Saturday, October 21, 2017

Squadron Supreme #10 (June 1986)

Welcome back to Earth-712! Over the past nine months, we've paid a visit to the home of the World's Mightiest Heroes. We've seen them attempt to bring back their world from destruction, only for them to unintentionally become tyrants. Now, let's check in to see how they've recovered from their latest set of troubles!

Previously on Squadron Supreme: Hyperion struggles with his injuries after the battle with his Earth-616 counterpart. Nighthawk goes recruiting for more help in taking down the Squadron. Ape-X learns Tom Thumb is dying of cancer, and helps him and Lamprey travel to the Scarlet Centurion's future to find the Panacea Potion, a medicine that can cure any disease. However, upon their return to the present, Thumb discovers the Potion is actually just penicillin and vitamins. The people of the Centurion's time are so advanced, that's all they need if they get sick. Tom returns the Potion, and passes away a week later. 

And with that, let's look at Squadron Supreme #10!

The cover is actually quite cool. It depicts members of the Squadron Supreme in a hospital, struggling with a substance that looks like a mix of tar and quicksand. Must be some tough stuff, as Hyperion can't seem to escape it. I think it might be a bit too late for Blue Eagle, Foxfire, and Doctor Spectrum, though. It's a well-drawn cover, I really like it. It's much better than the cover of the last comic I looked at.

"The Dark From Within"
Writer: Mark Gruenwald
Penciler: Paul Ryan
Inker: Sam De La Rosa
Letterer: Janice Chiang
Colorist: Max Scheele
Editor: Ralph Macchio
Editor-In-Chief: Jim Shooter

The story begins with the Squadron attending the funeral of Tom Thumb.

Via a newscast, we get a look back at the life of Thomas Thompson. We learn that the Diminutive Dynamo was 41 years old when he died. Huh. Younger than he looked. We also learn he was a teenage genius, getting PhDs in math, physics, and electrical engineering by the time he was 17. Wow. He was also an inventor, and desired to find new ways to better fight crime through technology. This was the reason why he became a superhero, fighting such menaces as the Iron Moth.

First, I have to say, I do wish we could have learned more about the Iron Moth. Also, this also is a way of establishing something about Tom's character. Tom had always been looking for ways to use tech to improve the human condition, so it would make sense that if the Squadron attempted to actually solve the world's problems, he'd use tech as a solution, hence the B-Mod device. The newscast also establishes that he built the Squadron's space station headquarters, Rocket Central. It was the big space station that crashed down to Earth in Squadron Supreme #1. Since this series was put out in the mid-80s, can we assume that on Earth-712, Rocket Central predated Salyut 1?

The newscast goes on to reveal that at the time of his death, Thumb was working on a way to defy death itself, which Power Princess points out.

Basically, Tom created a way to preserve people who were dying of various illnesses, like cancer, until a way could be found to cure them. Power Princess also announces that these "hibernacula" are being mass-produced, and they expect ten thousand to be produced in the next month. There are also "life-watches" being produced. At the time of death, the watches would signal a crew of "hibermedics", who would place a wearer in a hibernaculum.

This broadcast is being watched by Nighthawk and his group, who have become known as "the Redeemers". Nighthawk is disgusted by the broadcast, saying that the Squadron have turned Tom Thumb's death into propaganda for selling their new program to the public. The group discuss the changes to the Squadron, like Quagmire's seeming disappearance, and Hyperion's new glasses. Nighthawk tables the discussion and turns it towards something more important: How to take down the Squadron.

In Squadron City, the Squadron have a meeting of their own, giving out their work assignments. After this, Hyperion approaches Ape-X with a bit of a problem. Since he got blinded after the events of Squadron Supreme #8, he's been needing his hi-tech glasses to see, and they're glitching out.

Ape-X goes to fix the glasses, making Hyperion panic as he can't see without them. Zarda and Arcanna reassure him and Arcanna invites him to have some tea. That's nice. Spectrum flies Foxfire to a construction site. Amusingly, Fox wanted to nap on the way there, so the Doc provides her a bed construct to sleep in. It is heavily hinted the two of them are intimate.

The workmen explain that there are a row of buildings that need to be brought down, and it'll take them a few days to level them. Foxfire offers to help out, and she uses her powers to bring them a-tumblin' down.

I love that sound effect choice there. Foxfire is able to level the buildings in minutes, allowing the workmen to get to start work on the foundation for a new building called the Hibernacle. I'm guessing it'll be the place where the Hibernacula will be stored until a way can be found to help the people inside them. Spectrum helps with the cleanup.

Zarda and Arcanna fly to Herculanea, which turns out to he Earth-712's version of the District of Columbia, I think. (Seriously Mark, I love ya, but come on!) You'll see why. Arcanna remarks that Hyperion is having trouble with being blind, but Zarda tells her to look at it like this. Hyperion used to be able to do many things better than anyone else, including see. It raises an interesting point. If Hyperion could do the same things that Superman could at the time, that includes possibly various forms of vision, like microscopic and telescopic. Now he's lost that. Those powers are gone. The glasses he wears work like radar. They let him see where things are, but the images are pretty dismal. Nothing like his old sight.

