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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 260

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the comics posted so far!

Today we take a look at the lesser-known SEQUEL to Mark Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme, the 80-page graphic novel Squadron Supreme: Death of a Universe, by Gruenwald, Paul Ryan and Al Williamson.


I’ll try to avoid as much spoilers for the ending of the original Squadron Supreme mini-series as possible, but suffice it to say, some people did not make it out of the first series alive. In any event, whatever happened at the end of THAT series it is overshadowed by the fact that the heroes of this Earth learn that the Earth only had twelve hours to live!!!

The rest of the volume is a somber examination of just how the heroes of the world would react to something like this – as you might imagine, they would do pretty much ANYthing they could, including bringing in former enemies to help.

Here’s a great extended sequence between Hyperion, the Doctor Doom-esque villain Master Menace and the time traveling Scarlet Centurion (Centurion is the framing sequence for the story – he is the one who first learns that the world of the past, the world of his hated enemies, the Squadron Supreme, is to be destroyed on this day in the past).

Pretty heady stuff, huh?

Later on, here is the Squadron trying to stop the entity (notice that things aren’t going so well)…

This is a very dark work by Gruenwald, Ryan and Williamson but it is also a well-told tale that really explores what it could be like to experience the very end of all existence.

With the high regard most folks seem to have for Squadron Supreme the maxi-series, I’m a bit surprised that there is not as much attention paid to the sequel – it’s a good work and, in a lot of ways, an even tighter story than the original maxi-series (this is the series that ultimately led to the Squadron Supreme becoming supporting characters in Mark Gruenwald’s Quasar series).


The improved coloring and Al Williamson’s inks really do wonders for Paul Ryan’s pencil’s here.

To be honest, until you mentioned it the other day, I didn’t even KNOW there was a sequel.

It’s reprinted in the forthcoming Hardcover



Hyperion! Power Princess! Dr. Spectrum! The Whizzer! Nighthawk! What happens when the greatest heroes of an alternate world institute the Utopia Project, vowing to abolish war and crime, to eliminate poverty and hunger, and to cure death itself! Can they possibly succeed? And when do heroes stop being heroes? Mark Gruenwald explores the ethics of heroism in his best-known story. Guest-starring Captain America and featuring the end of a world at the hands of the Scarlet Centurion!


Squadron Supreme (1985) #1-12, Captain America (1968) #314, Squadron Supreme: Death of a Universe

Not to stretch a metaphor too far, but just as Squadron Supreme is an analogue of the Justice League, this story in a way can be seen as Gruenwald’s version of Crisis on Infinite Earths. Granted, it’s just one graphic novel and not a giant multi-part crossover, but the whole universe destroying menace is thematically similar and I have an unsubstantiated feeling that isn’t coincidental.

While the comic was well-constructed, I found Death of a Universe a bit too repetitive and depressing for my tastes. I know, it’s shocking that a comic called Death of a Universe was morbid. Still, by the twenty-fifth failed plan, I just wanted it to end.

I thought that was the entire charm of the story – sometimes, no one wins.

I thought it was a good setup that allowed Gruenwald to mix those characters into the Quasar series.

As for Paul Ryan…when he came into the SS series, it raised the level of storytelling by a quantum leap, in my opinion. Bob Hall is a very competent draftsman, but Paul Ryan did really incredible work on his issues. I liked Sam De La Rosa’s inks in the series, but you really got something special with Al Williamson’s inks in DOAU. I used to not appreciate Janice Chiang’s letterwork, but it is actually part of the greater whole – her placement of word balloons and sound effects, whether mandated by Gruenwald and/or Ryan, or just by happenstance; it’s really well done. Just see above; the scene with Inertia is but one example.

I won’t spoil the series either…but I can’t help but to end this with three words: Dr. Thomas Lightner.

Gruenwald was the man. He threw just about everything in his Quasar series by the time it was over.
Really miss his stuff.

Tornado Ninja Fan

September 19, 2010 at 12:45 am

Starnage that they don’t include Squadron Supreme: New World Order. The story of the SS returning to their Earth. (not written by Gruenwald, but it’s a good sequel exploring some loose threads from the end of the mini)

Starnage that they don’t include Squadron Supreme: New World Order. The story of the SS returning to their Earth. (not written by Gruenwald, but it’s a good sequel exploring some loose threads from the end of the mini)

I suspect solely because it’s not written by Gruenwald!

I’ve heard of this GN, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a copy of it. I loved Squadron Supreme, so I would definitely pick this up if I ever saw it. Before this hardcover that’s coming out that apparently will have this in it, has this ever been reprinted or re-released?

For anyone with a subscription to the Marvel Digital Comics library, Death of a Universe is available online, as well (along with the original SS miniseries).

This post inspired me to reread… it’s good stuff, albeit depressing. The coda with the Centurion is rather wonderful.

Has all of Mark Gruenwald’s work had body count or severe violence?
I appreciate Squadron Supreme and the sequel, but all the death did become depressing.
I know his Spider-Woman work was a bit dark and excessive. Spider-Woman versus Nekra in #16 ends with Spider-Woman literally slamming Nekra’s head into the floor until she stops moving.
Was his Captain America run equally dark? What other works did he have long runs on?

Good choice, Brian. You covered two of the moments that make this graphic novel chilling.

Toughen up, people. SQUADRON SUPREME isn’t any darker than WATCHMEN.

This series was dark only because Gruenwald could play with and change the characters–unlike the rest of the MU. Most of his work is (ultimately) uplifting in the Stan Lee/Roy Thomas/Jim Shooter mold.

His longest runs include CAPTAIN AMERICA, QUASAR, and D.P. 7. The last probably ranks with SQUADRON SUPREME as his best work.

More comics that deserve some love in this blog:

Iron Fist [original series]
Nathaniel Dusk
Detectives Inc.
Alien Legion
Sisterhood of Steel
Six from Sirius
Star Trek: Debt of Honor
Superman: Secret Identity

And anything by Jose Garcia-Lopez, who should be recognized as one of the all-time greats along with Neal Adams, George Perez, and John Byrne.

I miss this era of Paul Ryan’s art. And I love Janice Chiang’s lettering. Haven’t seen it in any recent comics; I guess she retired.

[…] Squadron Supreme: Death of a Universe, art by Paul Ryan and Al Williamson. Source: Comic Book Resources. Brian Cronin was obviously struck by the same scene as […]

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