SUPREME in BRIGADE #17-21

brigade17

Brigade began as a spin-off title of Rob Liefeld’s Youngblood, featuring new original superheroes of his. In February 1995 there was a radical revamp of the series, launching in the aftermath of Liefeld’s EXTREME SACRIFICE crossover, with issue #17. Now it would be a team made up of not just some of Liefeld’s characters, but also characters from some other Image creators. Todd McFarlane’s TREMOR, Erik Larsen and Gary Carlson’s VANGUARD, and Jim Valentino’s SHADOWHAWK joined Liefeld’s characters TROLL, GLORY, ROMAN and, of course, SUPREME. This is the new Supreme who debuted in SUPREME #24 (the same month as Brigade #17). Marv Wolfman was hired to write this new team and guided it over the next 6 issues. Roger Cruz drew the first issue, while Manny Clark drew #18, 19, and 21, with Luke Ross drawing #20.

The premise of the series is that most of the original members of Brigade had been killed during the crossover, with the sole survivor being Marc Barros, who was the superhero known as Seahawk. Barros decided to retire as an active superhero, but uses his fortune to recruit members for a new Brigade, which he will financially back. The first four issues has the team investigating the mystery of a bunch of religious cults from across the globe who are all now working together for some grand nefarious plan. The man being the conspiracy is L’Alexander, an alien with really long blond hair, which he can control like Marvel’s Medusa. By his side he has a woman called The Shape, who is made out of mist, and can posses people and uses that power to kidnap superhumans, including Supreme, for L’Alexander. We also get the appearance of a silent assassin named, get this, RADKILL (hey, it was the 90’s).

Frankly, the main story itself is a bit convoluted, it’s hard to follow exactly what L’Alexander’s ultimate goal is, before he is defeated (but escapes, with hints of a return someday). The most interested plot in this first arc revolves around Roman. He’s the ruler of the undersea kingdom of Neuport. It turns out that there is much poverty and conflict in the kingdom, which Roman is unaware of, and many of his subjects resent him for it. And one of Roman’s trusted allies secretly aligns himself with L’Alexander and attempts to lead a coup to overthrow Roman, because Roman is perceived as being more concerned with his “superhero” activities on the surface world, than with taking care of his people. So there’s some good story there.

However, overall, this doesn’t really feel like a “team book,” which is understandable to some degree, because they’re not an official team until the end of this first story (where Tremor declines membership and goes his own way). But there’s just so many different characters, both good guys and bad guys, and competing stories, that none of the characters gets any significant characterization. Supreme is captured for most of the story, and there’s only a brief conversation later between him and Glory, regarding their past relationship (which Supreme doesn’t remember). Troll gets a lot screen time in this arc, and Wolfman seems to capture his wise-ass personality pretty well (although he has the annoying habit of calling Shadowhawk “Shaddy”).

After this arc, the new team is barely had time to establish itself when it was already faced with the death of one of it’s members.

brigade21

The big conceit of Jim Valentino’s original Shadowhawk was that he had AIDS, which is what motivated the character to use whatever time he had left alive attacking criminals. In Shadowhawk #18 he finally succumbed to his illness and died. So this was addressed in Brigade #21, as the team gathers for his funeral and wake. But of course, more trouble ensues in the form of a some kind demon created named HAUNT who attacks the team due to a personal vendetta against Barros, who doesn’t even remember him. It’s never made clear exactly what Haunt is attacking for him, he just shows up, the team fights him, then he disappears, vowing to return someday.

There are a few attempts at deeper characterization in this issue. We see Troll and Glory, who are both functionally immortal, commiserating over outliving so many friends and allies over the centuries. And we see Vanguard and Supreme at a local library, as Supreme is reading all news reports about himself, trying to remember his past, and Roman learns that his troubles in his kingdom aren’t over, as another former ally decided to challenge him for leadership.

But, ultimately, this particular run just isn’t very memorable. Specifically, as it relates to the character of SUPREME, this series could easily be skipped, as it’s not essential to his history. Checking the comic-book charts at the time, I see that the Brigade #17 debuted at #80 on the Top 300 for February 1995 which is down from #63 the month before. By June of that year, with Brigade #21 it had dropped to #95. So this new direction of the title wasn’t working. There was one more issue, #22, which was part 4 of the 5-part SUPREME APOCOLPYSE crossover and then this series was canceled. Marv Wolfman is, without a doubt, a legendary writer in the business, but this is not one of his best efforts.

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