Friday, July 27, 2007

SUICIDE SQUAD #2 DC Comics, 1987

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.


Ethan said...

"The Jihad liked The Manticore so much that they made another one - which the Squad killed, of course."

Specifically, by a Female Fury in army surplus garb ripping his tail off and beating him to death with it.

So much love for Suicide Squad. So much love.

Jason said...

You know, I didn't read this stuff when it came out, and I can't wait until the Showcase volume hits. I swear that'll be the first one of those I'll devour the day I get it.

Chawunky said...

"Specifically, by a Female Fury in army surplus garb ripping his tail off and beating him to death with it."

Stompa? Was it Stompa?!

(I know I could just look it up online--but the above phrase was begging me to type it.)

Anonymous said...

I think my favorite bit in this story was with that girl with the mental powers, Mindboggler. First, with her only combat bit - "Open your minds and say AAAAHH!!" (bad guys: "AAAAAAHHHHHH!!"), and then when Boomer got her killed because - and only because - she'd slightly embarrassed him earlier in the comic.

The Squad utterly kicked ass.

Siskoid said...

Chawunki: It was Lashina, who joined the Squad under the pseudonym "Dutchess".

ghostman said...

That first two-parter kicked so much ass that it had to hire a stenographer to take all the names. Issue #1 set everything up, and all hell broke loose in #2, setting the tone for the whole series. I don't know how anybody couldn't be hooked on Suicide Squad after that.

I loved seeing Boomerbutt casually taking out Jaculi--fighting a speedster isn't much of a challenge to a guy that's used to fighting THE speedster. Sure, the Rogues always got their butts handed to them by the Flash eventually, but you have to keep in mind that they were fighting a guy that could move at the speed of light. Against lesser opponents they could be pretty damned effective.

After seeing what an unholy monster Manticore is in combat, it's hard to believe that the current one--which is like #7 or something (okay, I exaggerate, but not by much)--is actually a member of the Global Guardians.

Anonymous said...

OK, I have to join the "please have a GrimJack week next" crowd. The Squad and GJ are what cemented Ostrander as a god among mortals in the comic book realm. I bow before him...

The Thing That Walks Like A Man said...

This ol' school Squad fan (been a devotee since Legends #1) has mad love for Ostrander's development of Captain Boomerang.

Boomer had so many brilliant moments--the fight with Jaculi, the Mirror Master incident, "The Pies," the possibility that he was Jewelee's baby-daddy, The Most Hilarious Batman Reveal Ever...the list goes on and on.

Aside from Kesel (in a Superboy arc) and Johns (in a one-off Squad appearance in Action), every other writer since did their best to ruin the character. (I'm looking at YOU, Waid and Meltzer!)

Filthy McMonkey said...

Manticore is a member of the Global Guardians?

What the holy hell?

I guess those guys'll let just anybody in.

Cap'n Neurotic said...

Awww, somebody beat me to waxing nostalgic over the awesomeness that was Duchess/Lashina beating the second Manticore to death with his own tail.

Damn, I loved this series

Michael said...

Just last night I was hanging on the front porch drinking some beers with friends and the topic of the Squad came up. My one friend, who's a big-time Marvel guy, had never read Suicide Squad although he knew about it.

After we regaled him with the sheer evil, dick move that Boomer pulls on Slipknot, well after that he was sold on the series.

ghostman said...

filthy mcmonkey, maybe somebody else knows more, but all I know about the current Manticore is that he was a member of the GGs when they appeared in Green Lantern about a year ago, along with a few more new faces. New to me, at least. If he had an origin or a story that told the details of him joining the team I never saw it. But I have to assume that this is a post-Squad non-Jihad Manticore, unless he's infiltrating them or something.

By my count he'd be at least Manticore #4, because Deadshot killed #1, Duchess bludgeoned #2, and #3 (shown growing in a tank) was blow'd up when Jotunheim went nuclear. But apparently you can just build them out of a kit if you're good enough at Evil Science.

Chris Arndt said...

John Ostrander knew he was dangerous.

Brad Meltzer spontaneously writes him not as a badass but as a fatass, old, and seen as worthless and then killed him, calling him a "scrub".

He wrote him as a scrub.

Comic book writer Brad Meltzer is more likely a product of nepotism than the epitome of someone who understands the characters.

stephen cade said...

I loved the series.
They even published some of my letters.

Captain Boomerang was used quite well, the best use of him actually.

Tom said...

Absolutely, goddamn right, Suicide Squad was a great title, now sadly overlooked. It added an interesting, bare-knuckled moral twist to superhero comics without going down the path of juvenile violence fantasies like Hitman or some of the worst Punisher crap. You could see the creative team excited about doing something new and different, breathing new life into some previously uninteresting minor characters.

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