Friday, November 24, 2017

Squadron Supreme #11 (July 1986)

Welcome back to Earth-712! Every month since January, we've popped by this alternate universe to check in on their protectors, the World's Mightiest Heroes, the Squadron Supreme. We've seen how they've attempted to recover their world from disaster. It's that time again, as November is the 11th month of the year, so shall we look in on their mini-series' 11th issue.

Previously on Squadron Supreme: The Squadron mourn the loss of Tom Thumb to cancer. They announce his last project: The Hibernaculum, a device that stores people upon death so they can be revived when what killed them is curable. Dr. Decibel is killed when the comatose Quagmire floods the Squadron City Hospital with his extradimensional tar. Nighthawk sends Redstone and Moonglow to join the Squadron so they can infiltrate them from within.

And with that, let's look at Squadron Supreme #11!

The cover is pretty neat. You got Blue Eagle being restrained by members of Nighthawk's group, Remnant taunting him. Whatever Master Menace has planned for the winged Squadron member, it's clearly not going to be pleasant. Remnant is clearly lying, Blue Eagle should sue.

Writer: Mark Gruenwald
Penciller: 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 Lamprey hovering in the air over a desert outside of Squadron City. There's a flag near him.

Hiding behind a group of rocks are several Squadron members: Blue Eagle, Moonglow, Shape, and Redstone. Eagle outlines the plan: He and Moonglow will directly go for the flag. While Lamprey is distracted with fighting them off, Redstone and Shape will move in and take the flag. Eagle and Moonglow move in. Moonglow creates a bright flash of light to blind Lamprey. He blinks it off and tries to grab her so he can absorb her power. It doesn't work. Moonglow sent out an illusion. Redstone has Shape take the form of a football, and tosses him at the flag, but Lamprey blocks him.

In another area, a similar training exercise is going down. This time, it's Haywire protecting a flag. And he has to deal with an assault from Doctor Spectrum, Inertia, and Foxfire. Haywire laughs at their attack plan, which is basically them charging at him. It's an opportunity to show off his power: His ability to create and fire lots of fine filament from his fingertips. Try saying that three times fast. He shows off his power by attacking the three Squadron members with it.

I love this sequence. It's a great way to show what each of the three Squadron members can do. Foxfire and Inertia have some rather unique powers...well, in Foxfire's case, her powers are unique for a supposed superhero. Her power to make things rot is often more associated with villains...which makes sense in her case as she was a villain forced into becoming a hero. Inertia's power is especially cool. She has the ability to absorb the kinetic energy (the energy in motion) and redirect it. It's a unique ability.

The three are able to use their powers to escape the tanglewire, and Inertia redirects its kinetic energy to Haywire, sending him flying backwards. Back in the other training area, Blue Eagle, Moonglow, and Redstone get ready to engage Lamprey, Shape having been knocked out. However, Lamprey has got some hidden backup.

Meet Thermite, who can burn you with his left had and freeze you with his right! Thermite freezes one of Blue Eagle's wings, and uses fire to make Redstone step back. Lamprey tags the huge Native American, and goes for Moonglow. But it's an illusion. The real Moonglow was able to grab the flag. Back in the second training area, Haywire desperately tries to protect his flag, but is saved by a buzzer. The contest is over, and Haywire's team won. The group return to Squadron city, with Whizzer announcing that there will be a special assembly tonight. It's also going out to the media, so they should get ready to look their best.

In Squadron City's administration complex, Hyperion and Power Princess are struggling with one of mankind's greatest foes: Paperwork. Lots and lots of paperwork.

There is something so hilarious about a Superman analogue grumbling abuot paperwork. I don't know why, but it amuses me to no end. Who would have thought creating a utopia would involve paperwork? Zarda has been thinking about the cost of the Squadron's work. Four Squadron members are dead, and four more have left. Zarda remarks the Squadron never was this unstable before. Hyperion remarks something to her that in a way, encapsulates this whole mini: "Everything has a cost". She hopes Hyperion is right. The two then attend a public ceremony to welcome Redstone, Inertia, Haywire, Moonglow, and Thermite to the team.

I love this panel because I think it does give a bit of a glimpse of the personalities of the recruits. Both Haywire and Inertia feel a bit disturbed with taking the oath this way. Moonglow feels like a hypocrite for taking this oath when she and the others are there to subvert the Squadron. I consider that a bit odd, because in my opinion, she shouldn't. She's just helping maintain the act of the loyal Squadron member so she can do her subversion work. To me, it's no different that an actor playing a role for the purpose of entertaining people. Thermite's thought is interesting. I think it's meant to give the impression that he's rather young.

Later, the new members mingle with the others, and Moonglow thinks about how relieved the ceremony is over, and is worried that the Squadron may discover something suspicious in their background checks. This is interesting dialogue, and it does make me wish we did get to learn more about these five new characters and their origins. Blue Eagle remarks that the new recruits should have been B-Modded. Whizzer objects, saying that B-Modding is only for convicted criminals.

