Modern Squadron Supreme have been genuinely engaging and unique, but their new twist makes them more basic.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Avengers # 50, on sale now from Marvel Comics.
Marvel and DC are increasingly showing off copies of their rival superhero publisher’s characters. In DC, it came in the form of Earth-8 – a clear pastiche of the Marvel Universe within their multiverse. In contrast, the Avengers faced off against a particularly dark version of the Squadron Supreme, who are equally clearly Justice League replacements.
This current Squadron Supreme has been a very engaging take on the characters. The appearance of Squadron Supreme in Avengers # 50 (by Jason Aaron, Aaron Kuder, Carlos Pacheco, Ed McGuinness, Javier Garron, Rafael Fonteriz, Alex Sinclair, David Curiel, Matt Hollingsworth, Rachelle Rosenberg and Cory Petit of VC), however reduced the villainous group to a more evil. manifesto team, as opposed to the more complex and compelling versions that have appeared in Heroes are reborn.
There have been several iterations of the Supreme Squadron over the course of the year, the most recent being a group of villainous “heroes” created by Phil Coulson and Mephisto as possible Avengers replacements. Deliberately inspired by DC’s most iconic heroes, the group of Hyperion, Nighthawk, Power Princess, Blur and Doctor Spectrum were at the center of the recent crossover. Heroes are reborn. After replacing the Marvel heroes in a twisted reality created by Mephisto, the Squadron Supreme ended up being surprisingly convincing, despite their fairly obvious nature.
Hyperion, Nighthawk, and Blur all received surprising sympathy in terms of their place in the universe, while Power Princess and Doctor Spectrum were given interesting beats to emphasize their villainy. Power Princess is a variation of characters like Wonder Woman who take their love of battle too far, while Doctor Spectrum was quietly a perfect subversion of the standard American hero archetype that Hal Jordan has always fulfilled as the Green Lantern. Blur and Hyperion really wanted to be full heroes and had lost the great loves of their lives. Nighthawk was a cold and brutal vigilante, but one who recognized his place in the world and its limits.
He portrayed them as unique human antagonists the Avengers had to be concerned with, creating interesting dark mirrors for classic DC heroes that contrasted well with the Avengers. Since the events of Heroes Reborn, most of the team have been in custody as Hyperion has traveled the world and Nighthawk has strived to restore the reality of Heroes Reborn. This gave Nighthawk an interesting place in the current Marvel Universe as a rival to Nick Fury and Black Cat. But the reappearance of his former teammates ends up being surprisingly straightforward.
After discovering that Red Widow (on the run from her thwarted attack on Atlantis) tries to deprogram Hyperion’s conditioning by Mephisto and Coulson. She is interrupted by Doctor Spectrum, Power Princess, and Blur. Spectrum goes to stop Red Widow, but he’s suddenly murdered from behind by Power Princess, who decides it’s time for someone like her to use the Power Prism. Meanwhile, Blur has gone from being the somewhat sympathetic replacement for Wally West in which he would be Heroes are reborn, becoming a happy, sadistic killer who doesn’t even notice when he kills people.
This is a pretty basic restructuring of Hyperion and Blur into more villainous versions of themselves and seems to remove Doctor Spectrum from the board altogether. And honestly, it’s a shame. There have been a lot of totally evil Squadron Supremes over the years, but the current version of the team had enough unique elements to make them an interesting bunch of antagonists the Avengers can be compared to.
Their own eerie morality – and their apathy towards the consequences of their fights – provided a compelling counterpoint to the Avengers and their own flaws. But by being reduced to mere antagonists, this Supreme Squadron is poised to be more like the other evil versions of the group and, therefore, an inherently less interesting group.
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