Deadshirt Is Reading… is a weekly feature in which Deadshirt’s staff, contributing writers, and friends-of-the-site offer their thoughts on Big Two cape titles, creator-owned books, webcomics and more. For more of our thoughts on this week’s new comics, take a look at Wednesday’s Deadshirt Comics Shopping List.
Joe Stando is reading…
Squadron Supreme #1
Written by James Robinson
Art by Leonard Kirk (pencils), Paul Neary (inks), and Frank Martin (colors)
Lettered by Travis Lanham
“The Squadron Supreme must be stopped!”
Woof, that sure was a James Robinson comic, huh? I’m a huge fan of the Squadron Supreme characters. I love the various incarnations of them over time, and how those versions have been used since. Looking back, I’ve sat through some pretty rough takes, from the mostly lackluster Squadron Sinister tie-in that just wrapped to the heavy-handed, often racist JMS reboot a decade ago for Marvel’s MAX imprint. This book isn’t as bad as that, and there’s a lot of broad strokes I like here, but it has its own problems, and plenty of them.
Squadron Supreme spins directly out of Secret Wars, with the most overt references to Hickman’s Avengers run I’ve seen in ANAD Marvel. This iteration of the Squadron is comprised of several older versions, who are the sole survivors of their various universes, after they were destroyed by the Incursions. Hyperion from Hickman’s Avengers is here, as is the Great Society’s Doctor Spectrum and JMS’s Nighthawk. They’ve banded together to protect their newfound world (ours) from any threats, no matter the cost or how far they have to go. First on their hit list is Namor, for his destruction of Spectrum’s home universe and various attacks on surface dwellers.
It’s a solid premise, but Robinson communicates it through an unending series of talking heads. Characters are constantly spouting their backstories and motivations, even to each other. Granted, it’s an involved premise with a lot of history, but there has to be a more subtle way to go about it. Robinson’s versions of the characters are also not always super consistent with the times we’ve seen them before. It’s understandable that Doctor Spectrum would be driven by revenge after her homeworld was destroyed, but the bloodlust Robinson writes her with (kicking severed heads of her enemies like soccer balls) is hackneyed and embarrassing. Hyperion was Hickman writing Superman better than DC was at the time, and Robinson’s just not on that level. The book is a violent affair, but with no real stakes or subtlety. It definitely feels like a book that’s partially out of some kind of mandate, and while I don’t need a “getting the team together” story (Mark Waid is doing a fine job of putting me to sleep with a crappy one of those over in Avengers), it seems like a lot of the wrong bits of story are being mined here.
It’s not all bad, if I’m being honest. Neary’s inks bring a nice weight to the combat scenes, and Blur’s look, that he’s constantly vibrating at least a little bit, is a cool touch. Kirk’s designs for the characters are also a highlight, as the book definitely copped the best-looking iterations of most of the characters, from the full bodysuit Spectrum and Nighthawk to the clean, muted Hyperion look. There’s also a couple of nice grace notes in here from Robinson. The idea of Namor being a violent threat to the people of Earth for nearly a hundred years is an interesting and justifiable take, and bringing in the Uncanny Avengers is a cool touch that plays up the Invaders metastory Robinson has been working on for a little while.
The Squadron Supreme are a cool set of characters because they allow you to tell stories about DC’s iconic characters with new and different angles that wouldn’t fly elsewhere. “Brutal, uncompromising defenders of a reluctant Earth” feels like something we see every six months or so from DC, and with a more deft hand than is being used here. I’m a die-hard Squadron Supreme fan, and I’m hesitating to pick up the next issue. I can’t imagine it’s going to be a big hit with casual readers and newcomers.
Thanks for reading about what we’re reading! We’ll be back next week with a slew of suggestions from across the comics spectrum. In the meantime, what are you reading? Tell us in the comments section, on Twitter or on our Facebook Page!