants to be friends with her.  Mami goes to comfort the woman who jumped saying she just had a bad dream.  Madoka admires her saying "Mami-chan... is so cool!  She really is awesome!"  She thinks how she wants to be a Magical Girl so badly now, but can't think of a wish.

Madoka: "...I can't help but think that even someone like me... could be a person who's able to help others.  It would make me so happy!"

We then cut to Sayaka visiting a boy called Kyosuke Kamijou in hospital,  He was a violin prodigy but after an accident he's lost the use of his left hand.  Sayaka has known him for a long time and has a major crush on him.  She's bringing him a rare classical music CD which he recieves with gratitude saying he hadn't been able to find it himself.

He asks her to listen to it with him and they put an earbud in one ear each and listen takes Sayaka back to being a young kid watching him perform on stage.  Then she realises Kyosuke is crying as he listens and this puts her in a pensive mood.
Sayaka with Kyosuke.
We then cut to her, Madoka and Mami on another witch hunt.  This time no Grief Seed is dropped as it was only a Familiar.  But Mami says that they must be destroyed as they will kill people and grow into witches themselves.  Back into normal clothes, Mami asks if they have thought of any wishes yet.  But Madoka asks Mami what her wishes was.

Mami tell them it was a few years ago, her family was in a massive traffic accident and she was lain dying in one of the cars.  Kyubey appeared and all she could think of was "save me".   And that's why they should think their wishes over carefully as that was something she wasn't able to do.

Sayaka asks if the wishes have to be for themselves, could she, for example, make a wish on behalf of someone who is having a rougher time then she is? Mami says yes, she knows it's been done before, but she doesn't recommend it:

Mami: "Miki-san... do you truly want that person's dream to come true?  Or is it that you want to be that person's saviour for making that dream come true?  If you're going to fulfill someone else's dream, that's the time when it's most important to be sure you know your own wish,  The two might seem the same but they're entirely different".

She apologises for the harsh tone, but she is sure Sayaka would end up regretting it.  Sayaka apologises saying "I wasn't thinking it through".  Kyubey pipes up saying the sooner they make a wish the better, but Mami says making them rush the decision might get "him" dumped.
Myubey keeps up its nagging.
In bed that night, watched over by Kyubey, Madoka again thinks how happy it would make her to be "a strong, cool, wonderful person like Mami-san".  Kyubey tell her if she becomes a Magical Girl she'll be stronger than Mami, although her powers will be defined by what wish she brings to the contract.  Kyubey say "I've never met anyone with your nature before!"  Madoka laughs that that can't be true and Kyubey's picking on her and she wishes it "good night!"

Next day they are at the hospital.  Kyosuke wasn't in the mood to see anyone so Sayaka has returned to the waiting Madoka and Kyubey.  Then they spot a Grief Seed attached to the hospital wall and it's about to hatch.   They quickly make a plan, Sayaka and Kyubey will stay and watch over it while Mami goes and finds Mami.  If the labyrinth opens, Mami can find Kyubey and Sayaka inside via telepathy.

As Madoka leaves and the labyrinth appears, Kyubey ask Sayaka if she is scared.  She says that she is, and Kyubey says she can make a wish and become a Magical Girl, but Sayaka says she doesn't want to make a hasty decision.  Mami and Madoka arrive and enter the labyrinth, though the witch, Charlotte, hasn't hatched yet.

Homura follows them inside, saying she'll hunt todays prey.  Mami says she doesn't trust her and won't retreat.  She wraps up Homura in ribbon bondage even as Homura tries to warn them, "this witch this time... is like nothing you've ever faced!!"  But Mami ignores her and she and Madoka walk further into the labyrinth.

As they walk, Madoka admits that shes always hated the fact she spends every day "without being of any use to anybody".  But when she saw Mami fight and learned that she could do the same thing it has made her "happier than anything else".

Madoka: "So if I were to become a magical girl, that would be my wish come true.  To think I could even help others like that... my biggest dream is to live a life that would make me proud of myself!"

But Mami stops and says quietly that she is not someone you'd want to emulate.   Fighting scares her like nothing else, when she is with her and Sayaka she forces herself to be the cool senpai, "when I'm alone, I do nothing but cry".
Tempting fate...
Madoka says she's not alone anymore, Madoka will fight by her side.  Mami starts to cry saying they can be a Magical Girl duo.  She transforms as Sayaka tell her the Grief Seed is hatching.  She thinks happily to herself "I've got nothing to be afraid of.  After all... I'm not alone anymore!"

She fights with joy and much more flamboyantly than normal, shooting Charlotte who looks like a small toy saying she'll kill it on one shot.  But after wrapping Charlotte in ribbons and shooting her with a big gun, suddenly a huge clown worm with sharp teeth in its big mouth bursts out of Charlotte and the over-confident Mami freezes.
The Charlotte battle anime style.
We then cut to Homura and the ribbons holding her melt away, realising what this means, Homura runs towards where Charlotte is, who is currently feasting on the crushed up and mangled remains of Mami Tomoe. 
Om Nom Nom.
Kyubey tries to get the horrified Sayaka and Madoka to make a contract before Charlotte turns her attention to them.  Homura then appears saying "there is no need for that" and she cooly takes out Charlotte with a series of massive explosions.  Standing over the bloodstain which is all that remains of Mami, Homura says:

Homura: "Burn this scene into your brain.  If you become a Magical Girl... this is what you get!"

