If you have kept up this long with Heroes Reborn, you know the general conceit of the two month-long event. The Marvel Universe has been remade with the Squadron Supreme of America — an obvious pastiche of the Justice League — as its greatest heroes.
In most issues of the main series, writer Jason Aaron has focused on a member of the Squadron, while in a series of backup stories illustrated by Ed McGuinness, the Avengers slowly reform as Blade reminds them of their past together.
These two strands have not developed as quickly as I would have liked, but in this seventh issue (illustrated by Aaron Kuder) and next week’s grand finale — aptly titled Heroes Return — they appear set for a collision course.
SPOILERS AHEAD for Heroes Reborn #7!
Now that each member of the team has been introduced, this issue finds them working together to uncover the mystery of the resurgent “Avengers.”
Your mileage will vary on how long you can put up with their priggish group dynamic. Every Squadron member is quite detestable on their own and even more so as a group, but in the tradition of books like Suicide Squad, their banter has a certain charm.
It’s possible to enjoy these scenes as part of a big, dumb action story, which I certainly did when reviewing the first issue of this series. Nearly every issue has some wild did-that-just-happen moment that only the pure insanity of comics can provide. (In that sense, the best predecessor for Heroes Reborn is probably something like DC’s Dark Nights: Death Metal.)
Readers expecting more detailed character arcs will be left wanting. Aaron gives glimpses of the Squadron’s shared history — from Hyperion and Nighthawk’s falling out to Power Princess and Nighthawk’s brief romantic fling — but mostly uses the characters as a catalogue of reference points.
The original Squadron was created as a direct pastiche of DC’s major heroes, which gives Aaron the opportunity to riff on the Justice League in often amusing ways. Power Princess, unlike noble Wonder Woman, is a bloodthirsty warmonger with an affinity for alcohol. Doctor Spectrum isn’t just a Green Lantern-style space cop, but a red, white, and blue fascist with no qualms about using violence to achieve his ends.
The only drawback to this reference-heavy approach is that the actual story can feel empty at its core.
Heroes Reborn rewards fans with knowledge of continuity or an interest in DC, but it doesn’t necessarily do the work of making me care about the Squadron as a group. I can nod in approval at references to Dark Reign or One More Day, but I don’t have much reason to feel invested in what happens to the Squadron members.
They are only rarely given the opportunity to self-reflect, and unless Marvel spins them off into a series following the conclusion of this event, they won’t ever need to.
They exist simply as reference points to characters we know. There’s an amusing quality to that and it leads to some high points — such as the Green Goblin serving as a stand-in for the Joke r— but as the event rumbles toward a conclusion, I find myself wishing for some kind of connection to these characters beyond who they represent.
The most promising scene in the issue is in the back-up story, which finally pulls back the curtain on Phil Coulson’s alliance with Mephisto. These shenanigans raise several more interesting questions about why this reality had to be created and what service the Squadron provided in being its heroes.
When the Avengers and Squadron eventually face off in Heroes Return, I’ll be fascinated to see how much Aaron reveals about the reasoning for this brave, new world. But once the world is put back to normal, I’m not sure how much I will miss Hyperion, Power Princess, and the rest of the Squadron.
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