Nighthawk and some of his other forces watch the ceremony on TV, and the Dark Crusader goes to speak to Master Menace. Nighthawk ruminates over this, as the only allies he was able to find to fight were criminals like Menace, Mink, Remnant, and Pinball, as well as the expelled Golden Archer. So, what does that say about the five others he found? Were they criminals, too? Nighthawk also feels like he's truly alone in this fight. However, as if fate was telling him otherwise, the Mink comes by and...

Heh heh, this does make sense. Mink is clearly a pastiche of Catwoman, and Nighthawk is a pastiche of Batman. I can imagine there was some romantic tension when they fought each other in the past. That night, Moonglow goes to a computer, hacks it to get the plans to the B-Mod device, and send them to Master Menace. Menace gets the plans and vows to find a way to reverse the device's effects. Moonglow leaves, hinting that Nighthawk rescued her from a "life of boredom". Interesting hint about her origins there.

Aida, Tom Thumb's computer, alerts Ape-X to Moonglow's antics. Ape-X wonders why Moonglow did this, but it causes her some problems. You see, since she was B-Modded, she has to be loyal to the Squadron.

However, Moonglow is now a Squadron member. To be loyal, she has to report this transgression to the rest of the Squadron, but she can't do because she was B-Modded to be loyal to the Squadron. See the problem here? The quandary causes her mind to break, and the ape goes catatonic. Power Princess and Hyperion find her and take her to the hospital.

In Richmond Manor, Nighthawk is training the rest of his recruits. He's teaching Mink some judo, and gets a call from Master Menace.

Yup, Master Menace found a way to safely undo the effects of the B-Mod machine, and he's ready to restore the former members of the Institute of Evil to normal. The Black Archer sees a chance for redemption with this device after B-Modding Lady Lark.

Two days later, three Squadron members (Whizzer, Lamprey, and Haywire) are looking over a Hibernacle. It's essentially a facility that will contain the Hibernacula, the pods that ill and the dead will be placed in until they can be healed. The manufacturer has a bit of a problem. Demand for the Hibernacula is exceeding the factory's ability to produce them. A second plant is being built, so that should ease the pressure a bit. After the inspection, Whizzer heads home to be with his family, and Haywire offers to take Lamprey to a bar. Since he has nothing else to do before dinner, he agrees to join the newbie.

The two head to a bar...but it's empty. It's a façade. Haywire uses his ability to create tanglewire to trap Lamprey, and takes him to where Nighthawk's group, the America Redeemers, are waiting. Master Menace puts Lamprey in a modified B-Mod machine, one designed to undo the Squadron's B-Modding. And does it work?

Yup. Lamprey is back to his old criminal self. Interestingly, Lamprey says he feels like a great weight was taken off his mind. Nigthawk tells him that Lamprey is free to go do what he wants, but says if he's interesting in giving the Squadron some payback for brainwashing him, he can join up with the Redeemers. Lamprey agrees, saying he learned the value of teamwork in the Squadron.

Nighthawk's plan is to get the former Institute of Evil members deprogrammed, then with their forces combined with the America Redeemers, they can outnumber the Squadron and then strike them all at once. Let's hope for Nighthawk's sake that the former surviving Institute of Evil members are willing to help him out on this thing.

Redstone and Thermite arrive with a frozen Shape. However, there is a problem. Remnant and Black Archer arrive...with a bound-up Blue Eagle. Eagle had always been rather suspicious of the new recruits, and decided to do some snooping. Nighthawk is horrified by this, as Blue Eagle could blow the whole plan. Master Menace has a solution for their Eagle infestation.

Yup. Menace suggests that they B-Mod Eagle. Nighthawk is furious at this, as B-Modding is ne of the reasons they are opposing the Squadron in the first place. To use B-Modding would make them no better than the Squadron. Mater Menace remains Eagle they are in a war, and in a war, you use every weapon available. The only other option is to kill him, which is another option Nighthawk will not take.

Nighthawk agonizes over what to do. If he brainwashes Blue Eagle, he'll have compromised his principles. And if he does it this one time...when will he do it again? Black Archer reminds Nighthawk that Blue Eagle's B-Modding can be reversed afterwards. The story ends with Nighthawk reluctantly agreeing to B-Mod Blue Eagle, feeling he's just sold his soul as Blue Eagle undergoes the process.

This story is really good. The best part of the story is the ending. Nighthawk has been wanting to fight this war his own way, but a hard truth has hit him: In a war, you're going to end up compromising your principles. Whether you want to or not, and whether you like it or not. It's a nice bit of deconstruction by Gruenwald here. Considering one of the regular themes of his work was exploring ethics, we do see that here with Nighthawk, feeling that he has already lost because he is forced to compromise his principles to defeat the Squadron. War is a messy business, and Nighthawk is learning this the hard way. You ain't getting out with your precious morals intact, buddy.

It was also neat seeing how the Squadron trained and did for fun. A nice bit of fun to balance out the darker ending. Also, Paul Ryan's artwork here really makes me sad that he didn't do the entire miniseries' art. It's very good, a joy to look at. I do hope he and Mark are doing more Squadron Stories in comic heaven.

Next time, we'll take a look at Thor...sort of. Jane Foster was not the first person to wield mighty Mjolnir. Join me as we take a look at the beginning of Eric Masterson's tenure as the God of Thunder...

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