She picks up Charlotte's Grief Seed, Sayaka grabs her and demands she give it back, it belongs to Mami!  Homura slaps her away saying it belongs to a Magical Girl and they have no right to touch it and she leaves Sayaka and Madoka kneeling on the ground weeping over the loss of their senpai and friend.

Next day over breakfast, Madoka breaks down crying that she is alive to enjoy breakfast. Later, she and Sayaka sit on the school roof and wonder if they still want to be Magical Girls.  Sayaka says there's no way now. Madoka asks Kyubey who will protect the town now Mami is gone.

Kyubey says it has been Mami's territory for quite some while now.  Her gap will be filled by those hunting for Grief Seeds, "like that transfer student..?" asks Sayaka.  Madoka says she promised Mami she'd become a Magical Girl... But after seeing her die like that she just can't.  Kyubey say's it understands, it'll be off looking for more girls to make a contract, "we haven't known each other for very long, but it's been fun.  Thank you". And off it goes.

After school, Madoka goes to Mami's flat, and cries saying "I'm sorry... I'm sorry I'm so weak... I'm really sorry".  Outside Homura is waiting and tells her she musn't be so hard on herself.   She asks if Madoka has taken her warning to heart.  Madoka says yes, but if she had done so earlier Mami wouldn't have died.  Homura says it wouldn't have changed Mami's fate.
Homura offers some consolation.
Madoka asks Homura if she's seen many people die?  "Yes I have" she replies, "so many... I've given up trying to count".  Madoka asks if anyone will notice that Mami is dead?  Homura says she only has distant relatives and it will be some time before anyone files a missing persons report.  When someone dies in a labyrinth "not even a body is left behind".   She'll be a missing person forever, "that is what happens to Magical Girls in the end".

This upsets Madoka, saying Mami fought for everyone for a long time, now no one will notice she's gone "... that's too lonely a fate".   Homura says it's part of the contract that gives them their power.

Homura: "So for no one to notice... for the world to forget us... that is just something we have to accept".

Madoka says she'll never forget Mami.  Homura says that would make Mami very happy, "so happy that I envy her". Madoka says she won't forget Homura either for saving her life yesterday. Homura turns away muttering "there's no way you remember..." Then she hastily takes her leave of Madoka who unknowingly struck a nerve with her comment.

We then cut to Sayaka bringing Kyosuke another CD.  But he flatly asks her if she is picking on him, is she trying to make him mad?  He can't play anymore and listening to the music is like torture.  He smashes his injured hand on a CD smashing it and cutting up his hand but feels nothing.
Kyosuke unleashes his bitterness.
Sayaka stops him cutting himself and says he'll get better. But Kyosuke says todays medical science can't help him.  He must give up the violin, "my hand won't move anymore... unless miracles or magic exist".   They do, says Sayaka as Kyubey appears on the balcony rail, "miracles... and magic... both exist".

Madoka is doing some late night shopping and comes across Hitomi, she has a witch's kiss on her neck.  She dreamily tells Madoka that she is going "to someplace far, far better than this."  More people with witch's kisses appear headed in the same direction as Madoka wonders what she can do as she doesn't have Homura's cellphone number.  So she just tags along.

They all converge in a small warehouse and shutter the entrance.  They start to mix up chemicals to create poison gas.  Madoka manages to grab the bucket and hurl it through the window and foils that plan, but then the crowd of people all turn on her, she manages to get into a small storeroom and locks the door.

Unfortunately inside is the witch Kirsten who drags Madoka into her labyrinth which in the anime was rendered in "super-flat" style.  She is tormented by images of Mami's death and wonders if this is her punishment for being "such a coward... and a liar."
Sayaka to the rescue!
Then suddenly Sayaka comes charging in, now a Magical Girl clad in a knight's cape and wielding a sword.  She smashes all the familiars holding Madoka then slices Kirsten in half killing her.   As the labyrinth collapses she grins at Madoka, "I'd say that I didn't do too bad... for a beginner."  Homura comes running up, but realises the witch is gone.  She sees Sayaka who sneers, "aren't you a little late... transfer student?"  In Kyosuke's hospital room he wakes up and finds his hand can move again.

