October 1, 2022

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Noteworthy Issues: Heroes Reborn #4 (May, 2021)

Doctor Spectrum takes the spotlight alien races unite to hire the universe's greatest bounty hunter to bring him down.

Issue #3 of the Heroes Reborn universal rewrite, turning the Marvel Universe into a distorted version of the DC Universe, didn’t quite work so well for me as the Blur seemed to be less distinct of a character as compared to Hyperion and the setting in general.  Factor in as well that the story as a whole seemed to be about filling in the details for the Blur’s battle with the Silver Witch, a continuation of the first issue, and there didn’t seem to be much forward momentum in the main story.

But then in #4, the focus shifted to Green Lantern knock-off Doctor Spectrum, and that really made an impression on me.  Was it a good one?

Issue:  Heroes Reborn #4, May 2021

Writer:  Jason Aaron

Artists:  James Stokoe and Ed McGuinness

The Plot:  A motely group of aliens, united by the Watcher, hire the universe’s most feared bounty hunter Rocket Raccoon to bring down Doctor Spectrum.

Commentary:  The cover for this issue refers to Doctor Spectrum as “the most hated man in the heavens”.  And I gotta say, that’s fairly accurate.  Hyperion, as a character, seems to represent the sort of American who just thinks everything went well in the past and the problems of the past are just something to paper over and forget about.  He seemed more naive than evil.  The Blur, maybe representing American consumerism, was mostly just unfocused with the world around him.  Heck, he didn’t seem that bad a guy.  But then there’s Doctor Spectrum, and he seems to embody every ugly stereotype that exists about the American abroad.  Yes, he has the power prism and can travel into space to fight evil.  But he has nothing good to say about any alien races, acting in the most jingoistic manner possible at all times, even to the point where he takes a subdued Thanos to Knowhere, here a prison for his worst enemies.  In the normal Marvel Universe, Knowhere is the head of a dead Celestial that acts as a sort of trading post for the Guardians of the Galaxy.  Here, Knowhere is the head of a Celestial that Doctor Spectrum personally decapitated to show the space gods that there’s only one god, and he’s American.

Yes, Spectrum spends most of his inner monologue decrying all the alien races out there as degenerates that are only good for beating down and leaving for dead.  He’s ruthless, violent, and sees all of space as America’s personal playground that the aliens just haven’t figured out yet.  He even gets a little testy when he hears rumors the mysterious nation of Wakanda might have sent ships out there because there’s no way a country like Wakanda can do something like that.

On the other side is Rocket.  If this is Marvel recast as DC, Rocket appears to be something like Lobo.  He’s well-armed, violent, and his best buddy Groot is his gun.  Sort of.  There seems to be two Groots, and the Groot gun shoots mini-Groot bullets.  Much of the issue concerns the throw-down between Rocket and Spectrum, and while Rocket can’t quite beat Spectrum–Spectrum defeated Thanos with his “infinity rings” in a single splash panel, so a genetically modified raccoon probably isn’t much of a match–the issue does contain some hints as well to the current status of the Black Panther and updates the reader on the infant (now toddler) Starbrand.  And, in the final pages, a really big hint as to what the heck happened to change the universe to Phil Coulson’s liking.

Essentially, this is the issue that really made me want to see the Squadron fall.  Hyperion is too self-righteous, but he at least seems to show some general regrets for when he has to hurt people even if he is more inclined towards force than most heroes, but the Blur was just hyper.  Spectrum comes across more like a villain than any hero, all while waving the American flag to justify his actions.

As for the side issues, they were essentially a Marvelized version of the Secret Society of Supervillains and the Teen Titans.  In the former, Baron Zemo leads a team that includes Black Widow, Hawkeye, Scott Lang’s Fireant, Sabertooth, and a “Soviet Agent” against a Squadron base, eliminating a few of the lesser-known members of the team while putting the hurt on some others until Blur and Nighthawk show up.  In the latter, Sam Alexander, Kamala Kahn, and Miles Morales are basically the kid sidekicks to Squadron members Dr. Spectrum, Power Princess, and Nighthawk…except Nighthawk doesn’t like Miles wearing the late Sam Wilson’s “Falcon” costume.  Enter Deadpool, whose power to see through the fourth wall actually allows him to correct the kids by pointing out how much needless violence and destruction of property follow the Squadron whenever they go into the field.  Like most tie-ins, these are more or less forgettable, but the main story managed to pull me back a bit.

Grade:  B+

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