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Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Russia One - A review of Suicide Squad v1 #5 - #7 (1987) by Jason Brown

[Who is Jason Brown and why is he reviewing the late 80s Suicide Squad ongoing series? Find out here. Read his previous review here. -J]

title page of Suicide Squad v1 #5 (1987). Property of DC comics.
Opening page of Suicide Squad v1 #5 (1987)

Politics bring a tear of boredom to my eye. Having said that, the opening of this storyline is well done. The title page in particular looks great, like a movie poster. The premise is plausible enough. There’s Gorbachev with his signature head-blotch, a clear eighties-ism. By this point I’ve zoned out and am skimming the details. The daughter of some revolutionary following her father’s example wrote a book the reds didn’t like, they threw her in prison, blah, blah, blah. All I’m thinking is the gang has to go on some crap mission to Russia and of course they do, they’re the Suicide Squad, and pretty much all of their missions are crap. That’s what makes it so fun. We read Superman or Batman and think, “So cool, I wanna be them!” We read Suicide Squad and we’re like, “Man, I’m glad I don’t have to go do that shite.”

Enter the Penguin. >Wauuugh!< Another fun part of this book is how the core lineup stays the same while the more peripheral characters get changed out from issue to issue. The editor notes at the bottom of some frames keep reminding me of all the other great comics I need to read in order to fully understand what’s going on in this one. (Fair enough, but I got no time for Batman Annual #11.) >Waugh!< These notes keep me grounded to the reality that as far as the rich history of the DCU is concerned, this is only my first main course after the sampler plate of my few scattered readings from back in the day when the feng shui of my ten foot square bedroom was Marvel Comics and Iron Maiden Flags. >Quaaag!< I must admit though, what I’ve seen on this website in my casual browsing has sparked greater interest in some of the more obscure DC characters, and the DCU in general. It seems there’s hope for me yet, Justin! >Waugh!<

panels from Suicide Squad v1 #5 (1987). Property of DC comics.
Oswald Cobblepot: Master of Disguise

So the Penguin is needed on this one because he’s a better mission strategist than anyone else on the squad. Sure, I’ll buy that. We get some truly interesting back story on June Moon and how she became Enchantress. Her taut exchange with the psychiatrist should strike a chord with the bipolar readers among us, to say the least. Didn’t expect to see Deadshot having a drink at Boomerang’s place. Didn’t think he liked Boomerang, but it’s not like he’s got any other buddies around to chill with. Boomerang’s being left behind on this mission, so he’s cooking up a scheme to scratch his itch for some excitement of the illegal variety. That’s what I like about this book; in many ways these folks are just ordinary screwed up people with ordinary screwed up problems just like you and me, but they just keep living and making the best of it. They just happen to wear costumes to work. Most of us would too if we were allowed.

So fast forward and the gang is deep undercover on the grounds of the hospital where the extraction target, Trigoran, is being detained. So the plan is coming along splendidly and it’s time for Enchantress to pitch in, and of course we already know how that’s going to go before it happens. Flagg drops this eighties one-liner: “Hell may not be frozen over, but Russia is,” and I’m looking around for Action Jackson to pop out of the woods and ask, “How do you like ya ribs?” So Enchantress and Nightshade rendezvous with Nemesis but then the plan falls apart when the target, Trigoran doesn’t want to leave. And that ends issue 5. I don’t know if Suicide Squad is a typical example of DC storytelling, but the more I read, the more I just feel like the writers and artists really knew what they were doing. Everything just flows well, the credibility is there, and the rising tension is palpable. Good job DC!

cover of Suicide Squad v1 #6 (1987). Property of DC comics.

The cover of issue 6 is fantastic, a close-up of Deadshot aiming a rifle on a red backdrop. So cool. What I love about Deadshot is his consistency. His image, personality, lifestyle all match. And what I love about Suicide Squad is the inside look we get at characters that aren’t really heroes. Because you start to see everyone has at least a little hero in them, and the parts that are self-serving are just damaged goods, for the most part.

So the mission is blown, Enchantress is off the rails, and it’s up to Deadshot to bring her down without killing her. I think there is instant respect, especially among male egos, when in the company of a true marksman. We all feel that rush when we get the crumpled paper into the waste basket from across the room. It requires presence. Focus. Deadshot is just so damn good. I mean, yeah, so are all the other marksmen and markswomen of the comic book universes – let’s face it, ranged combat experts are an easy way to present new characters without having to go with powers, that and martial arts. But Deadshot is really winning me over. He’s just a true man’s man with a subtle sense of humor, a bit of a death wish, but not too full of himself to just come out and say he’s got a rep to protect. I think Lawton has the stuff heroes are made of and just doesn’t know it. For now he’s going with whatever the stuff is that goes ahead and shoots a Russian soldier in the head to get their attention. Should’ve told him, Flagg, should’ve told him! It’s like in Terminator 2 when John freaks out at his new Terminator friend.