This volume comes to an end with the introduction of a new character, Kyoko Sakura watching from afar.  She'd come because she heard Mami was dead and was going to take over her territory.  Kyubey tells her that a new Magical Girl here to protect the area, she made a contract with Kyubey a short time ago.  Kyoko says the territory is too good to give up to a rookie, so she plans to "crush that little girl".
Enter Kyoko Sakura.
I hope you've checked out some of the clips I linked to and you'll see the manga has an almost impossible task trying to portraying the witches and their barriers which all use differing animation techniques and that are packed full of symbolism regarding the witches inside them.  I understand why the mangaka focused more on the conversations and "normal" animated segments and I hope the quality of the underlying story of the anime still manages to shine through. Mami's death was a big surprise when I first watched it, I hadn't been as surprised by a early exit from something since Sephiroth kebabbed Aeris in Final Fantasy VII.  Her tale is quite a sad one, of crushing loneliness and a zealous clinging to the Magical Girl mission to help fill the emptiness of her life.  And to die just as she found a companion is truly saddening even if one wonders about the responsibility of taking two non-Magical Girls into combat just because she needed friends.  We also get to know Sayaka and Madoka well, Sayaka will be explored more in Book 2 which concentrates on the strange relationship that forms between her and Kyoko.  We know she's a "take no shit" kind of girl who will bring a weapon to fight eldritch abominations but also has a softer side as evidenced by her relationship with Kyosuke.  Madoka is a girl of layers, on the surface a bright and cheerful girl but inside filled with self hatred and fears she's just a drag on everyone around her.  And why is Homura, very much an unknown quantity, so obssessed with stopping her becoming a Magical Girl?  And finally what is Kyubey's game?  He grants wishes and creates Magical Girls but no one has asked him the important question, why?  Next volume sees the true cost of becoming a Magical Girl revealed, and to say it's not taken well is an understatement.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Book 1: Squirrel, You Really Got Me Now (#1-6, Howard The Duck #6)

"Goodbye, Squirrel Girl.  You shall not trouble me again" - Doctor Doom

"Hey" I hear you say, "haven't we already had a Book 1 for Squirrel Girl?"  Well you can blame the 2015 Marvel Universal reboot that saw everything start back at issue 1 for that.  Thanks Obama! Never fear though, all our favourite characters are still here.  Doreen Green is Squirrel Girl, she has the proportional strength of a squirrel, can speak with squirrels and has a squirrel side-kick called "Tippy Toe".  Best friend Nancy is also still around with Mew her beloved cat as well as fellow creature themed heroes, Koi Boi and Chipmunk Hunk.  This collection also includes the awesome letters pages and an issue of Howard The Duck which was a crossover with Squirrel Girl #6.  This is a tremendously fun, all-ages comic.  Breezily written by Ryan North and characterful artwork by Erica Henderson make it a cut above the usual superhero fare and proves comics can be both mature and fun at the same time.  This volume includes a visit from Squirrel Girls mum, time travel back to the 1960's and Howard the Duck's search for a lost cat going somewhat awry.  So without further ado, let's tuck in to a slice of fun.

We begin with Squirrel Girl inside a burning building rescuing family from the flames with back up from Koi Boi and Chipmunk Hunk. The family are very excited to meet her as she picks all three of them up and jumps out to safety.   Later they discuss the situation, Squirrel Girl says they "kicked butts and ate nuts".  Nancy says she didn't eat nuts she stayed on the ground ensuring they were in the most effective places.

Squirrel Girl says she spoiled her catchphrase moment, while Tippy Toe (who the others have been taught to understand) teases Chipmunk Hunk, calling him "Chipmonk Honk" which Squirrel Girl says that should be his name now.  Chipmunk Hunk grumbles it was better when he couldn't understand Tippy Toe.
Sweet new digs!
They arrive at the flat Squirrel Girl and Nancy will be sharing this college year.  Squirrel Girl says they are still moving boxes in because people notice when she carries ten boxes at once.  Nancy wonders how they manage to have secret identities at all.  Squirrel Girl says she clearly has a tail while Doreen has a "rad badonk".  Nancy says that's just her tail stuffed into her trousers.

There is a teleporter in the closet which will take Squirrel Girl directly to Avenger's Island as she is now a member of the "New Avengers".  She says "we avenge all the new stuff." She moans that it doesn't do anything cool like take her to the moon, but the place has a pretty good food court, so do they want to come and "eat delicious food off some friggin' paper plates?"

Then her phone goes.  It's her mother, she wants to meet Nancy who is less than enthralled by the prospect.   Squirrel Girl gets on her knees and begs, Nancy looks grumpy then agrees and Squirrel Girl picks her up and rushes off out the door.  Squirrel Girl's mum is waiting at an open air cafe.  Squirrel Girl has to go to the bathroom so sends Nancy over to her and mum greets her warmly.

She introduces herself as Maureen and tells her she and her husband Dor have heard a lot about her.  She loves cats too but they couldn't have them with all the squirrels running about, doesn't Mew mind Tippy Toe?  Nancy says no.  Maureen says Dor couldn't make it and Nancy says Doreen's parents are called "Dor" and "Maureen".  Maureen says they merged their names to make "Doreen".  Nancy says, "that's... the most adorable thing I've ever heard."

Maureen says she has tonnes of Doreen stories and Nancy grins saying she is so into hearing the stories she has no idea.  Squirrel Girl finally arrives to find her mum showing baby pictures of her to Nancy.   She was climbing trees at nine months.  Nancy comments it must be one of her mutant powers.  Maureen says that Squirrel Girl isn't a mutant.  She was tested and found not to be one by the doctor.

