Wednesday, September 23, 2009

_Supreme Power_ Volume 1, Contact

I loved Marvel's reboot of the Avengers as the Ultimates, a smart, funny, modern rewrite giving them lots of very modern problems, and acting as a media-savvy government supergroup.

So how could I not be excited to learn that they also did a reboot of the Squadron Supreme, whose original mini series I still have?

It reminds me of how I feel when I see an action figure made of some character that I thought was pretty odd and obscure, like Beta Ray Bill. Either my notion of odd and obscure is off base, or they're making action figures (and comics) of every fringe idea out there, and resurrecting the 80s in volume, judgement day style.

Bring on the judgement, I say.

But actually none of that had anything to do with why I picked up the book. I had no idea it was a Squadron Supreme rewrite. I took notice because it had an incredible cover showing a scary-looking kid wrapped in the flag.

And it was authored by J. Michael Straczynski, to whom we are indebted for Babylon 5.

I've read volume 1 at least three times now since picking it up. So, if you haven't read it, I'll just say that it's well worth your time for answering two burning questions you didn't know you had:

  1. "What if Superman fell to Earth and was grabbed by the government and raised by them" (It would be awesome)
  2. "Should Marvel give J. Michael Straczynski a shot at rewriting some of their old characters?" (Yes)


One way to look at this book is that it's a gritty rewrite of the Squadron Supreme, focusing mainly on its leader, Hyperion. It's plenty gritty. In this volume, the central theme is of a vastly powerful superhero raised almost Truman-show style by the government, who seek to indirectly control him by making him an apple-pie American. It's actually a smart idea given the kid's power levels, but it's compromised at every turn...the way a utopian story inevitably goes dystopian. All of that is great stuff.

Maybe it's an attempt to explain how someone with Superman powers could have that lily-white personality that Superman is usually shown with. Here, that's done by making that personality something of a veneer. But I say that the strategy of raising him is smart because it gets the hooks in so deep they're unlikely to be resistable.

I don't know whether that'll hold in the rest of the series, but it seems plausible so far.

But the Squadron Supreme idea was always a blatant rehash of the Justice League, placing clones of the top League heroes in an alternate world in the Marvel Universe, and allowing Marvel writers to play with that. By focusing on Hyperion, with his Superman powers, this becomes yet another retelling of the Superman story. And I'm super okay with that.

To that, the story focuses on the alienation of its main character as he grows up different from everyone else, his attempts to join the general population foiled by the government...and his excitement as he starts to discover other powered folks out there in the world.

The larger story of the Squadron Supreme was about what if the heroes decide to stop merely fighting criminals and try to fix the whole taking over, basically. And that's a great story, and I can't wait to read the other books in this series, as it looks like they'll get into that.

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