Squadron Supreme

by Mark Gruenwald

Other authorsJohn Buscema (Illustrator), Paul Ryan (Illustrator), Bob Hall (Illustrator), Paul Neary (Illustrator)
Paperback, 1997-08



Call number

PN6727 .G78


Marvel Comics (New York, 1997). 1st printing. 352 pages. $24.99.


Collects Squadron Supreme #1-12, and Captain America #314.

User reviews

LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
Mark Gruenwald seems like he was a pretty lovely guy. Certainly by all accounts he was greatly liked, and his enthusiasm for the life he led and the greater stories he was involved in spinning comes through in every page. And so when you hear that he wanted his ashes mixed with Squadron Supreme, specifically, it disposes you well toward it.

But it's good on its own merits. JLA pastiche--in a much more direct way then I realized reading these as a kid--and predating Watchmen or Kingdom Come, it's the earliest book I know looking at what would happen if the superheroes decided to return and run shit, rule the world.

Being the first, and coming in that pre-Watchmen, pre-Dark Night Returns, whatever else, era, Squadron wears its innocence a little. These are Silver Age heroes trying to run a black-and-white world with no shades of grey, not the highly sophisticated Bendis Daredevils and Norman Osborn-in-Dark Reigns of today. They're a bunch of mid-20th century upper-middle-class American professionals, decent and naive, and yeah they're superheroes but you know the plastic's still on the couch at home. Whizzer is even a mailman. And the kind of equal-opportunity engineering-based way they solve their problems, and the non-partisan, "get with the team, chum!" way they bust opposition, is just to be expected. And Gruenwald could have done something with this, but he doesn't really--barely hints at how all fascism is brightly coloured and "chum"-based in ways. The end comes not because twelve superheroes could never keep the whole thing down forever, but because Kyle Richmond, a dopey second-rate Batman, kills a bunch of Squadroners with climactic fisticuffs (after getting beaten down by Captain America in a pointless worldhopping guest shot, just so we can see that he's second rate). That's what makes the impression. The deaths of friends. And then rather than try to salvage something (public health insurance?) from the debacle, they dismantle it all so humanity can find its own way, somehow oblivious that that's just as much meddling. But they have a Main Street, my superhero friends are the milkman and Bill from the branch office and we play poker conception of the world, so it makes sense really. In real life tyrants cause chaos by nature.

So it's not real life, but it's good social-engineering-Utopia allegory and superhero soap opera. Even if ultimately what you're left with is that this could not succeed, but that the Squadron were not enough to do it. They're not smart, dude. they're manipulating each other with the most bald-faced pretexts, they're refusing to take even the simplest of consultative or precautionary measures personally or politically, which when you've set yourself up as oligarchy is just criminally irresponsible. and even just in regular life--oh man, you should see Tom Thumb with his many PhD's invade the future empire with just one reformed criminal and a stun gun and try to find the cure for cancer. He knows nothing about the language, the people, the security setup--he just bumbles in and does it, showing that they are as incompetent 4000 years forward. You should see how he behaves with his life on the line. They're all like enormous children with zero capacity for forethouhgt or planning. I'm with Iron Man: register 'em. I guess that's why the superhero registration act stuck around. Anyway, this is kind of like a double pastiche, then, because if it were described to you it could sound completely credible, but when you see the things they say and do, you get that they're behaving within limits set by the soon-to-be-exploded superhero conventions of the day, i.e., like they're slightly retarded. But that's no different from a lot of great stories, and Gruenwald was first to put these incredibly productive issues into the air.
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LibraryThing member regularguy5mb
Mark Gruenwald takes classic superhero archetypes, characters that will definitely seem familiar no matter which of the main two companies you grew up reading, and looks at them in a very realistically-minded way. Consider, if you were one of the most powerful beings on Earth, and the world was in chaos, wouldn't you at least consider the possibility of using your powers to enforce some form of order? That is exactly what the Squadron Supreme do in this series, and the moral implications strike such a chord.

The team at first seems to be a simple Justice League rip-off, but Mark's storytelling makes them so much more. Again, he is playing with archetypes. We could find a collection of characters that pre-dates the DC super team that match perfectly with each of the Squadron members. That's what makes this collection of characters so special, and why you keep seeing them in some form or another through the years.

Gruenwald takes a very serious look at the actions of heroes and the moral implications behind them. Something that may seem genuinely noble may have some fatal flaw that isn't revealed until things turn bleak. Like Watchmen and Kingdom Come later on (although, with only a year between Watchmen and Squadron Supreme, it is obvious Gruenwald wasn't the only one to have the idea, especially when Moore had his in the works for a very long time), we get to see a much grittier realism in comics than was really accepted at the time. These characters were not protected by some editor who was thinking of a future, because they may not have one. Death is real in the world of the Squadron Supreme.
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LibraryThing member DarthDeverell
Mark Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme collects issues nos. 1-12 of the titular series that were published between September 1985 and August 1986 as well as Captain America no. 314 from February 1986. The team originally appeared as the Squadron Sinister in Avengers no. 70 as a pastiche of the Justice League of America, but here Gruenwald tells a story examining the logical result of a superpowered group dedicating itself to bettering the world. Hyperion, a Superman-like character, leads the team in creating a Utopia Program to assume control of the United States government and fundamentally reshape society. Nighthawk, a Batman-type character, votes against the plan and leaves the team, later creating his own superpowered group to resist the Squadron.

Over the course of a year, the Squadron Supreme institutes massive changes to American society, beginning with the public reveal of their secret identities in order to gain the public’s trust. They disarm the public and then the military, create behavior-modification technology to re-program the minds of convicted criminals, and, when genius Tom Thumb cannot find a cure for all disease, the Squadron creates a form of cryogenic preservation in order to preserve the dead until such time as a cure may be found. Gruenwald examines the temptation for his all-too-human heroes to exploit these technologies, with Golden Archer (Green Arrow) using the behavior modification device to make Lady Lark (Black Canary) love him. Nuke discovers that his parents’ deadly cancer was caused by his powers and dies fighting Doctor Spectrum (Green Lantern). When Nighthawk brings his group to confront the Squadron, the final conflict results in seven more deaths, representing the consequences of such ideological conflict.

Gruenwald’s miniseries appeared slightly before Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen, though it remains overshadowed by that later work. Gruenwald engaged with many of the same issues and offered a similarly serious take on the superhero genre, portraying his characters with domestic lives, moral conflicts, sexuality, and capable of dying. His Squadron Supreme deserves the same level of recognition for how it subverted the familiar superhero tropes, in many ways dramatizing the transition of the Bronze Age of comics to the Modern Age. This edition of Squadron Supreme appeared shortly after Mark Gruenwald’s death and features tributes from Tom DeFalco, Mike Carlin, Alex Ross, Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek, Ralph Macchio, and Gruenwald’s widow, Catherine, who explains in her introduction that, per Mark’s last wishes, his ashes were “mixed in with the printer’s ink during the printing process” of this volume.
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Original language


Physical description

352 p.; 6.53 inches


078510576X / 9780785105763
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