February 9, 2023

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Noteworthy Issues: Heroes Return #1 (June, 2021)

The Avengers return, and the Squadron Supreme face some unwelcome truths.

Alright.  Finally, the Squadron Supreme take on the Avengers.  Who will triumph?

And who is the real villain here?

Issue:  Heroes Return #1, June 2021

Writer:  Jason Aaron

Artist:  Ed McGuinness

The Plot:  A team of Avengers has reassembled to take on the Squadron Supreme and the power behind them.

Commentary:  Well, if I wanted a fight between the Avengers and the Squadron Supreme, I got it here.  Given how unstoppable the Squadron was made out to be, that three of the five went down rather definitively and no real explanation is given as to how Blade and only Blade remembered the world before the change is never really given, it is somewhat disappointing how easily the Avengers, for the most part, seem to prevail.  However, there’s a bearded Captain America, Blade, Black Panther, Thor, Echo/Phoenix, and a juvenile Starbrand to take on the Squadron and the Power-Behind-The-Scenes, President Phil Coulson.

I would sure like to know when Coulson became a bad guy.  But at least this issue explained how he did it:  Mephisto gave him a demonic version of the Cosmic Cube, something to create order from the chaos that comes with superheroes.  And since he seems to be the only one who knows that…wait, is he?

How much do the other Avengers, besides Blade, remember of the previous world?  Thor seems to have his full memory back.  Echo, thanks to the Phoenix, always knew.  Starbrand is maybe five years old at most.  But what about Cap and T’Challa?

Or Carol Danvers for that matter since she, as an Air Force pilot, is escorting President Coulson’s flying car to Wakanda and even uses her wing to clip Coulson’s hand at a crucial moment.

Still, the Squadron for the most part had it coming.  The Blur might have been the most harmless of the five of them mostly because he couldn’t stay focused, and the Panther actually took him out without too much trouble.  Dr. Spectrum was a full-on nationalist of the ugliest variety, and seeing the small Starbrand stomp him into paste as payback for Rocket was really nice.  Princess Zarda just wants to fight, but against Echo’s martial arts skills, then combined with Starbrand’s cosmic power, and she’s just as much toast as the other three.  Nighthawk alone seems to fairing well against Blade, possibly because he says he eliminated the world’s vampires, and Thor and Hyperion seem to be rather evenly matched.  Cap takes the fight directly to Coulson, saying he recognizes a Cosmic Cube when he sees one, and Coulson claims he did it all to keep the world orderly.  Heck, that’s what the Squadron believe too, and once the world is reverted back, with Coulson dragged to Hell by Mephisto, Blade alone seems to remember that other world of the Avengers while the Squadron are a different story.  The three defeated ones are seen as delusions by lab types who tell the Blur he has no belly button (so, he’s a clone of some kind?), Hyperion is on his own confused, and Nighthawk is largely determined to return the world to the order he oversaw in the alternate world even if he has to do it by himself.  The only proof to the rest of the Avengers that something happened is Starbrand is now a lot older than she used to be.

So, what to make of all this…I suppose the first thing to wonder is whether or not the Squadron did create a more orderly world.  That is arguably true, only it also appears to be a far more destructive world as well.  The Squadron made large scale messes every time they asserted “order,” and there were more than a few recognizable and beloved heroes killed off during the course of that other universe’s existence.  Heck, Coulson took out Reed Richards, one other guy that may have been Ben Grimm, and Peter Parker just in the opening pages of this issue for the crime of annoying him or something.  But, in the end, what did this accomplish?  Like many crossovers, not much.  True, seeing the alternate reality was largely fun.  The Squadron had members that I would really love to hate.  And in the end, they lost in a way that sets up future storylines for Aaron’s Avengers run.  From there, well…it may be interesting to see what comes next, but this was a fun diversion at most.

Grade:  C+

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