Comic Name: Squadron Supreme
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Mark Gruenwald
Artist: John Buscema/Bob Hall/Paul Ryan/Paul Neary
# of Issues: 13
Release Date: 2005
Reprints Squadron Supreme (Limited Series) #1-12 and Captain America (1) #314 (September 1985-August 1986). The battle with the Overmind has left the Squadron Supreme’s Earth destroyed and struggling to rebuild. When the Squadron decides that they need to change the world, a plan called the Utopian Plan is enacted to save the world. With a mind modification device created by Tom Thumb and the Utopian Plan in full force, members of the Squadron begin to question their role and if the world should be saved by them. With a force led by Nighthawk, a secret cabal of freedom fighters are building to take down the Squadron…and not everyone will survive.
Written by Mark Gruenwald and illustrated by John Buscema, Bob Hall, Paul Ryan, and Paul Neary, Squadron Supreme was a ground breaking “maxi” mini-series. The series has been critically acclaimed and cited as influence on other series like Watchmen, Kingdom Come, and The Authority among others. The collected edition of the series also is famous for having the ashes of Mark Gruenwald mixed in with the ink used for the manufacturing of the collection.
I got the Squadron Supreme series pretty early on in my “comic reading” history so I grew up loving them. I sought out the first appearance of the Squadron Supreme proper in Avengers (1) #85 (February 1971) (and not the Squadron Sinister that predated the Squadron Supreme in Avengers (1) #69 (October 1969)). Though the Squadron Supreme were originally just supposed to be a riff on DC’s Justice League, but through Squadron Supreme, Gruenwald managed to turn a knock off team into one of the greatest Marvel stories.
The thing about Squadron Supreme is that it pulls no punches. Sometimes the story lags a bit and sometimes it goes by too fast for its own good, but it is shocking. By using the characters no one cared about, Gruenwald was free to kill and surprise readers. It is amazing how ruthless the comic is (for a mainstream comic). You have characters dying left and right in the series and it culminates in the all-out throw-down in the double sized final issue.
Unlike Watchmen, this series manages to do all the death and destruction while still being solidly rooted in the Marvel Universe. The only part of this comic which doesn’t work well is the crossover with Captain America (1) #314 (February 1986) which seems a bit out of place. I’m guessing that it was intended to be a bit of a sales booster for the stand-alone series, but it is odd and doesn’t mix well.
The art for the comic is also very classic “comic book”. Watchmen was a bit more edgy with the art, and as a result you expected an edgy story. In this way, the art for Squadron Supreme works well. It isn’t edgy and you don’t expect so much death and destruction…but it is so unassuming that it shocks more.
Squadron Supreme is still a great read today. While it was praised upon its release, it now is recognized as a very influential series. While DC has become known for being edgier in the ‘80s with limited series like The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen, it is good to revisit some of the Marvel series that did change comics. The Squadron Supreme limited series was followed up by a number of one-shots that continued the story and most of those stories were collected as Squadron Supreme: Death of a Universe.
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