They’re the WORLD’S GREATEST… VILLAINS. The SQUADRON SINISTER. And they’re taking Battleworld by force in this Secret Wars tie-in for fans of crime epics like The Godfather, The Sopranos and Sons of Anarchy. But will controlling one Domain be enough for Hyperion and his gang?
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While it’s still quite early, the tie-ins to Marvel’s Secret Wars event have been, for the most part, extremely excellent. The new and creative expanse known as Battleworld presents such an amazing opportunity to tell stories that are both completely new and inherently Marvel in their scope, but all with the interesting Secret Wars spin readers expect from an event tie-in. It’s surprising to see how easily Marvel has presented these stories, and it’s a testament to the creative teams and the vast history of this publishing line.
One tiny piece of that history that comic fanboys have always had a strong opinion about is the blatant DC Comics ripoff that is the Squadron Sinister, or their 1970s (and 2003 revamped) good-guy counterparts the Squadron Supreme. The popularity of this team and these teams has waxed and waned over the decades, but the connections to the Justice League have always made these characters fun to see in the pages of a Marvel comic book, with this fun continuing into this Secret Wars tie-in.
Writer Marc Guggenheim is best known today as an Executive Producer for some of DC’s TV properties, so he was the perfect fit for a Marvel title that’s really just a DC team book with Marvel spin. Guggenheim really gets the Marvel spin, too, and this alternate version of a team from an alternate publisher truly feels like the JSA of DC’s Earth-3 (is that place even a thing anymore?), but the writer also succeeds in pulling off the Secret Wars hook that’s necessary for the series. The evil, unrest, and distrust of everything the Squadron Sinister are involved with oozes out of the story, but never feels apart from either Marvel, Secret Wars, or the characters’ roots at DC Comics. Carlos Pacheco’s art is full of emotion and style, but truly shines during the brilliantly rendered action scenes. The fights on this ish are, in a word, incredible, and worth the cover price all on its own.
There still something that feels gimmicky about both the Squadron Supreme and the Squadron Sinister that continues to make them feel like Marvel outsiders. I felt the same way about Hyperion in Hickman’s Avengers/New Avengers run, and that’s been magnified to the Nth degree with an entire series dedicated to these ripoffs. There’s simply no way that these characters are going to make it into the Marvel U proper for any extended period of time, and even if Hyperion has risen to a level of popularity that makes him a viable B-Lister, that’s as high as he’ll ever get. It takes the air out of the entire premise of even dealing with these characters just a bit.
Despite feeling unimportant in the overall scope of the Marvel Universe, Squadron Sinister is wildly entertaining comic book, full of extreme violence, evil, and mistrust wrapped around something that is both inherently Marvel and DC, with an unmistakable Secret Wars flavor. Expertly crafted writing and artwork make this ish a terrific read that you should only miss if you’re dead set against the very idea of a JL ripoff…because this series has a lot of them.