Magnum Opus: Squadron Supreme

August 22nd, 2008 by | Tags: , ,

by Tobey Cook

What was originally going to be a piece in tribute to the late, great Mark Gruenwald last week quickly ballooned into something much more than what it was intended to be. So with that in mind, I bring you what I hope will be the first in a series I call Magnum Opus. What I’ll do here is spotlight a miniseries or trade that to me has a special place in my collection. This article’s highlighted miniseries will be Squadron Supreme, because it’s easily my personal favorite and has so many things it brought to the table as to changing the way comics had been written up to that point. It’s also the first major maxiseries I remember buying as it was coming out on the stands every month. It featured some decent art from Paul Ryan, John Buscema and one other artist during the 12-issue run.

For my first treatment I decided to choose a book that I think has held up pretty well – Squadron Supreme. Each member of the team was loosely based on a character from DC Comics’ JLA. You had Hyperion as the Squadron’s Superman, Power Princess (Wonder Woman), Nighthawk (Batman), and even a Skrull analogue to Martian Manhunter in the Skrullian Skymaster! While the names of the characters weren’t exactly original, Mark Grunewald decided he wanted to use them to do something that hadn’t been done in comics before – what happens when the heroes decide they can fix the world’s problems?

The basic premise of the maxiseries is that the Squadron, having just recovered from a battle with the alien Overmind, returns to a world that is in ruins. Seeing that the only way to fix the world’s problems is to take matters into their own hands, Hyperion decides that they must find a way to repair the damage that’s been done. Despite the fact that the people mistrust and despise the Squadron, Hyperion comes up with Project Utopia, a way to, as he puts it – “abolish war and crime, eliminate poverty and hunger, establish equality among all people, clean up the environment, and cure disease.”

However, not everyone agrees with Hyperion’s plan. Nighthawk, one of the Squadron’s founding members, resigns in protest believing that the Squadron has no right to force people to bend to the Squadron’s will.

Tensions are further put to the test when the Squadron decides to use a behavior modification machine to ‘rehabilitate’ criminals, even going so far as to use it on some of their former enemies – Quagmire, Foxfire, Shape, Lamprey, and others. This proves to be the most controversial move the Squadron would make, and prompts Nighthawk to join up with the Squadron’s enemy Master Menace in order to find a way to reverse the behavior modification process.

There are so many moral dilemmas in this series – much more than any Marvel series at the time, and it proves the old theory about absolute power corrupting absolutely. A couple more highlights of the series are Squadron member Tom Thumb’s search for a cure for cancer and a brief foray by Nighthawk to the mainstream Marvel Universe to get help from Captain America and The Avengers (not coincidentally written by Mark Gruenwald and illustrated by Paul Ryan, the same art team) to stop the Squadron.

If you’re looking for a book that will give you a good, solid read, look no further. The first printing of it is a bit difficult to find unless you’re an avid EBay fanatic, but it’s been reprinted several times since then as it’s a pretty solid seller for Marvel. What’s so important about the first printing? Mark Gruenwald’s ashes were mixed with the printing ink.

That’s it for this installment of Magnum Opus. If you have any comments or suggestions, or would like to recommend a book for a future column, feel free to drop me a line in the comments below.

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One comment to “Magnum Opus: Squadron Supreme”

  1. Squadran Supreme is why I look with such disdain on current “realistic” story arcs. The maxiseries is exactly what they’re trying to do with Civil War and Infinite Crisis and other story arcs and so failing at…