Maureen: "I remember now 'Doreen is medically and legally distinct from being a mutant and I can never take it back'"

Squirrel Girl says that's a cool story so what's for lunch?  Maureen says she already ate.  Squirrel Girl clutches her head saying they are here for nothing.  Nancy says she is here for the baby pictures and embarrassing stories and she is happy to be proved wrong about meeting her being potentially boring.
That's one for the lawyers.
Squirrel Girl picks them both up and takes them back to their building's roof.  She goes to open the roof access door when it bursts open and a robot with a brain and eyes in a jarlike head knocks Squirrel Girl down.  She leaps up and spots that it has Mew and Tippy Toe which it says "will be the first to be consumed".  She won't stand for that and attacks the being.

Nancy tries to find its Deadpool card and discovers its name is "Brain Drain".  But the card has no clues on what his weakness is and he's from Hydra.   He and Squirrel Girl wrestle some more and she rips his coat off his front exposing a control box with wires.  Tippy Toe goes to work on them, nibbling through them and Brain Drain powers down.

They bring him inside their flat and discuss what to do with him.  Her mum says he never actually attacked Squirrel Girl first, and how could he eat Mew and Tippy Toe with no mouth? Nancy and Squirrel Girl realise they "absolutely started this fight".  Tippy says he came through the teleporter and just stood ther until she came close to him, then he snatched her and Mew and was all "chaos" and "murder".
Tippy-toe to the rescue!
They decide to repair him so they can ask him what he wanted.  His real name is Werner and he was robotised in the 1940's.   Squirrel Girl says he might be a good guy who's been affected by lack of repairs over the years.  We then get a "Robot Repair Montage Scene" and using Nancy's cell phone to replace his damaged control panel they bring him back to life.

Fifteen minutes later he says he had been like in a dream with few lucid moments.   He had come to New York to find her, Hippo the Hippo speaks very highly of her.  The aliens who rebuilt him had used a Hydra handbook, but while he wanted to change, his actions would not.  Repairing him though has removed all the Hydra processors for which he is thankful. She asks what he plans to do now:

Werner: "I have been meaning to make a study of how civilisation's false veneer of decency is spread all to thin across the face on a monstrously indifferent universe."
Squirrel Girl says he should learn how to fix himself now he is part cellphone.  So they disguise him and have Maureen pretend he is her son so she can sign him up to the database class Nancy and Squirrel Girl both attend.  He says he is looking forward to studying them.
Werner gets signed up for Awesome Database Action.
Later Squirrel Girl, Nancy, Koi Boy and Chipmunk Hunk are eating in the food court on Avenger's Island.   Ken and Tomas say they are going off to investigate the "Great Cakes Avengers" while Nancy takes a photo of herself eating at the most prestigious of food courts.  She tells Squirrel Girl that having Werner around is going to be weird, but "I get the feeling it was gonna be weird anyway. But that's Ok, weird is good."  Squirrel Girl says "lets kick butts and eat nuts" but Nancy says she is going to eat a burger and Squirrel Girl yells she ruined her catchphrase moment again!

Narration: "One night, Doreen Green and Tippy-Toe were getting ready for bed. They had spent a busy day fighting crime and also studying discrete mathematics so they fell asleep pretty quickly.  They were hit by a temporal blast which had the effect of sending them back in time while also erasing them from the timeline.  This is the story of what happens next".

Her bed crashes down in a vacant lot, earmarked for forthcoming student housing.  She takes stock and realises by the look of things they must have time travelled.  Also people are staring at her tail.  She yells out that she is an actor playing "Sleepy Squirrel Lady" then jumps away asking Tippy-Toe "what the heck are we doing in the 1960s??"

They duck into a back alley where there is a chairty clothing bank which Squirrel Girl plans to borrow some clothes, including super hero clothes.  Tippy-Toe can't believe she plans to fight crime.

Tippy-Toe: "It's the butterfly effect:  If someone is supposed to steal a butterfly in the past and we stop them, then the future can get changed in crazy ways!"

Squirrel Girl says she seriously needs to get some clothes because a woman with a squirrel tail in pyjamas running round New York will probably change things more.  Tippy-Toe reluctantly agrees and Squirrel Girl gets some nice threads.
Rockin' the sixties look there.
Walking through the streets she spots a crime in progress and despite Tippy-Toe's warnings goes in to stop it. Then she has an epiphany, no one back then know what a super hero is, they think Captain America is wartime propaganda.  She starts babbling and then stops herself saying she needs to keep things a surprise, before knocking out the criminals saying "Surprise!!"

In the present Nancy runs up to Tomas and Ken saying she woke up to find Doreen and her bed had gone missing, and her parents say they never heard of her and the school hasn't either.  They give her a blank look, she says "we fight crime together".  Tomas asks what makes her think they fight crime?  Nancy says he's Chipmunk Hunk and Ken is Koi Boi.

Nancy: "I'll tell you one thing: nobody erases my roomate from existence and steals her bed and gets away with it".

