Review: Marvel's Heroes Reborn (2021)

You ever wondered how a mash-up of the DC & Marvel universes would look like? Well, you don't have to wonder any longer!

Written by Jason Aaron, Art by Ed McGuinness, Dale Keow, Frederico Vicenti, James Stokoe, Erica D'Urso & Aaron Kuder.

Marvel's Heroes Reborn is the second event of the same name, as I've talked about before. Aside from the name though, these two events don't have much in common at all. The original one was a soft reboot of some of Marvel's, then failing, properties while the current one reimagines the Marvel Universe with Marvel's pastiche of the Justice League of America, the Squadron Supreme of America, as its heroes. It's an interesting premise for an interesting event. One that does things differently than the comic book event norm. This makes it refreshing and enjoyable, but also leads to most of its problems and the premise can definitely wear thin.

Let's dive in.


It’s a day unlike any other for the Squadron Supreme of America, Hyperion, Nighthawk, Power Princess, The Blur & Dr Spectrum, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes until Dr Doom and his Masters of Doom attack the White House. While fighting the Black Skull, Nighthawk is unexpectedly confronted by the half-vampire Blade who had been searching the globe for proof. Proof that he didn’t just fall into a different universe, but that his universe has been altered to remove any trace of the Avengers. With the confirmation that he isn’t crazy, Blade sets off to reassemble the Avengers to the best of his abilities and find out what, and who has altered reality.


Nighthawk V Blade: Dawn of Shouting.

Heroes Reborn is an event that does things a bit differently in its execution. It has a singular story running throughout its eight issues (Heroes Return might have a different title, but it’s ‘Heroes Reborn #8’ in everything else) but aside from the start and end it's relegated the backup story. From #2 to #6, each issue is instead a stand-alone story of each SSA member using the ‘Masters of Doom’ White House attack as the setup. These individual stories all serve three purposes. To give us a good look into each SSA member, who they are and what makes tick, flesh out this DC/Marvel mashup of a world and drop breadcrumbs to the greater mystery.

What makes this setup work is, first and foremost, strong writing. Bar perhaps the bait and switch in terms that is Dr Spectrum’s issue each individual story is strong. Are interesting, enjoyable and engaging. The SSA are and have always been, pastiches of the JLA. There have been many in recent years to the point that the ‘evil Superman’ has become a trope. Each SSA member manages to bring enough new to the table to make them distinct even if they don’t ( and probably never will) escape their pastiche origins.

Take Hyperion for example. He manages to stay away from said Evil Superman trope by having a good heart. He only kills as a last resort and, even issues later feels bad and ashamed about it. This approach, that even while the SSA is much more ruthless and closer to villainy they’re still heroes in that they want to help people. It makes you question how much of their behaviour is due to the reality manipulation and what is actually them. It doesn’t always succeed in this and more importantly, it fails to actually follow up on this element in the final. Still, it’s a good effort that mostly succeeds.

To me, this approach is refreshing as I’ve grown weary of the standard style of comic book event. There’s only so many times you can read the ‘same’, yearly event after all. But of course, it’s not perfect. As #2 to #6 are for 90% standalone stories a reader can easily lose their connection to the series. Unlike the typical event that is full of reveals and cliff-hangers that are designed to keep the reader engaged, this one relies on its gimmick to keep the reader there. I still stand by the concept, find it interesting and appealing, but there’s no denying it wears thin in places.

The Squadron Supreme of America all finally sharing the same panel near the end of the event.

The backups is where you’ll find the event’s connecting story thread, to mostly good results. They are more consistent then each book’s main story. Unlike each issue’s main story, hey have the same art, characters and story running throughout. It’s not to say that the differing art styles are bad (though some an acquired taste) it’s just that I appreciate the backup’s consistency. Even with the low amount of pages, most of them get their point across and seeing were the Avengers have ended up in this new reality is neat to see. Overall, the story that the backups told would’ve benefited from more pages so the story could’ve been more fleshed but they are enjoyable.

This review is mostly about the event’s main series, not it as a whole, but I still want to write a few words about the various One-Shots. If the main series didn’t give you enough Marvel/DC mashups then these One-Shots are the place to be because they go all-in on the concept. There’s even stuff like writer interviews and newsletters in them that are written as if all of these books have been going on for years.

These One-Shot issues mainly focus on side-characters, though the SSA play an active role in most of them. While some are better than others, just like the main series, they are well written, have good art and are enjoyable across the board. I do find the dissonance between some of these One-Shots and the main series annoying. Some characterizations are off and there are contradictions. Dissonance always exists and it remains within what I consider to be a reasonable margin.

A quick shout-out to Young Squadron, my personal favourite Heroes Reborn tie-in.

Conclusion

Marvel Heroes Reborn is a fun Marvel comic book event that takes the age-old fan question ‘what if Marvel access Batman and Superman and the like?’ and does some pretty neat things with it. It switches up how the event is handled narratively and while this invites some problems of its own, it´s a refreshing approach among the excess that is the typical comic book event. I don’t think that it’ll be an event that’ll be remembered a lot. It doesn’t have enough big, ‘wow’, moments for that nor does it seem to have any significant impact on the Marvel universe going forward.

It isn’t perfect, but it has good writing, lovely art and is just an overall fun romp. By all means, go and buy some Heroes Reborn comics! (The 2021 Heroes Reborn, not the 1996 ones.) 

Comments

  1. Happy with the book except they made SS waaaay too powerful. If they gave some justification like that's how Mephisto twisted reality I would be ok... but they didn't. One shot on Galactus and then Dr. Spectrum trouncing Thanos (with Infinisty powers), Celestials and throwing stars around??? If they were trying to parody DC... they made it more like Superboy Prime (ridiculously overpowered) than Superman and the rest of the JLA. Because if this is their general power level they're essentially some of the most powerful entities in the multiverse... that includes higher level abstracts. I have a problem with that.

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    1. Been a while since I read it but from what I can recall, yeah, the Squadron was OP. I feel like that was the intention of the story, to underscore how dominating they are in the ecosystem of this altered reality. I can see why this would take you out of the story.

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