Heroes Reborn isn’t really about the Squadron Supreme.
That shouldn’t be that much of a surprise to anyone, really. As much as I love Mark Gruenwald’s classic twelve-issue miniseries from the ’80s – the book that is what people think Watchmen is – the Squadron Supreme has languished as Z-listers for a long time.
Heroes Reborn borrows the names and the costumes (expect for Blur/Whizzer) from the Squadron Supreme, but it’s not about them. After all, half of the Squadron Supreme from the Gruenwald book – the Atom, Zatanna, Hawkman, Aquaman, and Green Arrow’s counterparts – got killed off in a tie-in. Moreover, in the Gruenwald book, it’s Nighthawk and Doctor Spectrum who are among the most emotionally sensitive characters. Nighthawk resigns to fight the Squadron’s Utopia plan; Doctor Spectrum spends half the book in therapy after accidentally killing Nuke, the Firestorm equivalent.
In Heroes Reborn, Doctor Spectrum and Nighthawk can generously be called ‘bloodthirsty.’
Heroes Reborn is about the Justice League, if every Rose Twitter description of the Justice League was true. It’s Newsmax, the Claremont Institute, or American Greatness’ Justice League – the Justice League as jingoistic nationalist thugs.
So that’s the lens with which we need to look at Heroes Reborn #5, the Nighthawk issue (so, the Batman issue) of the book. At the absolute least, someone more qualified than me could write a whole essay about the fact that the jingoistic nationalist version of Batman is black, like the version from Supreme Power, and more recently, the David Walker/Ramon Villalobos Nighthawk solo, but unlike, well, Batman, or the Gruenwald Nighthawk.
Heroes Reborn #5 is just Jason Aaron doing a take on the famous Grant Morrison Arkham Asylum: the inmates have seized control of
Arkham Ravencroft, and are going to kill the guards and doctors unless Batman Nighthawk comes to them. The Marvel villains take the Batman roles. Bullseye is Zsasz, Lizard is Killer Croc, Deadpool is Two-Face, the Green Goblin is the Joker, while Gwen Stacy plays Barbara Gordon. Goblin even does the whole “kill me so that you’ll be just like me” thing that the Joker has done to death, while the Goblin Serum now works just like Joker gas.
I wonder, then: what is this supposed to be saying about Batman? The Hyperion and Doctor Spectrum issues made clear arguments about Superman and Green Lantern. Hyperion is a well-meaning idiot who cares more about America then the actual people; Doctor Spectrum is basically every person who puts “back the blue” on their car without thinking about what that really means. The Blur issue failed because it tried too hard to force the Flash into a role he didn’t really work as, as the magic guy.
I think that this fails because it tries too hard to just be Batman. It’s not Batman taken to an extreme, like Hyperion or Doctor Spectrum’s issue – it’s just Batman. That’s not to say it’s bad. It isn’t. But when you go from a James Stokoe-drawn hilarious takedown of Green Lantern to a pretty decent Batman story, especially when the actual Batman book is pretty great right now, it’s just not what you want it to be.
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