And she walks off, leaving the pair saying she just guessed right that they fight crime.  Nancy says to herself it must be time travel and looks it up on wikipedia to find it happens quite a lot.
Nancy is too sensible for this shit.
She tries to walk through what she thinks Doreen would do, she'd likely try and get a message to her.  Probably tucked away somewhere so it can stay out of history's way until she finds it. And just like that she spots an acorn scratched on a brick in a nearby wall.  She gets a hammer and smashes it finding a note inside saying it's July 20th 1962 and Squirrel Girl and Tippy are trapped in the past there.  She says she has no idea why this has happened but the 60's are fun so give her some time before she shows up.

We then cut back to Squirrel Girl leaving the message and then wandering away to think about getting and apartment and a job.  She says if the worst comes to the worst she can live the slow path, find Nancy as an old lady then come back and rescue herself before that happens.  Tippy says that'll result in a paradox.  Then Squirrel Girl notices a girl walking along listening to music through ear buds.  She stops her and asks if she is from the future?  The girl says "oh thank God.  I was beginning to think I was crazy".

They go to a cafe and discover they both attend the same class at the same university.  Squirrel Girl thinks this can't be a coincidence. The girl, Mary, gives her a phone number to reach her on.  She's been here a few weeks and already has a boyfriend and somewhere to live.  She says she's ready to go back though, it'll be ten years before the first microwavable pizza is invented and "also it'd be nice not to be called 'cupcake' all the time".

Squirrel Girl has a plan to find out if more people have been sent back here.   She takes out a large advert in one of the newspapers saying to contact her if you recognise what the words "Hashtag", "Cerebro", "Selfie", Wikipedia" and "TL:DR" mean. 

Meanwhile Nancy is going through Doreen's Deadpool cards looking for an enemy that uses time travel who might have done this.  They are no help. so she checks wikipedia for a list of confirmed time travellers.  She sees Iron Man has done it and as Squirrel Girl is internet friends with him she tries to go to him for help, but gets ejected from Stark Tower.

In the past, Squirrel Girl sees an advert for the "Individual Portable sOng Device" or "I.P.O.D" and obviously this is too soon for it, Tippy thinks it's her fault and time is ruined forever.  Squirrel Girl says it was obviously in the works before she showed up, someone is using a time machine to rewrite history. In the present Doctor Doom suddenly appears in front of Nancy saying "Fool! The mightiest heroes of any era cannot help but fall... before Doctor Doom!!"
DOOOOM!!!
Jubilee of the X-Men is walking past and runs up saying she'll call them, Doom says he'll atomise her before any signal gets sent.  Nancy then intervenes saying he's not really Doom just someone cosplaying him.  Jubilee apologises and takes a selfie with him and then goes on her way.

He says he has let her go because he doesn't want to tip his hand to the heroes of this era he is here.  Nancy asks when he has come from, he says he is from the present everyone else here is from the future.  Nancy asks him what he wants, he says he wants to be directed to a warehouse of future armaments so "both Stark and his tailed compatriot will realise the folly of standing in Doom's way."

Nancy realise he's the Doom from just after his battle with Squirrel Girl which Doom fibs saying he totally won and had the magnaminity to allow her to live as well.   Nancy tells him Squirrel Girl is trapped in the past and as he turned up with a time machine maybe he could help get her back?  He refuses, but Nancy says she is trapped in both their pasts and manages to convince him via extreme flattery that she's gone back to a time when he was weaker and undefended.  Need she spell it out?

So Doom agrees and will take her back to where Squirrel Girl is now, Nancy says she'll make sure Squirrel Girl never attacks him and he'll be free of her "meddling ways for years. Years".  Only she can talk Squirrel Girl down from messing with a baby Doom.  He tells her to get on his time platform and they decide to give her a week in the past and off they go with Nancy commenting "Do you ever get the feeling your making a huge mistake?"

Squirrel Girl is chairing the first meeting of the "Future Pals." They are all in the same computer science class but none of them recognise each other, so the first mystery is who is doing this to them.  Squirrel Girl says the second mystery is who took out the iPod advert.  Mary 'fesses up to that one.

She says that after her talk with Squirrel Girl she thought one way to get home was try and accelerate the technichal development of mankind so time machines get invented ahead of schedule.   She placed the ad to recruit other time travellers so they could get to work on the plan.  Squirrel Girl says crossly that they can't contaminate the timeline like that.  Then Doom and Nancy arrive, right in the middle of the room.
Quite an entrance.
Quickly Squirrel Girl changes into her crime fighting outfit, before she can attack him though, Nancy says he's the Doom from just after she met him for the first time, when she wass fourteen. "How the heck have you been?!" Squirrel Girl says to him.  "You will respect Doom's personal space" he responds.

Nancy tells her that after she disappeared no one remembered her but herself and Doctor Doom.  He explains that time machines have "chronoton protection" fields which allow the traveller to not be affected if history changes around them.  Nancy asks how she remembers?  "Oooh! Power of Friendship?" suggests Squirrel Girl.  Doom then demonstrates what happens if you remove the field by doing it to Nancy's phone.  Which changes to "Doomphone 5000".

