Comic Book Review: Squadron Supreme #4

I have absolutely loved the first two issues of Squadron Supreme. Then came that huge pile of crap masquerading as a comic book in Squadron Supreme #3. Straczynski really needs to put out a great issue in Squadron Supreme #4 in order to get this title back on track. Can he do it? I’m really not too sure. Let’s find out.

Creative Team
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski
Penciler: Gary Frank
Inker: Jonathan Sibal

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10.
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10.
Overall Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10.

Synopsis: The issue starts America instructing some Middle Eastern country to surrender their weapons to U.N. inspectors and to cease their uranium enrichment program. America instructed that the Middle Eastern country stand down their army and if they failed to do all of this then there would be “consequences.” We see the Middle Eastern country’s army in the desert ready to attack. The government of the Middle Eastern country replied that God would strike down anyone who attempted to attack them on their own soil. They were wrong. And with that we see the Squadron Supreme walking across the desert toward the Middle Eastern country’s army. (A very cool one page splash shot, by the way.)

And with that we officially have a braaaaawwwl! The various members of Squadron Supreme just wipe out the Middle Eastern country’s army. We see the Squadron Supreme taking out the army units in the various cities in 10 minutes or less. That the members of Squadron Supreme took no joy in their task at hand. Except for two of them: Power Princess and Emil Burbank. We see Power Princess gleefully killing soldiers.

We then cut to Emil Burbank inside a tank with two American soldiers. Emil gives the soldiers special electronic filters for their ears. Emil has created a sonic device that totally disrupts the functioning of the inner ear. That the enemy army won’t be able to stand or move a muscle without throwing up. Burbank turns on the device and all of the enemy troops outside the U.S. tank fall to the ground. Burbank gets out of the tanks and proceeds to shoot the troops saying “Like fish in a barrel…” Burbank gleefully sings while he is killing the helpless enemy soldiers. The one American soldier tells Burbank to stop and that it is against regulation to shoot prisoners. That they are to simply disarm and restrain the enemy soldiers. Burbank says these enemy soldiers have not surrendered.

The American soldier draws his gun on Burbank and says he is going to take Burbank into custody. Burbank then pushes a button on his sonic device and the American soldier collapses. Burbank said that he put a fail safe in the soldier’s ear filters should this occasion arise. Burbank then says that this is all trial and error. That he needs to find the right people to come on these little missions with him that understand not to get between a man and his “hobbies.” Burbank then kills the American soldier. Burbank goes back into the tank and tells the remaining American soldier to come with him so he can show him a most enjoyable new hobby.

We then shift back to the barracks where the members of Squadron Supreme are resting after a long day of ass kicking. Stan the wuss is whining that it doesn’t seem right to fight these soldiers since they don’t stand a chance against the Squadron Supreme. Emil comments that Stan could always slow down to give them a chance to kill him. Emil goes on that war is always predicated upon who has the best toys. Stan comments that he thinks the government would learn from its mistakes from the last time they got involved in another country’s business like their last mission in Africa. Emil comments that if it actually learned from its mistakes then it wouldn’t be the government. (Ha! Despite the fact that he is a total psycho, I really like Emil. He always makes the best points.)

Hyperion then comments that Stan is correct. That they have such power that why should they do what one country wants them to do and stop when they tell them to stop. What if they kept on going? Stan asks Hyperion if he is kidding. Hyperion says he is just talking hypothetically. (Yeah, riiiiight.) Emil comments about what is the point of world domination. Once you have conquered the world, then what do you do?

At this point, Inertia decides to leave and get some fresh air. Inertia goes outside and starts talking with the moon. Stan then comes out and asks Edith if she is ok. Inertia says that she is fine. Stan then leaves her alone to her conversation with the moon.

We then flashback to Inertia as a little girl. She is sitting with her mother who is nice and loving. Edith’s father comes home. He is a mean ultra religious person. He tells Edith that her powers are sinful. That her powers are the very manifestation of her willful disobedience. Inertia’s mom says that their daughter has great strength and resilience. Charles responds that those are attributes for a boy not a girl. (Oh for the love of god! C’mon. Not only is he ultra religious and therefore obviously narrow minded and mean, but he is also totally chauvinistic. Like there are still fathers like this? This is so grossly stereotypical.) Charles continues that Edith must turn away from her sinful nature and never let anyone see her powers. Charles then pimp slaps his wife. (Oh, of course. I was just waiting for this to happen.) Charles claims that their daughter’s disobedience and sin always started with his wife. That every time Edith does not suppress her sinful nature then Charles will bitch slap his wife. (Logically.) Edith then tells her mom that she will never let anyone see what she can do. That her father will never hurt her mom again. (Ok, well there is only one more hackneyed action this father is going to do. You know what I’m talking about. Let’s see if it happens.)

We then cut to Edith who is now a teenage girl and pretty hot. Some boys in her class pass a note about what a hot slut she is. The boys follow Edith on her way home and call her a slut. Then, logically, the three boys gang rape Edith. Edith takes it because of her promise to her mom to never show or use her powers. (Or maybe she liked it! That little minx. I know joking about rape is wrong, but this entire storyline is so terribly over the top and hackneyed that I just have to take a couple of shots at it.)

