- Writer: Marc Guggenheim
- Penciler: Carlos Pacheco
- Inker: Mariano Taibo
- Color Artist: Frank Martin
- Letterer: Joe Caramagna
- Publisher: Marvel Comics
Most of the Secret Wars tie-ins I’ve read so far have kept to themselves, telling stories about their own characters and their own little slice of Battleworld. It’s been both good and bad. Well here comes Squadron Sinister, with writer Marc Guggenheim diving head first into the complicated, sometimes confusing Battleworld landscape. Rather than tell a story about his characters in their own little world, Squadron Sinister is all about the villain team stomping all over their neighboring districts in their personal bid for evil power. It does not bode well.
And it doesn’t help that Guggenheim opens the issue with the Squadron Sinister killing their counterparts from J. Michael Straczynski’s aborted Supreme Power series. I loved that comic, and the fact that Straczynski abandoned it just as it was getting good still stings.
For those of you unfamiliar, the Squadron Sinister are Marvel’s long-standing copycat versions of DC’s Justice League. Hyperion is Superman, Nighthawk is Batman, Whizzer is Flash and so on and so forth. They’ve had a wide variety of different roles and interpretations over the years, and this time around, they’re a cabal-like gang of super-villains who do evil things for evil reasons. They ‘annex’ neighboring districts in the name of protecting their own, and rule over their subjects with iron fists.
The story involves the Squadron distrusting each other as they go on a stealth mission into a neighboring district to steal a weapon with the power to defeat Hyperion, in order to keep it out of their enemies’ hands. Simultaneously, one of the Thors arrives to check in on their activities, and he winds up dead. The Squadron has to figure out who killed him and why before God Doom finds out and kills them all in retaliation.
The problem with Squadron Sinister #1 is that it lacks an interesting focal point. Despite being packed with all manner of characters, plots, sub-plots and action scenes, everything is fairly surface-level in this issue, and none of it is very good. Little time is spent building up this world. We’re thrust right into the politics of these characters and how they butt heads with each other and Battleworld as a whole. No one stands out as particularly memorable or fun to read, and Guggenheim doesn’t do much to explore the unique position this characters occupy.
There’s no insight into what it’s like to be a team of supervillains who conquer neighboring districts, which they do almost as an after thought. Nor is the comic about what it’s like to be a copycat Justice League. The comic is all about the scheming and the distrust between its team members, but we don’t really know anything about them as people, and definitely not enough to care. Guggenheim plugs in personality traits here and there, like how Whizzer is a wiseass and Doctor Spectrum is a wuss, but that’s not enough to make these characters interesting.
The art by Pacheco isn’t particularly interesting either. It’s kind of standard superhero art, and the Squadron Sinister characters definitely look like standard superheroes, with bright, colorful, almost 70s-era costumes. That doesn’t particularly help them out either. They all look pretty silly, especially considering how evil they’re supposed to be. Pacheco and colorist Frank Martin don’t give them any particular style, and the Squadron Sinister could have used something like that to really stand out.
Squadron Sinister #1 is about a bunch of characters we don’t really know being generally jerks to one another in a context that we don’t really know. The characters aren’t from any beloved Marvel history, so there’s no real reason to connect with them. This is the most generic Secret Wars tie-in I’ve read so far, with no promise of anything more interesting around the corner.
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