Two super powered teams face off as King Hyperion leads the Squadron Sinister against the Squadron Supreme. These titanic forces collide with a province in the balance. But when the dust settles in Squadron Sinister #1, one question remains: is it good?
Squadron Sinister #1 (Marvel Comics)
The newest incarnation of Marvel’s Justice League analogue, Squadron Sinister #1 features a return of the original concept: a team of superpowered megalomaniacs, lead by King Hyperion, Baron of Utopolis. The issue opens in medias res as King Hyperion leads the Squadron Sinister against their counterparts, the Squadron Supreme. Fans expecting to see a massive showdown between the two forces are going to be in for an immediate letdown, as the Squadron Supreme is massacred by King Hyperion and his team. The captions inform readers that this fight was for Utopolis to annex the Supremia province, but the significance of the acquisition is never made clear.
In fact, the main problem Squadron Sinister #1 has is developing its stakes. Much of the issue deals with the actions of the Squadron Sinister, and a member of Battleworld’s Thor corps arrives to investigate, but readers are never really given an idea as to what the Squadron is annexing or where that land is coming from. A quick glimpse over the Battleworld map Marvel has provided for Secret Wars reveals Utopolis’ neighboring domains, but it doesn’t seem like the provinces being annexed are from those worlds. A simple map of Utopolis would have alleviated these logistical issues and made for a much more immersive read.
To be fair, you are looking at that gun rather lustfully, Hyperion.
Bearings aside, Squadron Sinister #1 has a good script from Marc Guggenheim. The main focus is on King Hyperion, and it’s easy to see how he is meant to be read as an evil “Superman.” That being said, other than being violent (yes, that Parental Advisory label on the barcode is earned), readers are never given much insight into what motivates him. It seems the Squadron Sinister are evil for the sake of it, and while that might have been shocking years ago, comic book readers have seen plenty of inverted takes on the Justice League in recent times, and Squadron Sinister would be wise not to rest on that. While the characters aren’t the most well defined, Guggenheim’s script is fairly sharp. There are some interesting team dynamics, and Whizzer is a standout among the group, offering the few bits of humor in the issue, as well as one of the issue’s more visually interesting action beats. There’s also a cameo by a trio of New Universe characters that suggests the cast to this book will expand beyond the Squadron.
Carlos Pacheco’s pencils are vibrant and well detailed. Mariano Taibo’s inks don’t overwhelm Pacheco’s lines, creating a crisp look to Squadron Sinister #1. The colors here are provided by Frank Martin and are vibrant and lively. While some of the Squadron’s costumes are rather garish, those are designs that simply haven’t aged well, as opposed to the fault of the artists involved. Together, Pacheco’s lines and Martin’s colors do a good job at replicating aspects of DC’s house style, which fits the idea of the Squadron being Justice League analogues. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always do the book favors. Guggenheim’s script here is fairly dark, and there are some scenes that are particularly violent, such as when King Hyperion punishes a thief for getting caught. There’s nothing wrong with the quality of the work involved, but another style might have better captured the sadistic brutality of the scene.
Is It Good?
Squadron Sinister #1 doesn’t quite get the start it needed to get off the ground. The characters operate mainly as archetypes within the story, serving primarily as “EVIL” versions of the DC characters they are meant to parody. With no real look into the characters beyond these archetypes it becomes hard to care as to their actions. And while the art is beautifully rendered, tonally it doesn’t quite mesh with the writing. Ultimately, Squadron Sinister #1 is an average book that’s hurt by the diminishing distinctiveness of its premise. Fans of the Squadron Sinister should definitely pick it up, and New Universe fans should keep their eye on the title.