Andy’s Read Pile: Squadron Supreme, By Any Means Necessary TPB

Welcome back, Gang of Four, to another installment of “I gotta write 3 of these blogs a week, so hopefully this one won’t suck”. Seriously, Rob Stewart and I really need to get some help in writing content for the blog side of our comic news and reviews empire. I’m starting to feel like the early days of the Marvel age, where its just Stan Lee and Jack Kirby doing everything. Not that I’m bitching mind you…well…no that’s exactly what this is…bitching.

Chad Smith should be at least our Steve Ditko, but it hasn’t panned out thus far as we’ve planned. I mainly blame the fact that he hasn’t fully embraced the teaching of Ayn Raid yet like Ditko did in the mid 60s, not that he ever would mind you. Chad’s both too free thinking and self professed too lazy for such stuff.

Long story short, we are in desperate need of our Roy Thomas to step up and help deliver some quality goods for our website. If you feel like you can write blogs about comics and pop culture and other related bricabrac, then by all means drop us a line! We’d love to take a look at a sample article or two and after shredding it to pieces offer you a lucrative share of the “no money” we are pulling down from this endeavor. It’s all for you fans out there, for your unceasing love and devotion and don’t you forget it!

But enough of pan handling for help, and on to today’s article, a Read Pile review of James Robinson & Leonard Kirk’s first trade paperback of the adventures of the new Squadron Supreme. That 6.1.18 Podcast we did really must have had a huge impact on me as I’m still coming up with blogs based on it. Like my Superman: Red Son, and my Masters of the Universe review, this read pile review comes directly from a discussion point on that show, in particular my mention of our number 3 Top Superman clone, Hyperion. That mention got me thinking again about the late Mark Gruenwald‘s Epic 80s miniseries, The Squardron Supreme, and how I still think today, that it’s definitely the bees knees.

However, I decided not to do the read pile on that book as Stew has been itching for us for to discuss that on a future podcast, so I’ll save it for our loyal listeners that one week that we don’t got any other sh*t to talk about.

So instead, I thought I’d finally dust off another trade I have about this team of DC super hero analogies, which I’ve been meaning to read for the past couple of years since it’s release in 2016. But before I begin, I do have to give some backstory on the Squadron and their unique importance in the Marvel Universe for all our rookie readers out there (yes, I’m looking at you, Zach Josebeck).

The Squadron has had a long and somewhat screwed up history in Marvel comics ever since their first appearance as the main foes of the Avengers in a duel set up between Kang and the Grandmaster in Avengers #69. They have been good guys, they have been bad guys, they have been characters somewhere in between. But the most important thing they have always been are placeholder characters for the DC superhero elite. Hyperion has always been Marvel’s Superman, Nighthawk’s been Batman, Power Princess is your Wonder Woman, Dr. Spectrum is the Green Lantern, and so on.

Basically it’s a plot device developed by Roy Thomas that allowed the Marvel characters to interact in the DC universe without flat out doing that thing. It also gave Marvel the freedom to manipulate and change those characters, making them into bad guys or whatever, with anyone crying foul.  And over the years, Marvel has certainly ran with that idea, making and remaking these characters into whatever was necessary to fit their story. In fact, one of other key notions of the Squadron’s existence is the fact that unlike a lot of characters in which we might be briefly introduced to an alternate universe version of that character (aka the Spider Verse), the Squadron regularly throws at us different versions of these characters, some good, some bad, but all under the justification that they hail from different universes and therefore are inherently different.

This is actually the key concept between this latest Squadron Supreme title, in that this Squadron is made up of versions of these characters that all hail from different universes. This is directly because of the impact of the Secret Wars story line and the reforming of the universes under Reed Richards guiding hand. Now we got these versions of these heroes all of which are the last survivors of their own universes in the aftermath of that event, and they have joined together to ensure that universe is safe: at any cost. Yup, it’s survivor guilt ratcheted to 11 and it’s a sh*t show to watch. You got the deeply disturbed Nighthawk from Supreme Power Marvel MAX imprint, Blur (aka Speed Demon/Whizzer for those old folks) from the New Universe’s D.P.7 comic. Dr. Spectrum of the Great Society story from Hickman’s New Avengers (which is a corker of a tale in its own right), the “original”  Squadron’s Power Princess from the aforementioned Gruenwald series, and finally the most current Hyperion also from Hickman’s Avengers, (which I gotta say is a pretty well written Superman if I ever saw one). And all of them are ready to take no prisoners when it comes to stopping the world’s threats, and that includes decapitating Namor, the Submariner. Yeah, you heard me. That’s actually the first couple issues of this hullaballoo, a big battle with the armies of Atlantis culminating with Namor going the way of Marie Antoinette.

