This past year of television has seen the rise of “The Flash,” in my opinion, the best comic book superhero series yet, now the “Avengers Assemble” team face the Marvel Animated Universe’s closest approximation of the Flash, a member of that ersatz evil Justice League – the Squadron Supreme – the Speed Demon. This sinister speedster’s invasion of Avengers Tower has turned the Hulk into a gamma bomb, can he be stopped? Meet me after the super speed jump to find out.
Now I’ve talked about the Squadron Supreme before here, and Hyperion, and Nighthawk. They’re all alternate Marvel Comics versions of the Justice League, and Speed Demon, originally and unfortunately called the Whizzer, is the Flash template. Like most Squad members, there have been multiple versions of the character on parallel Earths. The Squadron Supreme Whizzer/Speed Demon is Stanley Stewart, whose origin story actually approximates that of the Golden Age Flash.
Speaking of the Golden Age, the original Whizzer, Robert Frank, whose powers were gained from a transfusion of mongoose blood (I kid you not, because… comics), has close ties to the Avengers. Besides being a contemporary of Captain America, and fellow Invader and All-Winner in World War II, the Whizzer was also suspected of fathering Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, and later even served as an Avenger for a short time.
The Speed Demon
As I mentioned, there have been several parallel Earth versions of the Squadron Supreme. Besides the evil Squadron Sinister of the Avengers’ home Earth in the 616 universe, there’s also the Supreme Power team, and a Hyperion from yet another world was an Avenger during the recent Jonathan Hickman run in the Avengers comics. The “Avengers Assemble” TV series aside, only one of them is called Speed Demon.
Eventually the Squadron Sinister broke up and went their separate ways. Evil chemist James Sanders, tiring of jokes about his super-powered identity’s name, changed his costume and his name to Speed Demon. From there he became primarily a Spider-Man foe (and not a very good one, see image above), eventually ending up back with the Squadron Sinister, after stints with the Sinister Six and Thunderbolts. The “Avengers Assemble” Speed Demon is actually an amalgam however of all these versions, and the Flash, as we’ll see later.
The Squadron Supreme, still on our Earth and in hiding, has been doing a bit of hit and run as of late, like in “Secret Avengers,” biding their time until they can attack the Avengers full force. After the Hulk and Thor, not the most delicate of messengers, retrieve a sabotaged (by Nighthawk) Stark communications satellite, Hyperion launches an attack on Avengers Tower.
Color me impressed. Often I have talked here about the lack of teamwork the “Avengers Assemble” version of Earth’s mightiest heroes demonstrate, but the battle against Hyperion in this episode is probably the best I’ve ever seen on this show. The heroes are working together and separately, against a formidable foe who us essentially Superman with an attitude. This was awesome, and I even got some Giant-Man in there. Loved the ant puns.
The Agent-less Hulk
While not specifically linked to events in the “Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.” series finale which I reviewed here and here in the last two weeks, this episode does address its themes indirectly. In allowing the Hulk to retrieve the satellite, Iron Man is giving the jade giant a chance to do more than smash. Notably the Hulk is more intelligent and canny in that other series.
Here he is more bestial, inarticulate, and I wish he’d trade his torn purples for his Agents of SMASH pants. Even on “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” the Hulk got a shorts upgrade in the second season. In this episode he’s taking the brunt for his clumsiness, but it’s not his fault, as the Tower has a super speed visitor. The Hulk gets wise to Speed Demon’s presence pretty quickly.
Nighthawk has been tampering with Speed Demon’s powers, and when he taps the Hulk, it allows him to see things as the villain does, in slow motion. The visual effect of time-stood-still is much like how Quicksilver sees the world in X-Men: Days of Future Past, or the falling tray of food in the Flash’s 1956 comic book origin story in Showcase #4.
Speaking of the Flash, this new power of Speed Demon’s is actually an old power of the Flash’s. When the Flash taps into the Speed Force, he can boost the speed of others by touching them. It’s how other speedsters not as fast as the Flash could keep up with him while with him. He’s literally lending speed to them. For example, Jay Garrick was never as fast as Barry Allen – but he was when they were together. Cool, huh? Flash fact.
Speed Demon’s speed time accelerates the Hulk to such a point that he becomes a gamma bomb, which apparently was the Squadron Supreme’s plan to begin with. This seems a bit unlikely as this effect seems to be a bonus and surprise to Speed Demon. The villain did get a hold of the Avengers files however. I loved Speed Demon waiting for the download. It looks like the upcoming season finale will be a fight to the finish with the Squadron Supreme.
In this Hulk-centric episode we get the same message as in the Hulk’s own series. He doesn’t just smash, Hulk thinks and strategizes, and Stark and the other Avengers should stop taking him from granted. Maybe a change of pants might help.
And… vortex breath??? Really? Vortex breath? Come on, the only things worse than that are super-ventriloquism and amnesiac kisses…
Next: Green Lantern… um, I mean… Doctor Spectrum!