“Jesus, you we’re gonna kill that guy!”

“Of course, I’m a Terminator.”

Ha ha! I love it! Then Lawton upgrades to some kind of bazooka and starts taking out transport trucks. He misses one on purpose just to “ make things interesting.” Penguin isn’t a fan. Ha ha ha! They get clear of the soldiers and Nightshades pushes herself to her limits to eventually get them all back to the embassy where they get their heads handed to them by secretary to the ambassador, Leonard Twilliby. Apparently they’ve created an international situation. Lawton get’s the final panel where he casually lights up a smoke and with a ghost of a smile on his lips, asks Flagg what he wants to do now? Love it!

cover of Suicide Squad v1 #7 (1987). Property of DC comics.

Issue 7 introduces us to “The People’s Heroes,” I guess like a Russian Avengers? Or, Ah – sorry - I meant to say, Russian Justice League? Nice. I can get behind that. Task Force X is in the embassy basement with 30 minutes to surrender, trying to figure out what to do. Lawton suggests killing themselves. Awesome. As you can guess, Flagg wanted to explore some other options first. So they work out a plan which involves stealing passports and clothes from Dudley DuReiht, (no joke) and some other American tourists. To keep them from talking, Penguin and Deadshot decide to go ahead and murder all the innocent tourists. An ashtray to the skull and a left cross to the jaw later, Flagg convinces Deadshot to discuss other alternatives. It’s moments like this my Deadshot fan club has to turn a blind eye. Yeah he’s maybe an anti-hero… or maybe just a sociopath piece of garbage? Ah well that’s what creates the drama in a book like this. Nemesis takes the fall so the squad can escape while simultaneously quitting said squad. He makes the comment that Penguin and Deadshot belong in jail, and of course, he’s right. When you think about it, the Suicide Squad is government corruption gone unchecked, especially when it’s for a stupid political mission like this one. This book is entertaining because it is about individuals not ideals.

Here we get a single page to check in on Boomerang back at his New Orleans apartment. He’s putting some pretty clumsy moves on a lady who turns out to be Black Orchid. Waller sent her to bring in Harkness who had been avoiding her calls by, y’know… leaving the phone of the hook. Remember that? I bet not everybody reading this does. I remember when I was a kid if your friend’s household had an answering machine it was exciting because you could actually tell your friend you were trying to find them. (Not as exciting when the friend’s parents told you to stop leaving so many messages and filling up the machine.) I love how Black Orchid flies away with Harkness dangling him by the freaking foot. That would be absolutely terrifying I think. Ah poor Boomerang. He’s like the court jester of this series.

Cut to the squad on a train. Wolves are following it making Pengy nervous and Deadshot is playing it up. There is a nice dialogue here where Deadshot tells Penguin he would likely do well in Russia’s corrupt political arena, unlike lone wolves like he and Flagg. Flagg objects to the comparison Lawton makes between them. I really like that this book gives time for moments like his. Just really good character- driven fiction. and the visuals are very well done as the conversation concludes with wolf silhouettes outside watching the train.

So the People’s Heroes catch up with the gang out on the ice and Bronze Tiger, Black Orchid, and Boomerang show up to help just in time, and thank God because Flagg and company are probably half frozen out there walking in the Russian tundra without their winter coats! The People’s Heroes have a nice mix of powers to go with their stunted English dialogue. I’ll skip the play by play here and let you read this for yourself. It’s a really good battle. Some Russian ‘copters show up then Sheba the Task Force X ‘copter shows up to counter fire. Then Action Jackson and John Rambo jump out of Sheba without parachutes or shirts and turn the tide for good. I may have taken a little artistic license with some of the details but you get the point. In the end Miss Trigorin dies and becomes a martyr like she wanted all along.

panel from Suicide Squad v1 #7 (1987). Property of DC comics.
Big Brother's answer to the Justice League

So there you have it folks. I just haven’t come up with a title for this one yet… From Russia with Blood? Tack in the U.S.S.R? Rambo V? Oh wait, I’ve got it… [see post title]

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 

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.


  1. Make time for Batman Annual #11. Top ten Penguin story ever, followed by Alan Moore's legendary Clayface III story. It's an interesting dichotomy to this issue, in that Penguin tries his hardest to reform, and to reform others, only to have Batman ruin his life on a parole violation because he was assisting other criminals in going straight. And from there, we get Penguin performing a criminal operation and getting released. It's the end of any idealistic hope Penguin has, and it's fascinating.

    Penguin's distaste for the communist system has a history too... he's stolen defense plans for them before, only to sabotage them because he's an American first. A nice bit of characterization for a rogue.

    1. Very excellent comment/observation, AH. As a self-proclaimed Penguin fan (I always tell people Penguin is my favorite Batman villain), even I forgot about this!