If you asked someone on the street if they knew who the Squadron Supreme were they’d probably venture a guess as to some kind of random music act. They’d be dead wrong. Marvel Comics has produced three trade paperbacks worth of recent stories of the characters and volume 3 just came out this week. Delving into the Civl War II storyline the volume is rather self-contained, but also not.
Writer: James Robinson
Artist: Leonard Kirk, Emilio Laiso, Paolo Villanelli
Publisher: Marvel Comics
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
CIVIL WAR II poses a challenge for the Squadron: Ulysses has predicted their every move, and that means they must fight the Blue Marvel! The treacherous Warrior Woman is bent on conquest, driven by her own prediction: she must resurrect Namor, the Sub-Mariner! Will the Squadron help her or stop her? Warrior Woman sets her sights on the time machine locked away in the Baxter Building, but new owner Peter Parker’s spider-sense is tingling! Meanwhile, the usurped Power Princess will risk everything to stop her rival! Nighthawk searches alone for information on Ulysses and the Civil War! Blur and Thundra face capture! Hyperion and Doctor Spectrum get lost in the timestream! And teammates finally come to blows! Brace yourself for the startling fate of one of Marvel’s oldest heroes — and the Squadron!
Why does this book matter?
If you were a fan of the John Hickman run on Avengers you’ll want to read this just because the fallout of Namor and the Illuminati killing worlds is taking place here. The team members are from said dead world and, in a previous volume, killed Namor. Now they’re attempting to find the hero inside themselves the only way they know how: time travel! This collects Squadron Supreme #10 to #15.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
The heroes involved listed out here!
Okay, so this isn’t a time travel story all the way through, though it is a major element of the story. James Robinson writes a pretty solid story arc here opening and closing with the characters having some questionable feelings about fellow teammate Nighthawk. He’s subtly taken over the team as leader and by the end he drives this team to want to break up. It’s gives this volume a center that everything revolves around and overall allows these heroes to find some redemption.
Redemption is the name of the game in this volume, which gives these heroes purpose and the volume at large an interesting take. Robinson shocked the world by having Hyperion kill Namor and in this volume does a great job to pull things back from the brink. There’s a time travel conundrum brought into this issue utilizing old Mr. Fantastic tech that mixes with magic to make for a somewhat different take on the time travel story. This thrusts Hyperion and Doctor Spectrum into a ghost like state that allows them to comment on past events in real time.
Leonardo Kirk (with Paulo Villanelli) does a good job capturing the weirdness of this time travel ghosting by utilizing color, or the lack thereof. The art in this book is solid, doing the superheroing justice and allowing the punching and kicking to look interesting. Spider-Man pops in for a while (points to Robinson for having Spider-Man point out a squadron requires 120 soldiers), and the humor works when he’s on the page and he looks good fighting too. Namor steals the show whenever he pops in as he commands attention, which is obviously not an easy task to pull off. Overall there isn’t much to complain about with the art especially when Nighthawk’s eyes are so damn creepy. There are also a lot of double page layouts, which is a nice way to open up the storytelling and allow for a lot of dialogue in a single scene and not have it feel too stuffy.
A big surprise and one of the strongest elements of this volume is Agent Hammond aka Human Torch (the android version). He serves as a leader working for S.H.I.E.L.D. and has that old school valiant panache that’s easy to like. Since he is old school he also brings a rather different perspective and commands a certain amount of respect even when he’s fighting the Squadron Supreme. By the end of the volume you’ll want to see a lot more of this character and it’s sad that we just might not.
Cool angle in that top panel.
It can’t be perfect can it?
It’s hard to shake the feeling this story was ended abruptly, or at least before James Robinson could tell all the stories he had planned. Nighthawk for instance, utilizes Ulysses to see a war where all the heroes were taken down. Unless it’s coming, that element is abandoned. The last issue serves as a send off for each character, which in a sense feels like the story had to end but didn’t want to. If you’ve come to love these characters you’ll appreciate it, though it does feel like filler.
Anyone who hates time travel will probably loathe this volume as there’s some time travel talk and conundrum babble that fill some of the pages. When they do talk about what is going on it seems to run on longer than it should and drags a bit. It is a different sort of take, but it probably could have been done in a more visual way.
Spider-Man is written rather well by Robinson here.
It’s also worth noting if you haven’t read the previous volumes you’ll feel a bit lost here. There’s a history that Robinson brings in without a ton of explanation–hell, Namor being killed is mentioned in passing–so you may feel a bit in the dark. There are also dynamics between all the characters that’s not really developed as it’s already established. One could argue there isn’t a lot of character work in this volume, possibly because of that, which does shine a light on a lacking element. It’s your fault for not reading previous volumes, but it’s a factor in reading this blind.
Is It Good?
The beauty of trade paperback reading is that you can fall in love with a team even when it’s too late. This team has heart, a unique perspective on heroes, and carries with it a story that’s filled with redemption. It’s not a story told often since so many heroes are squeaky clean and it’s done well here.