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Friday, April 15, 2016

If You Want Blood... You’ve (Kinda) Got It! - A review of Suicide Squad v1 #1 - #3 (1987) by Jason Brown

[Editor's note: This review has spoilers. If you haven't read this fine series yet, stop reading this article and track down the first three issues of Suicide Squad v1 (1987). Come back and read this article once you've read those issues. You've been warned.... ]

Don't have any clue what's going on? Read the intro.




So here we have issue #1 of Suicide Squad and I must say, the logo and cover look sharp. THESE 8 PEOPLE WILL BE PUTTING THEIR LIVES ON THE LINE FOR OUR COUNTRY. ONE OF THEM WON’T BE COMING HOME! - The opening statement strikes the sublime chords of highest heroism shrouded in mystery. For a few like Rick Flagg and Bronze Tiger there may be some truth here, but they won’t be sporting the Belle Reve issue explosive arm bracer that some of the other squad members will. The prospect of Mr. Digger Harkness putting his life on the line for his own mother, let alone the United States of America, is a stretch. Morally, this group is like a batch of apples scrounged from a trampled orchard floor at the end of busy season. To be honest though, I was surprised at the outset that the group has the collective morals it does. Later we find out that some of these guys and gals are actually choosing to stay with the squad after their sentences are served. Ironically, the name Suicide Squad suits these folks more accurately than the ones whose only other option is to rot in jail. I like this mix. From what I see in the upcoming movie trailers, the Hollywood incarnation has no such members in it’s ranks. This kind of makes me root for Flagg and the gang a little more. A little salt of the earth can go a long way.



The opening story, Trial By Blood/Trial By Fire was well done, I thought. The members of the supervillain group the Jihad are an interesting mix. I always like it when the heroes (or in this case, "heroes") and villains are somewhat evenly matched, although the Jihad seemed much more capable slaughtering an unsuspecting civilian group than facing the Squad. I was a little taken aback with the sheer brutality of the Jihad. Right out of the gate you have Evil Lion-o (or as some have dubbed him, Manticore) and his buddies massacring everyone in sight in an airport. How relieved I was that there was no actual bloodshed. I’m very appreciative that whatever comic code authority at the time took it upon themselves to protect me from the psychological trauma I would have surely sustained by seeing bloodshed as the natural result of extreme violence. This way I can tell my son (he’s seventeen now, but play along) that Evil Lion-o and his friends were just scaring the people, like a game. I think as long as kids never learn to read, they should be fine to enjoy these comics. I’m just saying, what’s more desensitizing: substance, or intent? Put another way, if you want to have bacon double cheese burgers on the menu, you gotta kill a few pigs. And a cow. I also felt better for some reason when I found out some of the people were actors. At one point someone is yelling My baby! Where is my baby?! when there are clearly no babies – or children- to be seen. Is one of the actors really putting it out there to get the job, maybe so immersed in their trade that they’re completely unaware of the mortal danger they’re in? (Maybe they couldn’t see the blood either.) Or maybe they know they are about to die and have an actual baby somewhere at home and are just wondering if they’re, y’know, in the crib napping, or watching TV or whatever. In the aftermath, you can see what appears to be some blue streams and pools on the floor though. In all the excitement someone must’ve knocked over a water cooler.

The Jihad's Manticore and Jaculi plowing through an airport terminal (Suicide Squad v1 #1)



I find the character depth of this comic very satisfying. The dynamic between Waller, the Belle Reve staff, and the Squad is mostly believable and quite entertaining. It has a lot of grit, but isn’t dark for the sake of being dark, or trying too hard to be badass. Sexual harassment, racism, a love story… all in the first issue – love it! Also, I find it more realistic logistically than what I had read of Marvel’s Thunderbolts, if no one minds the comparison. There is actually some effort to show these people are not fully being trusted and are being closely monitored.


