As we dive into the penultimate issue of “Squadron Supreme,” I kind of regret not keeping a running total of Squadron members who left the team, either by death or choice. But turns out, I didn’t need to. Four members have resigned for moral reasons. Four members, including two rehabilitated (mechanically) villains, have died. And that’s not even counting folks like Zarda’s husband or Hyperion’s dupe. But without going too much into the issue already, it’s brushed off as the cost of their new Utopia. The whole series has been a series of morally complicated decisions that seem to backfire almost immediately, with the more long term ramifications teased.
Every step they’ve taken has been precarious, even when it seems like things are close to working out in the end. But it was always clear there wouldn’t be a happy ending. And reading the issue between the rest of the series and the end, it certainly doesn’t seem like that will change. That’s not to say there aren’t a few surprises though.
Written by Mark Gruenwald
Pencils by Paul Ryan
Inks by Sam De La Rosa
Colors by Max Scheele
Letters by Janice Chiang
Nighthawk’s agents put his plan into motion, stealing the plans for the B-Mod.
Before we dive into the issue proper, I would like to direct everyone to page ten (eleven if you’re reading on Marvel Unlimited… they count the cover)-panel two, and give a special acknowledgement to their use of the word “Yaybo.” I’ve only seen that word used in two other places: the original Silver Age “X-Men,” and the Jay & Miles episode referencing it. Three if you count the shirt they made.
We open with a training session. The new members of the Squadron are taking on the current in a desert game of capture the flag. And by “new members,” I mean the double agents Nighthawk sent to report back on the team. They’re sworn in as new members shortly after, though their thought bubbles let us in on how uncomfortable it makes them. And that’s that. They are officially members of the Squadron Supreme. It’s as these new members are sworn in that we get the “Things are alright, actually” scene. Zarda laments all the friends they’ve lost along the way, while the still legally blind Hyperion reassures her it’s all worth it. There would always have been a cost to this new Utopia, but it would ultimately be worth it. This is the superhero dictator equivalent of saying “I’ll be right back” in a horror movie. But it does speak to how clueless Hyperion has been this whole time. Especially how quickly the opposing plan is put into motion.
New member Moonglow uses her illusion powers to slip by unnoticed, using information learned from Ape X to steal the schematics of the B-Mod. She then transfers them over the phone lines to Nighthawk and Master Menace. Because there is truly no device more evil than dial-up internet. She even manages to navigate around the sentient super genius gorilla, who’s name I literally just now realized is a pun, because she’s too busy with her Tom Thumb Bot. The plan goes off almost without a hitch. The exception being a single security camera that picks up Moonglow. Ape X happens to see this, which leads into my favorite part of the issue. Ape X is caught in a logic loop. She obviously can’t abide this crime taking place. But the parameters of her B-Modding prevent her from taking action against a member of the Squadron Supreme. And Moonglow was just sworn in. One of the most interesting parts of the series for me has been how aware the Institute members are of their own brainwashing, how they can sometimes work around it, and how they can’t. Ape X has a meltdown, which her teammates dismiss as grief. Hyperion isn’t the only clueless one, you see. They don’t call them the Squadron Observant.
But Nighthawk has the blueprints. Him and Menace get to work creating an anti-B-Mod, which undoes the brainwashing of the original machine. And they get straight to work, with Lamprey as their first test subject. And it works. They abduct the other villains until the staunchly pro-B-Mod Blue Eagle arrives to save the day. This is where things get tricky and Nighthawk learns that the enemy of your enemy isn’t always your friend. Menace tells them to put Eagle through the machine. Not only can it undo brainwashing, it can brainwash anyone for evil. In his desperation, Nighthawk agrees, despite it meaning him using the same wildly unethical means. In a panic, he made the same decision that confirmed him turning away from his teammates in the beginning. Probably doesn’t help he’s working with a guy named Master Menace. But it’s one more more dilemma in a series with no shortage of them.
Now, let’s see how they wrap it all up.