“If you die in a car crash while saving me then there was no point in any of this.” – Ying
“You are too precious, Nadia. Too good for this world.” – Deborah Forrester
“Look at what both ways?” – Nadia van Dyne
The Unstoppable Wasp is a two volume comic about a young woman, Nadia van Dyne, putting together an action research lab of young scientists, after discovering an extra-governmental list of the top minds on Earth has traditionally ranked women not even in the top twenty. They do math and diagrams and robots and they fight crime.
Nadia means more than hope.
Be Unstoppable, with Nadia van Dyne
by Travis Hedge Coke
Etymologically, “Nadia,” the protagonist of, The Unstoppable Wasp, a character loved by all good folks, does mean, “hope.” Hope was the name of Nadia’s other-reality sister, the daughter of Hank Pym from an alternate future called the MC2. Hope is also the name of the Wasp in the movies, right now, a Wasp unlikely to ever really line up with the comics or the comics with her.
As a child, it can seem like serials will go one forever. There will always be new episodes of this tv show, new sequels in this series of movies, new issues of a certain comic. That’s hope. Hope is not optimism. Hope is the desire for optimism. The anticipation of the perpetuation of nice things.
The Unstoppable Wasp has been canceled, once again. It was canceled before, and has had a revival by the same writer, Jeremy Whitley, and more or less the same cast and setting. It’s amazing stories and the always-welcoming art by Elsa Charretier and colorist Megan Wilson made the first volume a rewarding reread, redefining the characters the title borrowed from other comics and cementing those created for its pages right into my mind, and the minds and hearts of many other readers. The artists of the second volume, Gurihiru, Alti Firmansyah the kind-eyed big-smiles fast and clear action standards Charretier set. There was never a weak issue, and it is unlikely those remaining to be released will be any different.
I suppose some of growing up, is acknowledging anything can be canceled and most things will be. All fiction stops somewhere, even revivals. Attachment to the continuation is hope, but it is what they call a “false hope,” even though there is no such real thing as false hope.
It is not the continuation that will last or have lasting value. Reaching issue 1000 or issue twelve feels good, nice balanced numbers, but how much value do you really feel, second or fourth read, out of that number? Does issue one thousand matter in the middle of a collected edition?
We don’t need comics to continue, or to exhibit hope, right now, if largely ever. Not that way. What we need, is comics that are unstoppable. As Greta Thunberg says:
“Adults keep saying: ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope.’ But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.
“I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”
Not saying, get afraid that a comic is being canceled, or act melodramatically because pretty much all the queer-friendly or ethnically-diverse casts seem to be going bye-bye at Marvel right now. These things commercially correct themselves. They are beside, and without us. Outside us.
But, if you read The Unstoppable Wasp, it has built a house inside you, and that house could burn up. That house has foundations and crossbeams you should look at. That house can last forever.
You may believe I am overselling this, but I think you could be under-appreciating what presence does for you, in a comic. In any entertainment, any art.
Nadia van Dyne is a presence. G.I.R.L. is a presence. G.I.R.L. is not a perfect acronym and that makes it even better. Genius In action Research Labs. Nadia does not let tradition or the anxiety to be perfect get in the way of moving forward and doing something good.
Nadia should be held up by that anxiety. Bipolar, clearly also dealing with post traumatic stress, and as a high-performing youth with little useful social or professional prep, Nadia has the deck stacked in favor of paralyzing anxiety and ritual carefulness.
Nadia has not let being bipolar, being under-prepped, being an orphan arrest her or stall her engines.
Nadia van Dyne is unstoppable.
The Unstoppable Wasp has never been perfect, and that makes it a better comic.
In-story and out, Nadia is very likable. Her charm and her strength are her likability and her drive to make things work, as much as her wings, size-changing, and genius intellect. But, Nadia can take it too far. And, even at “acceptable” levels, it takes its toll on her.It overwhelms her, if she does not guard to prevent it.
There is a difference between being forward-thinking and being careless, between being careful and being kind.
The Unstoppable Wasp has many of my favorite Marvel Universe scientists, like Monica Rappucini. Moon Girl, and Bobbi Morse. The comic created several I now adore and admire, like, Taina Miranda and Shay Smith. With many of the best hugs, and awesome hero moments, of anything published by Marvel in the past five years, it stays bright and energetic without ever turning frivolous or unintentionally dooming.
Too often, when a comic is determined to drive on the side of good, like this happy scientist story, forget that consequences come of everything, even nice behavior. Marvel Divas, for example, is a sweet, earnest comic with weird covers and the name (they aren’t really divas, in any way), that has its characters unleashing deadly radiation in a region full of endangered animals and Indigenous peoples, calling it safe because it’s not downtown Manhattan. Forty-some years ago, in Avengers, a smart writer accidentally wrote a rape story about Carol Danvers, who just debuted in theatrical movies this year with Captain Marvel. It is too easy to slip and make things that seemed alright into a horror shortly after the reader has read the scene.
A recent wrestling subplot was heartwarming, endearing, funny, exciting, and also dipped into the tradition of professional wrestling to indulge in farcical mimicry of real world bigotries or identity conflicts like racism or nationalism. The comic did it with Skrulls, and Skrulls are aliens, not a real faction from the real world. The characters go to see a wrestling match where the heels are Skrulls, just like the heels in real world wrestling have been the ethnic or national enemies, the social or class enemies, in parodic hugeness. The main cast are taking hero-to-us-all Mockingbird, Bobbi Morse, to the match, and get her a themed anti-Skrull shirt along with their own, because she was kidnapped and held captive for years by Skrulls.
Lovely, exciting scenes, that also, if you swap out the aliens with any real world possible enemy “class,” gets ugly quick. That is a stumble.
That, too, is a presence in you once you have read it. Whether you took it in critically or un-critically first, changes things. But, these are only tiles in the house, only a windowpane, part of the whole.
Like Janet van Dyne and others accepting Nadia’s father back in their lives and their circles after he physically assaulted her (and set up a robot to brutalize colleagues until he could pretend to defeat it), it’s a socially acceptable ugly sliver in an otherwise entirely lovely situation.
Nadia van Dyne does not know too deep into social situations or social expectations. She knows what she was taught in the abstract, and she has a heart big as the moon, but it is all trials. The series, the first volume, opens with Nadia buying out the best of a sweets shop, and being charming enough about it, she gets a discount that her friend, Ms Marvel, has never gotten despite being from there and having saved the shop from destruction once.
Nadia reacts earnestly to all things. She makes the world earnest, even if the people in it are not. Her perspective, her approach, can inspire our own.
The Unstoppable Wasp is a playground comic, by which I mean, a comic – even if there are no future uses in new comics – gave us enough novel elements, that we can play inside our heads and our fanons forever. And, Nadia makes situations playgrounds by being in them. She saw a scenario many of have undoubtedly seen before and gave us G.I.R.L. She deals with people, individual people, in ways that are idiosyncratically her. She is herself.
Nadia van Dyne is unstoppable. It’s the only way to be.
Be Unstoppable, with Nadia van Dyne
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