Nancy looks up the offline version of wikipedia she keeps on it and finds history has changed, before July 28th 1962 things were "boring and awful".  Afterwards when Doctor Doom arrived "things were wonderful forever".

Doctor Doom: "I won.  I've already won.  No matter what the era, Doom always wins.  And this world... shall be owned by Doom!!"

He starts firing energy blasts at Squirrel Girl and Nancy says she thought they had a deal, but he says he never said he wouldn't attack her and he will bring them back to their own time, "in a coffin! And you shall join her!"

Nancy ducks and is annoyed he got out of his promise with "stupid baby word games".  Doom carries on ranting and tosses Squirrel Girl out of the building through an advertising hoarding, "Oh. It's so on now" she says.   First of all she needs to get the Future Pals out of there, so she scoops them all up and they all jump out of the window into  a nearby rooftop pool.

Doom isn't following them, Nancy thinks he'll lay low to prepare to take over the world.  And because he has her phone and article telling how to do it, he's convinced it shows him a future victory he can't lose.   One of the Future Pals says he's wrong, right?  But Squirrel Girl and Nancy look pensive.  Meanwhile in the new present a man wakes up and realises something is wrong across a New York ruled by Doom.
Cody wakes up to DoomWorld.
He walks round the former planet Earth, now Planet Doom saying "this isn't how I remember things at all!!"  Back in the past the Future Pals are out of the pool and drying themselves off.  Squirrel Girl tries to cheer everyone up:

Squirrel Girl: "Besides, I can't call myself the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl if I let a teeny thing like a crazy unstoppable genius science wizard with his own time machine and robot suit foil me, right?"

Nancy has an idea, they need to steal his time machine, Squirrel Girl realises that means they could have dinosaurs on their team in that case!  Mary says a better idea would be going to the future and bringing the cool tech back to use.  Nancy says they could go back and find baby Doom and give him a better childhood.

Squirrel Girl will go steal the machine while Mary works on making an EMP.  Squirrel Girl frowns at her and asks if she's been making nukes?  Mary says no... the parts are too expensive.   The EMP will be able to shut down Doom's armour, she learned to make one in Computer Hardware.  Nancy says she took that course and didn't think she'd need to use it for making doomsday devices, "Well, that's where we're different" says Mary. I like Mary.

The plan is made, Mary and Nancy will work on the EMP device, while Squirrel Girl steals the time machine.  The other Future Pals will help Mary and Nancy.  So Squirrel Girl tracks Doom down to an abandoned castle in the middle of Central Park.   They sneak inside and see Doom busy building something.
Let words be our battle!
He's making Doombots, made of sixties junk but still way ahead of when they first appeared.   If he activates them they don't stand a chance so Squirrel Girl jumps in and stands on the time machine.  She tries to use it but he left it in neutral so she can't work it and he swats her aside.

She says she doesn't want to fight him, "there must be some way we can both get what we want".  He says he desires world domination.  She says she found common ground with Galactus so there must be something they can agree on.   Doom keeps punching and she keeps dodging, he says "compromise is for the weak" and hits her with an energy blast.

Doom: "Woman, do you even realise what you can achieve when you refuse to compromise? Can you fathom what heights await you when you refuse to accept anyone's 'no'. When you deny failure even a passing consideration?"

He stops attacking her and decides to show her.  He has built a Doombot already, in just a matter of hours using his own programming language.  And now he has shown her, he unleashes the Doombots on her. 

Then coming to her rescue come the Future Pals armed with EMP devices.   But they are ineffective, Doom protected himself and his Doombots from them.   Then suddenly before things can get really bad, the time machine lights up and it's the guy who was shown walking round Doom World with someone in Doom's armour.  And that person turns out to be... an elderly Squirrel Girl.
Squirrel Girl young and old.
The man is a student called Cody.  He was left a disintegrator pistol by an uncle he never heard of which actually worked by transporting things back in time to the sixties and because he was flunking his class he started using it on other students to improve his chance of getting better grades.

He's telling them this in the middle of the two Squirrel Girls fighting Doom and the Doombots. Old Squirrel Girl says she is from a sucky future where she lost this fight first time and Doom took over the world.

Because there was no Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic, only Doom had a time machine.  Cody was protected from the timeline changes and came back on his own originally to try and fix things, so she tracked him down in the future inside a hollowed out Doombot and tweaked his machine so it wouldn't erase themselves from history and now she's back and she is "more than a little unbeatable!!"

The Squirrel Girls lure him outside so they have more tactical advantages against him but he runs into the Museum of Natural History. Old Squirrel Girl is exhausted and they decide young Squirrel Girl will fight Doom and Old Squirrel Girl will fight the Doombots. They hug and part.