We then cut to Edith in a hospital in a catatonic state due to the rape. Charles says his daughter is sinful and probably enjoyed it. That she is pretending about being catatonic in order to elicit sympathy to avoid paying the price for her sinful behavior. (Oh c’mon. This father is so over the top that he is totally unbelievable.) Charles calls his daughter wicked and sinful one more time (Because he has only used those words like eighty million times in the past couple of pages. I get it already Straczynski. Stop beating me over the head with it.)

We then cut to Edith in bed at her home. Her mom calls Edith’s dad and is told that he left right after the youth ministry class tonight. That he said he was giving Mary Jensen a ride home. (All right, get ready, here it comes.) Edith’s mom then drives to some country house and opens the door. Inside is her husband, Charles, having S-E-X with Mary Jensen. (HA! I knew it! What I said earlier actually did happen! We have a trifecta of clichéd and stereotypical actions of an ultra religious white male!) The mom storms off to her car. Charles leans into the window and tries to get her to stop. During the struggle for the steering wheel, the car suddenly spins around and falls off the side of the mountain road. The car plummets and then explodes. Charles’ wife is dead.

We then cut back to present time with Edith looking at the moon. She says that she found them. Found them all. (I guess she means her father and Mary Jensen.) We then see a panel with Edith walking away from a burning house. End of issue.

The Good: Well, Squadron Supreme #4 started off great. I really thought that JMS was going to deliver a nice rebound issue from the disaster of issue #3. The first 10 pages were very good and quite entertaining. I love seeing Squadron Supreme in action. I liked how JMS distinguished between the joyless approach that most of the members took in their duty contrasted with Power Princess happily taking out enemy soldiers and Emil Burbank who was even more psychotic and twisted than Power Princess.

The scene with Emil Burbank taking out ruthlessly killing the incapacitated enemy soldiers was excellent. And then Emil takes it even further by killing the American soldier with him who disagreed with his “hobby.” Burbank is so deliciously twisted. I absolutely love his character. He is so repulsive and captivating at the same time. And what is even better is that JMS even gets you agreeing with Burbank with much of what he says. Even though he is twisted, he is still a genius and can logically explain almost anything.

The scene with the Squadron Supreme back in there barracks was also well done. Again, Emil is the man who believes he has an answer to everything in the universe. I like the hypothetical put forth by Hyperion about what if they just did their own thing and simply took over the world. This has to be a manifestation of the voices that were in Power Princess that she put into Doctor Spectrum who in turn put them into Hyperion in the last issue. Now, this is an interesting storyline that I curious as to where JMS is going to go with it.

I love Gary Frank’s artwork. It is perfect for this title and fits the general mood of JMS’ story. Frank draws excellent facial expressions and it really helps to convey the emotions of the various characters. Frank’s artwork makes JMS’ storyline even better. Plus, Frank’s art makes Squadron Supreme a nice comic book to look at. The best panel was the one page splash shot in the beginning of the comic where the Squadron Supreme was walking across the desert to the engage the enemy army.

The Bad: Man, as good as the first 10 pages were, the remaining 13 pages were just garbage. I have two major complaints with the remainder of Squadron Supreme #4. 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 clichéd 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.

Ok, other than being terribly written and horridly uncreative and over the top, I have a second major complaint with the remaining 13 pages of Squadron Supreme. That would be that it is far too early in this title’s run to waste over half an issue on an origin story. I have no problem with a good and well written origin story, but it has to be properly placed. One shot origin stories should be placed in between large story arcs to serve as a breather for the reader. You do not burn an issue on an origin story in just the fourth issue of a title! The first issue of Squadron Supreme was spent introducing the team and unveiling them. We then have the second issue which was the first issue that actually started getting the storyline rolling. We then have a third issue that basically advanced zero plotlines and then JMS follows it up with an issue that is dominated by an origin story? That is amazingly horrid pacing and plotting by JMS.

And on top of all that, is it really necessary to give the lesbian character a back-story where she is raped and has a chauvinist for a father who beats his wife? Geez, can’t Inertia just be a lesbian because she digs chicks rather than because she hates men?

Other than these mysterious voices in the head of Power Princess that she is spreading to Doctor Spectrum and Hyperion, JMS has not created any other plotlines. Nor has he advanced a single plotline. As a matter of fact, other than a fun fight scene, absolutely ZERO plotlines were created or advanced in Squadron Supreme #4. And that comes on the heels of issue #3 that also failed to create or advance a single plotline. JMS really has this title floundering like a rudderless ship.

Overall: After a great start in the first two issues, Squadron Supreme is doing a complete and total crash and burn. I have no clue where JMS is going with this title. Nor do I know if I want to even bother to keep getting this title. I give all new titles 6 issues to hook me. JMS better get his butt in gear and crank out two great issues if he wants me to spend my hard earned money on Squadron Supreme. I know I initially recommended Squadron Supreme. I take that recommendation back. There are so many better titles out there worth your money.

1 thought on “Comic Book Review: Squadron Supreme #4

  1. Agreed.

    I get the impression JMS had a ball-plan for these issues and then hastily rewrote them when the title shifted to mainstream (or Knights) Marvel from MAX.

    Sigh, and Supreme Power was such a such a kick-ass book.

    I don’t hold much hope with Gary Frank moving off the book, and Deodato taking up as artist. It’s like Quesada wants this book to crash and burn.

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