I like Flagg and Bronze Tiger well enough. Neither have powers, but together they provide the group with a half decent moral compass. If I were to face Bronze Tiger in combat however, I would make him vow to burn that god-awful outfit upon his defeat and put on something decent. I used to use Nightshade a lot in Heroclix so I really enjoyed getting to know her here. She definitely has some backbone and moral fiber. And such a cool power. Too bad Plastique turned out to be a traitor. (You’re gonna have that with a group of criminals, am I right?) She filled out that purple outfit nicely. Enchantress is just fantastic; so many things you can do with a true “alter-ego” character. I thought Boomerang was just comic relief until he killed Discount Javelin Flash. That showed he had some teeth. Although the way he booted the unconscious kid off the top of the fortress was pretty hilarious. But Digger really showed his true colours, and made my jaw drop, to be completely forthcoming about it, when he let poor Mindboggler die. She was one of those who didn’t have to stay on the squad but did! She was just trying to figure out where she fit in. She had promise. Digger really turned out to be a piece of trash. He may as well have killed her himself. I’m glad to have a true villain on the team though. And I like that Boomerang is a villain just because he's a straight up insecure asshole - nothing too complex. I don’t have much to say about Nemesis or the helicopter guy. And if I forgot anyone else, well... ‘nuff said, right? Wait a second. What’s that? Did you really think I would forget about Mr. Floyd Lawton, aka Deadshot? No, I just saved the best for last, see? I really thought this guy was gonna die for sure facing Evil Lion-o in his elevator shaft. I was truly scared for him. I thought his only chance would be some kind of stealth attack. No. He drops a pebble on him to wake him up first and then starts thinking about a strategy. This guy is as cool as a cucumber sandwich in November. Evil Lion-o tears through an elevator car like it’s paper machete and takes a full barrage of bullets to the chest without flinching and Lawton’s stress level seems like it would be about the same if he was shopping at Best Buy on a Sunday afternoon. This guy is AWESOME! Now, I’m not down on Will Smith or anything, or racist, but this guy just seems like he needs to be played by a white guy with a black moustache, like from one of those cigarette ads you would see in the back of a 70’s magazine. The kind of guy that has the emotional range of a turnip but gets the goddamn job done. And yeah, he smokes because he’s a goddamn man. Later we see how emotionally available he is for women. That’ll be a treat for another time.

Group shot of the Squad. Luke McDonnell art, I'm assuming.


Next, we have Jailbreak, with the Female Furies, and holy shit... it’s Darkseid! I thought this was a low-level superhero comic book. I guess that’s what makes comic books (as opposed to say, movies) special; almost anything can happen in the next issue. There’s a lot more great character development and things going on in this issue (although Waller’s two page exposition on Tresser made me want to drink cyanide). Having the Squad based at Belle Reve Penitentiary is a great way to keep the story moving even in-between missions. I’m going to wrap this one up quick. The Squad battles the Female Furies. They succeed in sending them back to Apokolips, but not before they get the prisoner they came to abduct. Deadshot bails ‘cause he’s awesome (not to mention shatters a monitor with a quarter he fires from his thumb). Boomerang bails ‘cause he’s a weasel. And the rest fight valiantly and manage to not die. I really loved Lashina in this one. (She is another character I used in Heroclix but knew nothing about, so yay for me!) And it all ties up with a cheesy ending where Boomerang shows up playing dumb and everyone tells him to shut up. Actually pretty funny.

Not even four issues in and Kirby's Fourth World characters make an appearance!




So there you have it folks, bona fide, genuine DC in the 80s content, as promised. Coming next, the mystery and intrigue of William Hellar! Who is William Hellar you say? Well, faithful readers, that is a review for another time. But I can tell you he seems to feel totally credible going out in public dressed like an extra from an Errol Flynn movie, and he zips around the city like Spider-man using his... crossbow? Um... ok. Sure.

Who is William Hellar? And why is he dressed like that?



I am a just-starting-out fiction writer and musician living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. If you would like to contact me with work or collaboration opportunities, or just to make arrangements to send me cash, please email me. Cheers!

-Jason Brown

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All content in this article entry [except for the editor's note] written by Jason Brown. If you want to attribute any of this work, please credit Jason Brown.

3 comments:

  1. Awesome post!
    I read this recently and liked it more than I thought I would. I loved that the Female Furies made an appearance!! They're definitely an underutilized group of characters, from what I've read.
    Stumbled across your blog from dantasticcomics.blogspot.com, excited to look around and see what you've got to say about 80's DC :)

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    1. Hey, I'm really glad you stopped in and checked us out. I'm actually a shameless fan of Ostrander's Suicide Squad and half of the fun is seeing if Jason will 'convert' to DC after reading this. Nothing against Marvel, we love all comics, really.... And apparently, after checking your blog - https://holycomicsbatman.wordpress.com/ - you do, too! Apparently we're in the right crowd. -J

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    2. Thanks holycomicsbatman, glad you enjoyed it!

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