WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Avengers #700, by Jason Aaron, David Marquez, Ed McGuinness, Frazer Irving, Adam Kubert, Andrea Sorrentino, Justin Ponsor, Erick Arciniega, Matthew Wilson, Giada Marchisio and VC's Cory Petit, out now.
The final page of the main story within Avengers #700 re-introduces a major superhero team into the Marvel Universe, one that threatens the future of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Worst of all, they’re on the payroll of the United States Government and under the direct control of General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross.
Say hello to the Squadron Supreme of America.
For a group of characters that started life as a playful homage to DC’s Justice League, the Squadron Supreme have had a surprisingly long-lasting appeal, not to mention a complicated history. The concept was first introduced in Avengers #69-70 as the Squadron Sinister, where the faux-Justice League was established as villainous in order to present readers with a tongue-in-cheek fight between Marvel’s greatest superteam and DC’s premier heroes. The concept evolved further still in Avengers #85-86 when the Squadron Supreme showed up as the heroic counterparts of Sinister Supreme, working alongside the Avengers to overcome the mutant Brain Child.
Created by Roy Thomas and John Buscema, the Squadron Supreme initially consisted of analogs for various Justice League members. Hyperion was Superman, Nighthawk was Batman, Power Princess was Wonder Woman, Whizzer was the Flash, Doctor Spectrum was Green Lantern, and so on. The group's line-up would change multiple times over the years, first in the initial maxi-series from late 1985 by Mark Gruenwald, Bob Hall, Paul Ryan and Buscema, to their more recent 2015 outing, by James Robinson and Leonard Kirk. The latter team, however, while made up of characters with the same names, is a different version than the one that initially appeared in the Marvel Universe, and there’s evidence that this new team from Avengers #700 might be yet another incarnation altogether.
The original team encountered by the Avengers were from Earth 712, when Vision, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch accidentally ended up on their world. The 2015 team, however, are a byproduct of the epic “Time Runs Out” storyline, which depicted the collapse of the multiverse leading to Secret Wars. Each member of that new Squadron Supreme was from a different, now destroyed universe, making them a team of refugees that found a home on Earth 616. The team came together in the 12-issue Squadron Supreme series, but by the end, they all went their separate ways.
The current team of Avengers is led by Black Panther, and has separated itself from the U.S. Government. General Ross isn’t happy about America not having a team of superheroes it can call its own, especially when Russia’s Winter Guard has been reestablished, and Namor is currently leading an Atlantean team called the Defenders of the Deep. Ross, therefore, takes matters into his own hands, recruiting a previously-thought-deceased Phil Coulson to assemble a new team the government can claim as its own.
By the end of Avengers #700, Coulson has introduced General Ross to the Squadron Supreme of America, a new name for the team, but one that's entirely fitting given the circumstances (not to mention being another homage to the Justice League of America). Hyperion, Power Princess, Nighthawk, Whizzer and Doctor Spectrum are all here, but there are subtle differences from what we’ve seen of them previously. For one, there are minor costume changes throughout the team, including Hyperion and Whizzer, and Nighthawk is Black, like his most recent, now-deceased Marvel incarnation. Then there’s the fact that Coulson introduces them as the country’s “newest and greatest heroes,” implying that this is not a team that we’ve seen before.
Characters like Hyperion and Nighthawk have been fairly prominent figures in the Marvel Universe over the last few years, so if this were the same versions (ignoring the fact that Nighthawk is technically dead, and Power Princess turned heel) they’d hardly be new. Instead, then, this may be a brand new team of individuals dressed like the Squadron Supreme, they could be yet another group pulled from another universe, or they could be something else entirely. Either way, a group of individuals designed to be analogs of the Justice League and under the direct control of the United States Government is bound to be a significant threat to the Avengers.
KEEP READING: Avengers #700 Sets Up the Future of the Marvel Universe