Squadron Supreme II #1
Written by: Howard Chaykin
Art by: Marco Turini
From: Marvel Comics
It's been about a year since the Squadron Supreme title, originally started by J. Michael Straczynski and Gary Frank last saw publication. In the interim readers were treated to a brawl-for-it-all when the Ultimate Universe collided with the Supremeverse in the Ultimate Power mini-series. This week, Marvel attempts to revive the property with a new Squadron Supreme series with Howard Chaykin and Marco Turini giving the title a new start while staying faithful to what has come before.
Opening with a succinct recap of where the story is picking-up (5 years after the battle between the Ultimates and the Squadron Supreme) Chaykin is quick to established the whereabouts of various key players, including Arcana (currently using her powers to create religious miracles for money), Emil Burbank (helping to rebuild Americas space faring capabilities) and Nick Fury (from the Ultimate Universe - currently a man with a plan, and that is all). In addition to our main players we get an introduction to a new character that seems unaware of her split personality with a violent streak. Meanwhile, the people of America have a new set of heroes to glorify as four individuals are sent to the moon on a mission to re-establish humanity's craving to explore the vastness of space and move on from the major battle that almost destroyed their world.
Having rarely read anything written by Howard Chaykin prior to this, it was a pleasant surprise to see him establish the voices of the characters with little effort. As the issue progresses Chaykin breathes new life into the Squadron Supreme concept by embracing prior events and twisting them into a story that should make for some interesting reading going forward.
Like most first issues, this is more set-up than action. Yet, even with the minimal action found, Chaykin does manage to shakes things up a bit as he pits Nick Fury and Emil Burbank against a government that is desperately trying to keep them unaware of some very important secrets. Also, by shifting the focus of the title back to a more grounded level Chaykin gives the title the "real world" feeling that was sorely lacking during Ultimate Power.
To expand on the story without a lot of unnecessary captions, Chaykin's clever use of a tried and true framing device, news reports, gives readers updates throughout the story that serve a two-fold mission. The news breaks allow Chaykin to establish the questions that are on the minds of the general public while giving the readers questions to ponder as the story moves forward. One of the biggest questions being asked this issue pertains to the whereabouts of America's newest heroes; the four astronauts returned from space weeks ago, who strangely have yet to make any public appearances.
As the story progresses, Chaykin momentarily shifts the focus of the story to another new character, who claims to have fought and died “a thousand times” to maintain America's greatness. With two new confirmed super-powers hitting the scene, Fury and Emil begin to enact their plan that includes finding the four missing astronauts. What they are not expecting though, is the condition of these heroes or the resulting repercussions of their unexpected discovery.
Assisting on art is Marvel newcomer Marco Turini who does a commendable job with this issue. There are some moments that detract from the story, but the overall execution works visually. One of the major problems concerns facial consistency - even though characters were easily identifiable once they were established it was odd that they seemed to have very little similarity to the characters as they originally appeared. Also, Fury needs to maintain a consistent look and attitude, which seemed to be lacking throughout the issue.
Another major distraction that kept emerging was the use of perspective, or in this case a lack of perspective. Automobiles and SUV's that should be bigger than the characters appear to be no more than children’s play things as individuals seem to tower above them. There is very little work done spatially to identify the difference between background and foreground as it seems that every panel comes across as a flat two-dimensional image, which I realize is what comic book art is but an artist with a grasp on perspective should be able to layout a page that gives the reader a sense of scale. Where Turini does excel is in anatomy and expression, which he seems to have a better grasp on, even if at times he forgets to have characters react to events they are witnessing first hand.
All in all, there is a lot of set-up in this issue, but the way it is handled works well for the title. Chaykin is not Straczynski, but he certainly brings his own sensibilities to the title and starts to move it away from the original premise of JMS' run while incorporating what came before in an efficient manner. Art-wise the title is slightly hamstrung, but this is the first issue and there is hope that the artist will grow as there seems to be a lot of talent behind Turini’s pencils.