Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Publisher: Marvel MAX

There does seem to be a bit of a convergence of ideas, a trend of superheroes submitting to (or registering themselves for) government oversight. This is probably a commentary in itself on how we see (fear) government: we can’t just have a group of powers walking around uncontrolled, unregulated. The New Avengers. Powers. Ultimates. Now Squadron Supreme.

Squadron Supreme is an ersatz version of DC’s Justice League of America (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.) done for Marvel Comics (Hyperion, Nighthawk, Power Princess, etc.). This current incarnation of the Squadron Supreme re-visits the threads from Mark Gruenwalds legendary Squadron Supreme mini-series, a pre-Watchman look at super heroes operating in “reality”; and examines the question of how long would super-heroes remain under the control of anyone else before they decided they knew best to solve the world’s problem. How long before supreme power corrupted supremely?

It has taken a long time to get here. The comic book started as Supreme Power, which laid the groundwork for Squadron Supreme, then the story ran through a couple of mini-series, before becoming Squadron Supreme. All this to say that the story moves at a deliberate pace we’ve come to expect as typical of J. Michael Straczynski stories. He took six issues to re-tell the origin of Dr. Strange. Rising Stars could have easily been trimmed by a third were it not for his devoting whole issues to exploring a character, even peripheral ones. However, that’s what we want from Straczynski: character driven stories over flash-bang plots.

As another consideration, the characters he’s (re-)created are far from the one-dimensional copies of existing heroes they once were. They have been completely re-imagined. From Hypericon as the alien outcast (distrusted as opposed to being embraced as Superman is) to the quite possibly mad Princess Power, their relationships with one another are absolutely fascinating to watch.

“We are the message and fear is the communications frequency of choice.” –Hypericon

Their first missions operating under the mandate of the U.S. government were to Africa, Middle East. Even the heroes wrestled with the idea of them being dispatched to fight “the other” and the attitude behind it. Such events lead them to already begin to consider the repercussions of their actions and whether or not this is the best way for change to be accomplished. While it may be only a matter of time before they throw off the yoke of such colonialistic action, this brand of imperialism is long entrenched.

An aspect of colonialism is its conquest mentality that works by making other cultures less than human, debasing one while exalting the colonizer’s. The western imperialist colonizers viewed Africa, for example, as an untamed land with ungodly people; that there was nothing good in this dark and scary continent–other than its resources–and that its people were entirely under the power of the devil. Ironically, the United States is a revolutionary country in that it threw off the shackles of its own colonial masters. The hypocritical conceit of the country was that while our founding fathers held that all men were created equal, they also held slaves. That central kind of hypocrisy affects the character of a nation; finds its way into the system of the society, the hearts and minds of the individuals that make up the system and becomes ingrained.

Somehow, we have to get from this sort of mentality to joining in a ministry of reconciliation.

For reconciliation to be done, there has to be a coming together of equals. For things to be on equal terms, there has to be a relationship not built on fear or oppression. There must be a recognizing and respecting of each other’s stories. So there is a continual cycle of hostility, racism, hatred – these things make it impossible to just “forget” the past. We need a tool more active than simply “forgetting.” When I look at how Jesus started the movement that eventually became the church, it’s important to note that it began by changing the hearts of a few individuals. The individuals formed impacting communities. Then the communities impacted the social order. Your identity, your individual stories, are caught up in a greater story.

Long term, it would be better to embrace a path of peace and forgiveness, quietly working to change people’s hearts while they go about their mission. However, since this is a super-hero comic book, the characters will have to wrestle with how or if to use their power to force their will on others. And we will have to wait to see it play out and the consequences of that course.

The bottom line, this is a great comic. Adult themes explored in adult ways, you wouldn’t recognize these characters as the JLA-ripoffs they once were. These are fully fleshed out characters telling stories we’ve seen shades of in some of Straczynski’s previous (and best) work. The art has the force of almost being its own character, unobtrusive and clean, with a realistic style to it. I will say that it may be best to wait for the trade paperbacks of this one. The individual issues are frustrating, not quite providing enough story (or maybe it’s the sheer anxiousness of wanting to keep reading more of it) to justify the month to month wait. Basically, it’s the same reason I now only watch 24 when I buy the collected seasons. Read back-to-back, Straczynski once again proves why he is such a fan favorite.

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