Inside Doom swings some fake dinosaur bones at her.  Nancy had the Future Pals come in and Squirrel Girl stops Doom hurting them with an energy blast.   Squirrel Girl speaks some C++ to Nancy and Doom's confusion gives Nancy time to program Cody's time machine gun.  Nancy blasts it at her and sends her back the day before.   She keeps doing this creating more and more Squirrel Girls at different points on the timeline.  Finally a big crowd of them converge on the Doom battle and swarm over him as he flails about.
A dray of Squirrel Girls attack.
She forces him to promise he'll return them to their times, restore the future, return to his own time and not use his time machine to pull these shenanigans again  He says "you have my word as Doom".  So all the Squirrel Girls get off him.

The multiple Squirrel Girls are sent back in time so no paradox happens then all the Future Pals gather on Doom's time machine.  Old Squirrel Girl decides to stay, it's a nice time to retire to.   She also confiscates Cody's time machine gun.  Doom gets impatient with their lengthy goodbye and they return to the present.

Doom: "I have undone the alterations from the other time device and your 'friends' are no longer erased from the timeline."

Squirrel Girl: "What?  Don't put 'friends' in quotes!  Friendship is real yo, and it kicked your butt!"

Doom mutters that he'll put quotes round whatever he pleases.  They shake on Doom's promise not to disrupt the timeline, he says she has earned his respect, "pray that you don't lose it".

We finish this story with Squirrel Girl wondering still how Nancy remembered her.  Was it the Power of Friendship?  Or was it that when Cody tagged her in bed, Nancy got hit by the "protect from timeline changes" field instead.  They decide it was the power of friendship and what other students can say they "piled up on a Latverian dictator?"  Nancy says quite afew now.  Squirrel Girl says "the English Lit majors are gonna be mad jealous".

Meanwhile in the past Doom decides he made no promise that his Doombots wouldn't go back in time and starts ordering them to defeat her or be reduced to scrap.  But Old Squirrel Girl has got to them before him and all he can do is rage, "Blaaaast youuu Squiiiirrel Giiiirl!"  And that brings this arc to an end.

The next story is a two-part crossover with Howard The Duck, a 70's creation by the legendary grumpy-pants Steve Gerber, who functioned as a somewhat satirical commentator on the absurdities of life in general.   Squirrel Girl requests Nancy sew her a new hero costume which Nancy agrees to Squirrel Girl saying it'll be awesome to fight crime in a costume she made.  They have a discussion about heroes with multiple costumes then Squirrel Girl drifts off to sleep.

Then she wakes up to find Howard making a getaway with Nancy's cat Mew.   When challenged he accuses them of stealing the cat, Squirrel Girl then asks to see his powers. Nancy tosses him a Deadpool card on him and finds he can team up with one hundred normal ducks to make one big duck.   This surprises Howard who snatches the card off her, "I'm not a villain.  I'm a private detective." He crosses out the word "supervillain" on the card.  Nancy takes Mew back.

He say he's been hired to find a cat called "Biggs", which is turning into a pain because all cats look the same.  He calls them "hairy proto-apes" and Squirrel Girls starts a long explanation of the genomes of animals and humans, which gets her a long silent stare from Howard.
I have seen that stare so many times in my life.
Nancy returns to their flat with Mew, Squirrel Girl apologises for bursting through their window, but Nancy says she would have done the same thing.   Howard says he would have returned Mew when he was told it wasn't Biggs.  He insists "I'm not the bad guy here!"  Howard starts calling Biggs saying the sooner he finds him the sooner he can get away from Squirrel Girl.

They walk out of the alley and a van pulls up and Kraven the Hunter climbs out.  He greets Squirrel Girl and says he is pleased to see her, she asks if he wants to help find a cat.  But he says he is after different game tonight and scoops Howard into a sack.  He says he needs the money and his client will pay handsomely for him. Squirrel Girl says she can't let him take Howard.  But before she can summon her squirrel army he tosses far away and drives off.

She follows the van to a "weird creepy mansion in the middle of nowhere with insanely high security".   She leaps over the wall and heads towards the house.  Inside Howard is dumped out of the sack onto the floor.   The client turns out to be a woman called Shannon Sugarbaker who is a cosplay fanatic.  She has costumes and weapons of all the heroes, and the weapons work.
Cosplay Billionaire.
She goes on to say she brought some secondhanded Doombots from the secondary market and she intends to indulge her other passion, hunting. She plans to hunt humans but hunting anthropomorphic animals is a legal grey area.  Meanwhile upsatirs Squirrel Girl bumps into the Doombots.  The woman leads Howard past the cells, she has Rocket Raccoon, Beast and Biggs her cat, a cat in a mechanical killsuit.  Finally Weapon II, a squirrel with adamantium skeleton, claws and intelligence and healing factor.

Squirrel Girl is fighting the Doombots and Shannon hears thumping noises from them.   Squirrel Girl smashes through the ceiling and jumps down to where Howard and Shannon are.  Shannon orders Kraven to hunt her, but he says no, "She has my respect".  He apologises for tossing her in the air, an "unfortunate combination of habit, muscle memory and necessity" They shake hands and say no hard feelings.

