Squadron Supreme #1 – Reviews Of Old Comics

blogheaderI wanted to write another review of an old comic tonight. Going through my list of comics, I came across Squadron Supreme and remembered it taking the concept of a team meant to mirror the Justice League and running with it.The Squadron Supreme were created as a take on the Justice League. Writer Roy Thomas was talking after work with the writer of Justice League of America and the thought was for each writer to put versions of the other’s team in their books. DC Editorial shot down such a direct take on the Avengers, but at Marvel, Roy Thomas created the Squadron Sinister to battle the Avengers. They proved popular enough to branch off into a an alternate Earth version of those same characters, but heroic. They proved to be even more popular and returned with an expanded line-up that mirrored newer versions of the JLA.

In the pages of Defenders, where Marvel-Earth’s Nighthawk had been killed, he apparently returned only to be revealed as the Alternate Earth’s version of Nighthawk, who had escaped the control of the Overmind, an alien telepathic conqueror, who had turned the Squadron Supreme into his own personal strike force. The Defenders helped free the Squadron, but not before America had been devastated by the resources Overmind had used to wage war on countries that opposed him and attempt to take his war to other planets. Of course, Overmind’s involvement wasn’t known to the general public, who had only seen the Squadron as enforcers of a brutal government. That’s where Mark Gruenwald picked up his story in the pages of a 12 issue limited series.

Squadron Supreme #1

September  1985

Writer: Mark Gruenwald
Penciller: Bob Hall
Inkers: John Beatty
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Colorist: Christie Scheele
Cover Artists: Bob Hall & Joe Rubenstein

SYNOPSIS:

Hyperion is failing at keeping the satellite headquarters of the Squadron Supreme in orbit, so he guides it a splash landing in the ocean. There, Whizzer, Dr. Spectrum and Amphibian of the Squadron Supreme help him tow the wreckage to shore. They lament how far the Squadron has fallen, but have to meet their teammates.

Elsewhere, four Squadron members meet up and investigate the looting of a tractor trailer of food. When one man in the crowd explains that the chaos in the country has left them hungry, the heroes decide to look the other way. Unfortunately, the military shows up and opens fire on the looters. The Squadron defends the civilians, albeit with Nuke reacting rather violently.

Possibly the least powerful of the Squadron, Nighthawk, Tom Thumb, Lady Lark and Golden Archer come across a major fire threatening a natural gas plant. Tom Thumb and Nighthawk shut off the valves on the tanks to prevent an explosion from destroying the nearby city. Lady Lark and Golden Archer attempt to slow the fire, but it reaches the plant anyway, but with the tanks successfully closed, the damage is minimized.

The entire Squadron meets in an old cave headquarters to compare notes. The country is in shambles thanks to the Squadron wrought under Overmind’s control. Unfortunately, as he was President of the US, Nighthawk places most of the blame upon himself. With the chaos the country is in, there is talk of disbanding the Squadron, but Princess Power and Hyperion come up with a plan to use their powers to not only rebuild the country, but to shape it into a modern Utopia. Nighthawk argues that if mankind doesn’t earn their paradise, then it is inherently flawed. It also calls for the Squadron to take over the country and force their solutions on people. After it’s put to a vote, Nighthawk and Amphibian are the only ones that vote against it. Amphibian will go with the will of the majority, but Nighthawk is so opposed, that he will not take part. To ease the public into their plan, the decision is made for the Squaddron to unmask on national television.

The Squadron members return to their homes. Hyperion says goodbye to his on/off girlfriend since as an alien, he could never give her a family. The Whizzer takes the time to comfort his wife and daughter. Dr. Spectrum uses his power prism to make phone calls to members of his fan club. Cap’n Hawk visits his parents, only to find that his father has died, but left him a uniform with a letter asking him to carry on his legacy as American Eagle. Power Princess visits her husband, whom she has known since she came to America during World War II. Amphibian spends pleasant time under the sea with dolphin friends. Golden Archer and Lady Lark find their apartments have been looted with one having died behind the Archer’s couch. Nuke visits his parents, both in the hospital dying of cancer. Arcanna has magically concealed her home , protecting her husband and children. Tom Thumb goes to the wreckage of the Squadron satellite to repair his computer, Aida.

Nighthawk takes a secret tunnel back to his mansion. Since he is still president, he contacts the White House and arranges the televised address to the nation. Before writing his speech, he changes back into an older costume to ease his nerves and settle his mind. Hyperion appears at the window, trying to repair their friendship despite how vehemently, Nighthawk opposes the Utopia plan, making little headway, Hyperion leaves. Nighthawk goes into his basement lab and fashions a bullet out of the chunk of Argonite, assuming that with Hyperion dead, the Squadron can’t carry out their Utopia plan.

The next day,Nighthawk realizes that he won’t be remembered as a hero, but as an assassin, and he may just make Hyperion a martyr. Steeling his resolve, he addresses the nation and resigns the presidency. Hyperion follows announcing that the Squadron Supreme will ensure security until a new administration and government can get established, and in reconstructing society, set out to eliminate all of its problems within a year, and then return control to the new administration. Nighthawk fails to be able to kill his friend, and watches as the Squadron unmask in an effort to build trust with the people.

 

REVIEW:

The story is very well done, although the debate to implement the Utopia Program is far too brief, but it covers all of the bases needed for the story, and allows time for the characters to develop further, and with a cast this large, it’s desperately needed, even with a double-sized issue. Mark Gruenwald makes the world bleak as he possibly can within the constraints of a code-approved book. He succeeds in most aspects, but Amphibian is the one character that he doesn’t get a real grasp on making him relatable. Too much time is spent with Hyperion for his abandoning of his secret identity and that personal relationship with Lonnie to be so briefly handled. However, for the most important parts of the story to get their space, it has to be this way.

The Nighthawk/Hyperion dynamic becomes very confrontational in a very familiar way. However, this is the first time, to my knowledge and research, that it was published in such a way. It precedes The Dark Knight Returns by a few months, close enough that neither writer was taking from the other. In reading this comic thirty years later, it’s hard to realize how ground-breaking this series was, if for no reason, pitting Batman against the Justice League, albeit in a substitute form.

I should also point out that the events this series describes in flashback were resolved in the pages of Defenders, but those issues should not be considered required reading to enjoy this. To this day, I’ve only read the first issue of that story, and while reading this several times, have never felt the urge to go find those issues.

Bob Hall did the artwork for the lion’s share of the series, but the inkers were changed, which works magnificently as the first few issues were very dark and were served well from John Beatty’s heavier blacks and moodier line weights. The color gets its chance to shine without overpowering the artwork, for the most part. There is a dark mood in this issue and everyone on the creative team came through in getting that across. The artwork works with the story and carries the mood very well.

 

NOTES:

This issue has been collected by Marvel and remains a must have for a comprehensive graphic novel library. Individual issues can be found very affordably, possibly cheaper than a copy of the collected issues.

FINAL RATING: 8.0 (out of a possible 10) Strong beginning to a good story that broke new ground in super-hero comics. It gets too brief in some of its elements, but works very well as a whole.