The two then have a rather...creepy conversation when you really think about it. Arcanna remarks that Hyperion's blindness didn't prevent him from seeing she was the woman for him. Zarda recalls that she practically had to force herself on him to get the hint. Keep in mind, folks, the Hyperion she fell for was a version from another universe. He was not the "native" Hyperion if that makes any sense. Which really makes one wonder. Are her feelings for the "native" Hyperion genuine...or is she just using him as a substitute for the Hyperion she fell in love with?

Arcanna says some men are that thick, and she nearly had to resort to magic to get her husband to notice her. ...Yeah. Think about that. That's is creepy. That is creepy and wrong here. She pays it off as being cute, but...this is just wrong. She basically said she wants to abuse her powers to make someone love her. Yeah. It's creepy and wrong. The two arrive at the White House, Arcanna wondering how Zarda would react if she found out that Arcanna is mystically hiding her pregnancy.

Back in Squadron City, Ape-X adjusts Hyperion's glasses. Hyperion is wondering if his blindness is a bit of karma getting back at him for that destructive battle with his 616-counterpart in issue 8. Ape-X manages to repair her glasses, Hyperion remarking that with his strength combined with his blindness, he's terrified he'll accidentally hurt someone or destroy something. Nice bit of subtle deconstruction there. Ape-X then rides off, thinking that Hyperion doesn't really have it that bad. He's blind, but she's a mutant ape that has no legs. It's revealed that she and Aida are working on another project behind the scenes.

Yup, they're building a robotic simulacrum of Tom Thumb. Ape-X laments how much she misses Tom, and hopes this simulacrum will capture his essence. Geez, this issue should have been titled "The Creepy Romance Special". What is with these people and being creepy when it comes to the heart?!

Sheesh, let's just go to Squadron City Hospital. There, one Dr. Anton Decibel is going on his rounds, thinking that there isn't a ton for him to do considering a thousand people live in Squadron City. He then chides himself, remembering that he became a criminal because he got bored. Yeah, he decided to become a supervillain because he got bored one day. I guess it doesn't take much for some people.

He heads to Quagmire's room when he notices a tar-like substance seeping out from under the door. He looks in and sees this.

Quagmire's power to project the extradimensional tar is active. Dr. Decibel wonders if that means he's coming out of the coma he's been in. In the skies over the Midwest, Blue Eagle and Lamprey are flying with a box. Lamprey remarks that Blue Eagle has been very quiet throughout the whole trip, mainly because Eagle was never really fond of the Institute of Evil members joining the Squadron...despite being B-Modded to be good guys. In his thoughts, Eagle admits that Lamprey is right about this, but his thoughts are over his guilt over the whole thing with Quagmire.

The two arrive at a place called the "National Decriminalization Institute". They're working on building an area which promises to B-Mod a hundred convicts per day. Eagle is relieved by this, because it puts less work on the Squadron. In a nice little moment, Eagle calls Lamprey one of the Squadron's brightest new recruits. That's nice.

The scene then shifts to a building in Cosmopolis, where people are applying for jobs. Some kids are playing with Shape, and Shape feels...rather happy.

The thing about this is, it does give a hint as to why Shape became a supervillain. He said that nobody liked him in the past, and it is clear he does have a mental disability. It still is extremely disturbing to me that he was B-Modded, as it was likely he had no real idea what the Squadron did to him. A new pair make their debut.

Meet Moonglow and Redstone, two metahumans who want to join the Squadron. Good Lord, Redstone is a big dude. Did he eat burgers laced with steroids growing up?! Whizzer asks what they can do. Redstone demonstrates his superhuman strength. Moonglow shows off her ability to fly and gravitokinesis (Basically, she can alter the gravitational pull between people and objects), by making the two Squadron members and Redstone float in the air. Whizzer is impressed, but wonders where they came from. Moonglow explains the two of them only recently got their powers.

It's revealed, though, that Moonglow's actual power is illusion-casting. Her showing of flight and gravity-manipulation is all a trick, making Whizzer and Shape think she has the other powers. The two explain that since they want to use their abilities to do some good, and they're the only superhero game in town. That's a bit of a shame, as it would have been neat to see a team of teenage superheroes that were modeled on the Teen Titans. Gives an idea of a "Next Generation", but considering the way this series is going...maybe it's best there is no such team here. Whizzer agrees to take them to meet the Squadron.

The two are blindfolded (although Moonglow uses her powers to avoid that), and are taken to Squadron City. Back in Nighthawk's home, it's revealed that Moonglow and Redstone are two double agents, actually working for him. Nighthawk also found another who wants to help stop the Squadron: the former Golden Archer, now called the Black Archer.