Yeah, I’m not going to show it here on the blog, as I feel like it’s something you gotta experience yourself, but whether or not I’ve been a huge fan of Namor over the years, there’s no question the guy is an historic icon at Marvel Comics being the second superhero in their entire history after the Human Torch. And although the reasoning for his death is justified in the story, as he was the one that destroyed Dr. Spectrum’s universe in that Hickman New Avengers precursor to Secret Wars (which again is a hell of a story if you can ever read that), it still left me feeling a bit queasy, to see this living legend with his head mercilessly cut from his body. And for what reason? To pump the tires of this new team? Give them a boost in their street cred? I’m still not sure…

In any case, following that there are obviously repercussions of such actions, namely the Avengers (or in this case the Uncanny Avengers) arrive to throw down with the Squad and “avenge” Namor’s death. Eh it makes sense I guess…Namor was an Avenger…if this was gang warfare, you always take an eye for an eye if someone messes with one of your own…even if he was a colossal douche most of the time. Plus if you are the Avengers you really don’t want someone else stomping all over your role as the world’s premier superhero authority, that’s just bad for business.

It was at this time, that I felt things picked up a little as Captain America was there and this scratched my nostalgia bone for those old Avengers/Squadron dust ups from the past. But just as things started to get heated, all of a sudden, the Squad is whisked away to some place I never thought this series would go, but I’m so glad that it did: Jason Aaron’s Weird World!

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth repeating now: Jason Aaron’s Secret Wars Tie in Series, Weird World, was one of the greatest books I’ve read in years! It was trippy, it was savage, it took a mess of D list ideas and unsorted gobbledy gook and created an epic intense fantasy patchwork quilt of comics. It was like everything I loved about Masters of the Universe, with its collection of unrelated concepts weaved into a cohesive story, and it should have gone on for like 100 issues. Instead we got a pretty awful sequel series that only lasted for like …but I digress. Mainly because I finally got a decent sequel in this book!

Yep, the Squadron are dumped into a Weird World all mentally dominated by one mega mastermind except for a few strong willed rebels, fighting to restore order, including the bad ass castaway FF character of Thundra. There’s betrayal within the team when one of them turns out to not the version of that character they thought it was, and Hyperion has loses all his powers because Superman is always weak to magic. Did you heard me, Robert Stewart: Superman is always weak to magic.

And in the end, it turns out the main bad guy is none other than one of the worst Avengers in history: Doctor Druid! And like so many Werid World characters, this turn from commonly mocked hero to revenge driven villain totally works! Mainly because Doctor Druid is your quintessential nerd that got picked on one too many times by the rest of the Avengers jocks and now that he has a measure of power wants everyone to pay! Plus, he darkly mirrors the Squadron’s own justification for their team’s existence, in that he too is driven solely by the cold mistress known as vengeance.

And if it’s seems as if I’m glossing over this part of the book, it’s definitely on purpose, because I really want everyone to read it for themselves. Seriously, these two issues at the tail end of this trade was like mashed potatoes and gravy to me: delicious! Sure some might scoff at it as being derivative, but for me, man, it was what this book should have been all along. It had purpose, it had drama, it had decent character development, and it wasn’t afraid to take risks and play around with obscure parts of this vast Marvel Universe. A Slam Dunk from beginning to end and definitely saved this trade from being largely forgettable.

So as my final word on this book, like the entire Squadron Supreme history, this too is sort of a mixed bag. There are things I loved like the entire Weird World story, hell, I could have stayed there for like 60 issues. But there are things I hated, like the entire war with Namor which I thought was overly brutal and excessive even with the backstory that semi justified the revenge aspects. Then there were things in the middle like the battle with the Avengers, as it always in the end comes back to the Squadron battling the Avengers in some way. I might read more just to see what happens with Thundra being added to the mix and whatever they do with Doctor Druid, but I’m also not rushing to it any time soon. That is unless they make a return to Weird World…then sign me the hell up!

Andy’s Read Pile Rating: C+ Overall

(A+++ for those Weird World issues though)

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