Review by Karl Verhoven
The Squadron Supreme originated as pastiches of DC’s Justice League, and while sometimes to a lesser extent, they’ve always remained that way. Kyle Richmond, Nighthawk, is the supremely toned athlete with a brilliant deductive mind. This version is also African American, and sees himself as the protector of Chicago’s African American community. However, as characterised by J. Michael Straczynski in Supreme Power he’s also exceptionally bigoted, with a huge attitude when it comes to any white people. His philosophy is presented as twisted and hateful, the opposite side of the coin to the tattooed Aryan who murdered his parents.
Daniel Way’s task was to produce a story that slipped between Supreme Power: High Command and Squadron Supreme: Before the War, but without significantly impacting on Nighthawk’s continuity or character. It seems at first as if Way is taking the obvious route. Nighthawk in this incarnation is a little further removed than usual from Batman, so who should his arch-enemy be? When a clown appears in the final pages of the opening chapter the signs don’t look good, but Way is better than that. Throughout the first half of the story we see Nighthawk going about his business, we see the Chicago drug addicts and we see the Mayor and his advisors. Throw in a maniac with a mission and all hell breaks loose. “What about when the system doesn’t work?”, asks Nighthawk at the end of the first chapter, “What about the monsters who slip between the cracks?”. He’s about to find out.
Steve Dillon’s an ideal artist for this. The script calls for abominable events, this being published under Marvel’s Max imprint, but while the blood flows and the bullets fly, Dillon draws it in a palatable fashion. He also differentiates the cast, there’s never a moment when it’s unclear what’s happening, and his storytelling choices are great. There’s an extremely chilling piece of foreshadowing set in a hospital, and this is achieved by the glimpse of a pair of distinctive shoes seen in the gap between the bottom of a curtain and the floor.
Definitively underlining this isn’t Batman after all, the ending is superb. So is the beginning, actually, as Nighthawk deals with a tosser with a spray can. Way could have taken the easy route the whole way, instead his story is better than the accompanying Hyperion graphic novel, chilling and memorable.