Rokk has already reviewed issues #3 and #4 and not to try to put words in his mouth, but has been unhappy with the direction the book has gone. I only post a second review of a comic he has reviewed when we are at considerable odds, so I don’t waste your time or mine, but our take is different enough that I’m going to. And I’m going to break format and reply almost directly to his review, instead of writing one that is truly separate.
Synopsis and Credits: Can be found in the above linked reviews.
…I’m not even going to get into the utter garbage about how evil America is. Or how white people are responsible for all of the world’s evils. It is just so idiotic that it doesn’t deserve to be addressed. And I have absolutely no desire to read a comic based on blaming white people for everything. Or even about black/white relations. The world isn’t black and white. America isn’t black and white. It is brown, red, yellow, black and
My response: I’m not JMS, or his apologist, so I can’t claim to know what he was thinking when he wrote these issues. Having seen his handiwork in both Babylon 5 and Rising Stars, I can claim to have spent a little time studying his approach. I’d offer three things to refute the above:1. Very few characters, if any, are direct mouthpieces for the writer. His characters are, if nothing else, fully formed, and act and speak from their motivations, not the writers. Its obvious that most of the Squadron don’t agree with African superteams feelings here. Whatever that teams motivations, however, the Squadron takes their threats seriously, and leave. 2. The original Squadron Supreme, at least the miniseries most folks refer back to, was about the Squadron Supreme taking over the county, ostensibly to make it better, but still they take control. Memory serving, they limit themselves to the United States, and other countries keep a wary eye on the Squadron to be sure they stay that way. JMS is not doing a direct update of the title, so the story will certainly not be exactly the same, but it certainly could be similar enough that the issue is addressed here. 3. Babylon 5 especially shows that JMS likes to build a lot of structure into his stories. Specifically, the first season of Babylon 5 has a lot of seemingly unrelated or unimportant details that in an almost subliminal fashion build the universe into a cohesive whole that make the drama, twists, character development and themes resonate more deeply than in a more serial story. The conflict with the African Superteam may not only be what I explained in point 2, but a catalyst that gets Hyperion thinking about going places other than where he is directed. Like he says in issue #4 “So instead of doing what one county wants us to do, and stopping where they tell us to stop –what if we just kept on going”. (Maybe JMS will have the Squadron Supreme take over the world after all..)To sum the lot of this up, politics, and race, will be brought up. It was part of the old series, and will be part of the new. JMS also has a track record of letting opposing viewpoints have their say, and not usually presenting a winner, so everyone is likely to read something that they disagree with. I believe it is done to provoke thought, not to preach. Rokk’s Opinion: …First, it was simply poorly written. Inertia’s father was one giant walking hackneyed stereotype. First, he is ultra religious. Clearly, ultra religious means being an evil intolerant narrow minded bastard. Second, he is also a horrid chauvinist. Third, he beats his wife. Fourth, despite being an outwardly highly religious person, he is cheating on his wife. My god! Could you possibly cram more cliched stereotypes into one character? It was just so over the top and heavy handed that I just laughed my way through that portion of the comic book. And I don’t think that JMS wanted the reader to be laughing while Inertia’s father is calling her sinful, pimp slapping his wife and cheating on her. But I did just because it was simply too much. And if that wasn’t enough, Inertia is raped by a bunch of her classmates! And her father blames her for it! C’mon. That is simply not even believable. It was all just too much….My Response: While Inertia’s father may be a stereotype, stereotypes are not created in a vacuum. I know, from both life experience and from police reports (if nothing ele) that there are certainly a small fraction of people in the world that can certainly live up to the stereotypes. That a too large percentage of women experience some form of non-consensual sex, especially in their youth. I know JMS does not equate ultra religious to “evil intolerant narrow minded bastard” just from his very respectful treatment of such characters on Babylon 5. Now, stacking a few of these things together in a single origin story does seem a little improbable, but I can find truth stranger than this fiction (minus the super powers). What I find most important about JMS’s writing here is that this origin story, improbable or not, is echoed in her actions. Rokk goes on later to comment on how half of issue #4 is an Origin Story for Inertia, and how it is too soon in the comic books run to do that. I will agree with him, at least partially. I don’t know that it is too early in the run, but the pacing of this book (even if you don’t include the JMS penned Squadron Supreme material published before its relaunch) is definitely for a trade paperback version. I’m not suggesting he write at the speed of Mark Gruenwald’s original version, but (and this is a long standing issue of this reviewers) I would appreciate a little quicker pace for my $2.99 an issue. Tenzil’s Non-Rokk Related Review Points: Pacing aside, I am enjoying the buildup to whatever other shoe JMS plans to drop. I like the weaving of the heavier elements and real world concerns into the story. JMS is threading a pretty impressive line in paying much respect to the original yet making the story his own. Maybe its mind control, but I’m enjoying the ride. Just cant’ wait for it to pick up speed.I picked at the art a bit in the first couple of issues. I don’t know if the artists involved had a change in approach, or just more time to work on these two issues, but they kicked it up from “good and serviceable” to great and emotionally involving. Issue three shows hints of it in the facial expressions during the plane ride discussion at the end of the issue, but the little choices made, and the craft in issue four are masterful. Frank and Sibal can handle the standard superhero expressions (anger, surprise, defiance) easily, but the tired sadness in Inertia’s eyes in the bottom left panel of the 12th non-ad page of the book has a life like quality not usually found in a comic book. The choice to have Mark’s eyes closed while saying the “hypothetically” line shows both shame and gives the reader a hint that all of his thinking may not be hypothetical. And the moon itself even somehow exudes a sadness in its bright silence. In conclusion, if comics books are an escape for you, Squadron Supreme will probably not be your “cup of tea”. It dealt with social issues before, and will most certainly deal with them again. It won’t, in this reviewers opinion, preach to you, but it certainly won’t shy away from presenting many sides to an issue. As long as JMS continues to progress the actual plot of the story forward, I’m in for the ride. JMS’s writing is thoughtful, deliberate and different that most anything you’ll see, comics or no, and penciller Gary Frank and inker Jonathon Sibal (and colorist Sotomayor) bring his words to life masterfully in one of the few truly synergistic partnerships in comics.