Archer appreciates that Nighthawk let him join up. He does accept full responsibility for B-Modding Lady Lark, but then goes on to say that if the Squadron hadn't created it, he would not have used it. Uh, no man. They did not force you to use it on Lady Lark. You chose of your own free will to use the B-Mod on Lady Lark because you couldn't handle the fact she wasn't in love with you anymore. Not their fault there, pal. Nighthawk explains he let Archer aboard because he wanted redemption. Also, I like to think that Nighthawk would appreciate have another person helping him out here.  The two men watch the news and see the earlier events of the issue. Archer is thrilled with this and goes to tell the others. Nighthawk gets a call.

It's Master Menace, who tells Nighthawk there is no need for him to obtain a B-Mod machine for him, as he can raid the place himself for one thanks to the new B-Mod facility. Nighthawk insists his double agents can procure one for him. Menace agrees to do it Nighthawk's way, but the Batman analogue has two weeks.

In Squadron City, the group debate adding Moonglow and Redstone to the roster. Whizzer feels that since the Squadron is the only team of superhuman heroes in the country, they have a duty to recruit every superhuman they can find and train to be great heroes. Arcanna agrees, but says they should run background checks on them. Blue Eagle says they should be B-Modded to ensure their loyalty, and it would be the safest and quickest way to being them aboard.

Hyperion objects to this, as the machines are only meant to be used on criminals. Lamprey grumbles they should all go through it if it's so great. Shape is confused. Foxfire has no problem with it. Doc Spectrum feels using the B-Mod on them after they approached the Squadron in good faith is a rather jerky thing to do. They take a vote, and Eagle loses. Redstone and Moonglow are welcomed aboard as provisionary members, and will be made full members after a background check.

Whizzer suggests that there may be other superhumans around that they don't know about, so he suggests that the Squadron start an active superhuman recruitment program to find any and bring them aboard. Power Princess puts it to a vote, but the issue is tabled when they get an emergency call from the hospital. The Squadron rush there to find this.

No, somebody wasn't messing with the soda machine again. The hospital is being overrun with a viscous tar-like substance, which Quagmire can generate. Some of the Squadron try to evacuate the building. Foxfire, Arcanna, and Lamprey try to stop the goop, but their powers are useless. Foxfire's ability to decay things is ineffectual, Arcanna's powers are no good due to the gunk being unnatural, and leeching energy from it hurts Lamprey's stomach.

The Squadron's rescue team is able to get everyone out, but weren't able to get through to Quagmire due to the ooze getting thicker the closer they got to him, and Decibel is still missing. Hyperion and Power Princess realize that Quagmire might still be comatose because his B-Modding would not allow him to release this much muck to menace people intentionally. Quagmire's power works by mentally creating portals to another dimension where the muck originates. Since he's comatose, there must be a portal unleashing the muck inside his brain, which means there's only one way to stop it.

Yup. They're going to have to pull the plug on his life support. In essence, they're going to have to kill Quagmire. Zarda sees no other choice, and Hyperion volunteers to do it. He dives into the muck, and tries to swim through it.

During his trip, Hyperion thinks over the moral obligations of what he is about to do. He wonders if he is doing the right thing...and if he can go through with essentially killing Quagmire to save Squadron City. He reaches Quagmire's room, and finds him lying peacefully in his bed. Hyperion finds the plug to his life support and pulls it, praying that wherever he will go, Quagmire will forgive him. With the plug pulled, the goop vanishes...but so does Quagmire. Spoiler alert: He'll be reappearing in the Quasar title. The story ends with Hyperion bringing out Decibel's body. Whizzer remarks that it was a dirty way for Quagmire to die. Doc Spectrum says they all are.

This issue...was a good one. I love Paul Ryan's art in it, and seeing it made me really sad he didn't do the entire mini-series. It's also awesome to see Nighthawk finally putting his plan to take down the Squadron into action. Although to be fair, considering the nature of the mini-series, it can be assumed he was working "off-screen", but it is great to see it get some more attention. I would have liked to have seen Hyperion struggle with his newfound blindness a bit more, but you have to remember, again, each issue is about a month apart.

It's also interesting to see the Squadron be put into a situation where the only solution is to end someone's life to save the day. You can't help but feel for Hyperion a little as he struggles with the decision to pull the plug on Quagmire's life support. You get the impression that the group has never had to deal with such a situation before.

The fact that the it's revealed that the Squadron Supreme are America's only superhuman team did throw me for a loop a bit. You'd think that in a world based on the DC Universe, this world would have its own pastiche of the Teen Titans or the Outsiders, and maybe even the far future having its own version of the Legion of Super-Heroes. To be fair, though, the Squadron being the only super-team in this world does help the story. There are no other hero teams to actively resist the Squadron, so the story can focus on the Squadron's Utopia collapsing due to their own flaws and foibles.

Next time, it's October, and Halloween is on the horizon! As such, we'll take a look at the early days of the Son of Satan...

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