Out this week is the ultimate Squadron Supreme throwdown collection by Marvel Comics appropriately titled Squadron Supreme vs. Avengers. Most likely released due to Heroes Reborn building towards the epic Heroes Return which had the Squadron Supreme fighting the Avengers, this collection has nearly every fight between the two teams including the first-ever appearance of the Squadron Supreme. If you’re into wacky superhero fight comics, this may be the book for you.
Roy Thomas had the original idea for the Squadron Supreme, which was always an overt riff off the Justice League. It was Marvel’s way to show what would happen if your favorite Avengers fought the DC Comics team. Collected here is their first appearance in Avengers (1963) #69-70, and subsequent battles in Avengers #85-86, 141-144, 147-149; Thor (1966) #280; Avengers (1998) #5-6; Avengers/Squadron Supreme Annual ’98; Squadron Supreme (2015) #3. Running 345 pages long, this book is nearly as large as Marvel’s Epic Collections.
Most of this book is the heyday of in-your-face superhero comics storytelling. Gritted teeth, characters screaming almost all the time, and supervillains with the most ridiculous costumes all pop-up. Kang ends up being in the first issue, hence the alternate reality Squadron Supreme showing up, and it’s delightful to see Sal Buscema’s designs. Thomas has characters speak in the most melodramatic ways — just get a load of Vision — and it’s incredibly fun to see these older comics.
There are plenty of reasons to read this outside of the fight comics fun, though, as Wayne Boring supplies pencils for the 1978 Thor #280. Seeing a mainstay Superman artist like Boring draw Hyperion is a riot and there’s even a fun anecdote in the introduction by Ralph Macchio about Boring drawing the book.
A book like this has the history of older comics but also shows how comics changed throughout the years. The 1998 Avengers #5 and #6 features a story by Kurt Busiek and George Pérez that’s filled with fun easter eggs and a totally different art style. Edited by Tom Brevoort, it’s interesting to compare this era of Avengers with the decades earlier run by Thomas. Considering Pérez draws Avengers #141-144 it’s fun to see how his style changed too.
If you’re looking for substance, however, this book is a bit limited as far as deep storytelling and character development. Characters are certainly emotional, but when they’re fighting new enemies like Orka it’s hard to take any of this seriously. This is punching, kicking, and yelping kind of comics that’s a delight because it’s great escapism.
As a time capsule of how Avengers comics grew and changed over the decades, this book is a blast. Squadron Supreme vs. Avengers is also a good complement to the recently released Heroes Reborn event since it helps show how these teams have tussled many times over. At this point, the Avengers fighting the Squadron Supreme is like an institution that should be repeated every few decades.
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