Shannon gets her Mjolnir and fires it as Squirrel Girl then uses web shooters on her and covers her mouth before whacking her over the head with the hammer and knocking her out.  She wakes up in a cell with Howard, Biggs, Beast, Rocket Raccoon, Weapon II and Kraven.  Kraven admits he has now become the hunted as Howard bewails the fact he's in this mess because he was just looking for a cat, "I can't take it.  I can't take this entire planet."
Cosplay Billionaire's prey.
The story concludes in Howard the Duck #6.  Ryan North is joined by Chip ZDarsky as writers and Joe Quinones, Joe Rivera and Marc Deering as artists. They have been released in the forest so Shannon can hunt them.  Her holographic head tells them the rules, if they make it to the southern gate she'll let them go.  She counts down to one, while Squirrel Girl says Kraven can get inside the head of this Cosplay Billionaire.

Beast doesn't want to trust a villain, he says he is the best choice for a leader.   He says hunting him would result in the full wrath of the mutant population.   He is going back to the mansion to tell her this.   Howard says he's crazy, they should be running and they are out of time.  Shannon appears sporting a pair of wings and firing a laser at them.
The hunt begins.
She brains Beast with her Mjolnir and he is sucked underground, the rest of them make haste away from there.  And I just realised that Biggs in his robot suit looks like Tinker the cat from We3, which is a cute shout-out to an amazing story.   Howard shushes the confused Biggs then says he can close the case because he found him.  Howard asks how Kraven caught Rocket Raccoon, turns they were both buying guns in the same store.

Kraven then comforts Biggs, "you are a fine specimen and deserve better than this."  Meanwhile Weapon II is battling Shannon and also gets knocked out and sucked underground. This gives Howard and idea, he tells Biggs to dig a hole.  Raccoon and Kraven go to fight her to buy time for the hole to be dug.

He digs down until he hits some metal, and Howard tells Squirrel Girl to pry the hatch open with her super strength.   The hole is too small for Biggs so he stands guard while Squirrel Girl and Howard descend inside.   They are unsure where to go, so Howard gets out his phone. Squirrel Girl says he had it all the time and didn't call for help?  He didn't think of it and he is getting no signal as well.

They spot a Doombot carrying an unconcious Kraven and sneakily following them. They arrive back in the mansion but Howard's phone is dead. They are in a library and they search for something, anything they can use against her.  Howard pulls out a book on cosplaying.

We then see Shannon standing with Beast, Rocket Raccoon, Kraven, Weapon II and Beast firmly tied up.   She is pointing a hand blaster at Kraven and orders Squirrel Girl and Howard to come out or she'll blast him.   As she counts down we hear Squirrel Girl and Howard arguing then he comes out in cosplay himself swinging a mace and in a suit of electronic armour.
Howard goes into battle.
They start fighting and Howard says she kidnapped Biggs to spite her ex and turned him into a robocat, "that's my case!  And I'm closing it... oof!"  He fires eyebeams at her, she dodges and punches him.  Squirrel Girl unties the others and they all pile into the fight.  Biggs has appeared as well.  Squirrel Girl gets Kraven to hurl her at Shannon and knocks her over Biggs.  The mansion is on fire and with Shannon out of it, they make their escape.  Outside Kraven apologises again and says his life is not one that's been well lived.  He decides that from now on he'll be Kraven The Hunter of Hunters.   Squirrel Girl says that's a heroic improvement.

Three weeks later Squirrel Girl and Nancy are walking in the park  with Mew on a leash and bump into Howard.   He has taken ownership of Biggs now who is in a smaller robotsuit after his owner freaked out at the sight of him, "so I guess I own a weird cat now".  Squirrel Girl makes a fuss of him and says cats are her second favourite animal, Howard asks if her favourite is ducks?  "Sure Howard. Sure" comes the response and that brings this story to an end.
Yay, happy endings all round!
From embarrassing parents to time travel shenanigans to missing cats, this is one packed volume of adventure.  Squirrel Girl actually reminds me a lot of Goku from Dragonball.  She is very kind and always tries to see the best in people even if they are trying to kill her, and she's always adding to her circle of friends.  The writing by Ryan North is crisp and funny as hell while the stories are imaginative and just the right side of silly.  Erica Henderson's art continues to be a delight, it's deceptively simple line work actually makes people look more emotive than more "realistic" styles.  Nancy continues to be one of the greatest supporting characters in all of comics.  Brave enough to stand up to Doctor Doom, clever enough to figure out how to find Squirrel Girl in the past and I like to think it was the Power of Friendship that let her be the one who remembered who Squirrel Girl was.  Revisting Doom's original defeat by Squirrel Girl using a horde of her instead of a horde of squirrels like the first time was a nice continuity nod and it was cool to see she remains just as badass even as an old lady.  I like how when she realises she is in the past she doesn't panic she goes with the flow and very cleverly gathers together her fellow time displaced students. The two-parter with Howard the Duck was a nice bit of fluff, Howard's always been a bit of an odd fit with the wider Marvel Universe but seeing him alongside other animal themed heroes stops him sticking out quite so much.  Also robocats are awesome.  Squirrel Girl remains one of the delights of Marvel currently and I am looking forward to reading what comes next.