I thought I’d dig deep in the proverbial Long Box and do a post about the very first issues of the Suicide Squad, one of the greatest monthly books DC published in the Eighties. Or ever, for that matter. My love for the Suicide Squad is based on fact (i.e., it’s awesome) as well as blurry, uncritical nostalgia – unlike some properties from my childhood, the Suicide Squad holds up really well.
The first two issues of the Suicide Squad series were written by series creator John Ostrander, the Aaron Sorkin of Eighties DC Superhero Espionage Books, with pencils by Luke McDonnell and inks by superbad Karl Kesel. This storyline introduced a rival team, a group of terrorist supervillains known as The Jihad. Like the Squad, the membership of The Jihad rotated – mostly because the Squad keeps killing them.
This issue is no exception. The first issue was all build-up leading to this showdown with the Jihad on their home turf. Rick Flag and his bright yellow shirt lead the team in an assault on Jotunheim, the mountain headquarters of the Jihad in “Qurac” that looks like a big upside down wedding cake smashed into a cliff.
With the help of a double-agent on the Jihad, the Squad infiltrates Jotunheim just as Sheba, their Airwolfy gunship, starts blowing the hell out of the wedding cake. The Squad has a traitor of their own, ferreted out by Nemesis the master of disguise. There’s a lot of intrigue and shit.
There’s also a lot of violence. The team breaks off and hunts down the Jihad members. The Flash villain Capt. Boomerang has experience with super-speedsters, so he takes on the lightning quick Jaculi, who is not nearly fast enough to stay not-dead.
Boomerang may be a cowardly and morally bankrupt and sort of ridiculous, but he's also really dangerous, and Ostrander never forgot that. He was used for comic effect a lot, but every now and then Boomerang would do something completely evil and self serving. Capt. Boomerang is a total dick. What a great character.
Meanwhile, Bronze Tiger fights the Indian assassin Ravan and totally schools him, breaking the guy's back. Tiger was one of the few good guys on the Squad and was often used to keep the less trustworthy team members in line. Plus, he has a fabulous karate pimp outfit. You have to have confidence to wear an outfit like that.
This scene, where Tiger leaves Ravan with a broken back and refuses to kill him, sets in motion a rivalry between the two masters of fu that runs through the series. Ravan eventually gets a cybernetic spine and gets drafted into the Suicide Squad, where he's quite useful until he goes up against the master villain Kobra and gets killed big time.
Deadshot gets dropped off in the elevator shaft where the Jihad keeps The Manticore, a genetic terror with an organge Godzilla tail and David Lee Roth's hair. The super tough monster goes after Deadshot, who is just a dude with guns after all, right?Deadshot hoses down the Manticore's face with some AP rounds and that's it for the guy with the tail. The Jihad liked The Manticore so much that they made another one - which the Squad killed, of course.
Suicide Squad #2 is densely written and drawn - you get a high plot-to-panel ratio that makes for a satisfying reading experience. Stuff happens. Ostrander's story is full of tough guy dialogue, double crosses, and narrow escapes. McDonnell was the Suicide Squad penciller forever, and I think his stuff is great when he's paired with the right inker. Fortunately, Karl Kesel is a fantastic inker.
I have fond memories of picking up this comic at my local comic store and reading it again and again. I'm happy to say that twenty years later this still seems like a good comic book to me. And that's why Suicide Squad is so awesome.