Once upon a time, Marvel thought it’d be a fun idea to basically copy DC Comics’ Justice League. That’s how we got the Squadron Supreme. This team has had a rather dark and tumultuous history, but AVENGERS #18 looks to change that. Well, most of it, anyway.

Writer Jason Aaron gets incredibly cheeky with AVENGERS #18, which is absolutely a good thing. He digs into the idea of the Squadron being a copycat Justice League and has so much fun doing it. Plus, on top of that, this acts as a natural tie-in to his current event book, WAR OF THE REALMS.

Artist Ed McGuinness joins Aaron this time around, making a return to AVENGERS in spectacular fashion. Each of McGuinness’ pages shine with exquisite detail, especially thanks to the addition of Mark Morales’ colors.

The New Squadron Supreme of America

Back in AVENGERS #10, we got our first glimpse at Marvel’s newest iteration of the Squadron Supreme (of America). AVENGERS #18 finally delivers some Squadron action. We get quick glimpses into the lives of each member of the Squadron. Mark Milton holds down a miserable teaching job. Kyle Richmond maintains a powerless position on the congress. Zarda Shelton occupies her time with boxing. Stanley Stewart and Joseph Ledger have equally boring lives.

These seemingly dull characters come together to form the Squadron Supreme: Hyperion, Nighthawk, Power Princess, the Blur, and Doctor Spectrum. Never was there a finer Justice League copycat. The team’s first mission is to battle against the frost giants currently invading North America (or, more specifically, the United States).

AVENGERS #18
AVENGERS #18 page 3. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

On the surface, this new Squadron seems like a wonderful idea. They’re hilariously overpowered, and they all seem to have good, shining personalities. Aaron quickly turns the table, though, and the story turns into something fans of the old SUPREME POWER books might find familiar. The government has brainwashed each member to live a specific lifestyle. What was at first a silly story turns grim rather quickly.

This entire operation is run by Phil Coulson, former superhero fanatic turned cynic thanks to the events of SECRET EMPIRE. As for how Coulson is alive and is now running his own superhero team, there’s a particularly fiendish figure behind all of this. You might have an idea of who this is, but I’ll let you guys figure that out on your own.

AVENGERS #18 Beautifully Reimagines the Squadron Supreme

I’ve never read any Squadron Supreme titles. I only knew they were basically a rip-off of the Justice League, which sounded like good fun to me. I’m glad to see Jason Aaron playing up that angle of the Squadron in AVENGERS #18. It’s hysterical how cheeky he gets with this portrayal of the team.

Hyperion’s life outside his super heroics is pointedly dull, but he’s valiant and noble like Superman. Nighthawk’s paranoia and tunnel-vision focus practically define him, so he acts and sounds exactly like Batman might. Power Princess is spunky and aggressive, more so than Wonder Woman. The Blur moves so fast, he only speaks in run-on sentences. Doctor Spectrum is humorously pious in his U.S. pride.

AVENGERS #18
AVENGERS #18 page 16. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Aaron injects so much character into each member of the Squadron in such a short period of time. And when he delves into the whole brainwashing aspects of their characters, the whole dynamic of AVENGERS #18 shifts for the better. It’s surprisingly dark at times; Blur sits in front of a TV screen all day CLOCKWORK ORANGE style. Doctor Spectrum’s alter ego is tricked into thinking he has a say in the team, but really, Coulson has him brainwashed on a whole other level.

It’s clear how much fun Aaron had writing AVENGERS #18. He embraces the copycat aspects of the Squadron and blows them up with tremendous results. They feel formidable and valiant, despite their nasty underbelly. And that’s to say nothing of the guy who’s really pulling the strings, who we’ll hopefully see more of later down the line.

The Squadron Has Never Looked Better

Ed McGuinness and Mark Morales bring their A-game in AVENGERS #18. Typically, I’m pretty back-and-forth with McGuinness’ style. Not this time around.

Much like Aaron plays into the aspects of the Squadron acting and feeling like DC copycats, McGuinness easily makes them look the part. If you didn’t know any better, you’d say Power Princess is, in fact, Wonder Woman, just wearing black instead of red and blue.

McGuinness also introduces a dichotomous emotional spectrum to AVENGERS #18. Though the Squadron seems noble and heroic, they always tend to look brooding and aggressively stoic. Their demeanor, though shining on the outside, feels depressing, given what we know about their… let’s call it manufacturing. Everything looks forced for these characters. The fact that these heroes never really look cheerful points to McGuinness’ ability to adeptly read into Aaron’s script.

AVENGERS #18
AVENGERS #18 page 19. Courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

On top of all that, we get some outstanding action sequences. Seeing Nighthawk systematically tear apart frost giants is surprisingly satisfying. In this way, we know this team isn’t like the Justice League; they’re all killers. Seeing how they all go about it so differently, and how McGuinness captures all of this, speaks to how powerful this new team is. And then, of course, when you throw Mark Morales’ colors into the mix, you get a beautiful mix of pages, some flashy, and others much, much less so.

Needless to say, AVENGERS #18 is probably one of McGuinness and Morales’ best issues yet.

What Comes Next for the Squadron?

For now, the Squadron is able to push back the invading frost giants into Canada. Of course, they don’t really care if the invaders take the lands up north. They only care about America. How they act moving forward, and whether they’re able to clinch more victories, is something I’m eager to see.

Aaron’s introduction to this new Squadron Supreme is a complete success. I was skeptical at first, but all my doubts have been put to rest. On the surface, this spritely team might fill you with hope, but when you dig deep into their vile underbelly, you’re forced to question just how valiant Coulson’s new team really is.

McGuinness and Morales completely nail AVENGERS #18. They translate the more nuanced aspects of Aaron’s script perfectly, while also adding their own flair in the explosive action sequences. Again, this is one of their best AVENGERS issues yet.

I’m very excited to see where Aaron takes the new Squadron Supreme next. I’m eagerly anticipating their inevitable fight against the Avengers.

AVENGERS #18 by Jason Aaron, Ed McGuinness, and Mark Morales
Art
Characterization
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Summary
AVENGERS #18 is a complete success. Jason Aaron brilliantly introduces us to the new Squadron Supreme of America, smartly delves into all of the characters, and continues to move his story forward, all while tying in to WAR OF THE REALMS. McGuinness and Morales completely nail the artistic side of things.
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A Harrowing Introduction

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