Friday, April 22, 2005

How I love thee, Suicide Squad

Suicide Squad was spawned from the 1987 mini-series Legends (which I will get around to reviewing/mocking at some point). Written exclusively by John Ostrander, the book had a consistent vision and “through-line” that you don’t see too much of anymore in today’s age of reboots and revamps.

I liked Suicide Squad because it had a (relatively) sophisticated and cynical approach to politics, crime, and punishment and often tread a moral grey area between the few “good guys” on the team and the “bad guys.” Plus, it was more hardcore and lethally violent than any other comic books, so it scored extra points with me. The Squad (actually called Task Force X) was a group of incarcerated super-villains who would go on secret government missions to work off their sentences. They were based out of Belle Reve prison in the swamps of Louisiana, and went on all sorts of deadly assignments with explosive bracelets clamped to their wrists to keep them in line. The great thing was they actually used the explosive bracelets! In one issue, Squad draftee Slipknot tried to sneak off during a fight and boom there goes his arm. Comedy.

The Squad had a revolving membership of costumed villains, many of whom got killed. You always new if there was some new or dorky villain on the team that he was going to get shot up. The Ferret? He won’t last ten pages. There were a few major characters that you knew weren’t going to get killed – but you were wrong! Rick Flag, team leader? Yeah, he dies. His girlfriend, Karen? Dies. What's-his-name, the cool helicopter pilot? Dies. Ravan, the bad-ass Kali-woshipping assassin? Oh, he totally dies. Everybody died in Suicide Squad! There were a couple missions were almost everybody died. I loved it.

The cast was made up of 2nd tier characters that were kind of disposable. Led by a hard-ass beaureaucrat named Amanda “The Wall” Waller, the Squad had a couple of good guys like Rick Flag, Nightshade, and Bronze Tiger, who were basically brought on to ride herd on a bunch of super-thugs. The main bad guys were Flash villain Captain Boomerang, a craven but devious Aussie; Batman villain Deadshot, a cold blooded sniper with a really cool but impractical costume; Duchess, an amnesiac villain from the planet Apokolips; Count Vertigo, a Euro-trash noble with “vertigo” powers; and Batman villain Poison Ivy, the poisonous plant chick. Other villains rotated in and out of the Squad like The Penguin, Captain Cold, and The Parasite, and a ton of other 3rd rate villains who were killed with impunity.

Here's a typical moment of bondng between the characters:

That's what we call tough love.

The series was eventually cancelled after losing some creative steam, but Ostrander rode that bastard for five and a half years, and although there were some missteps along the way, page for page Suicide Squad was one of the most consistently entertaining and engaging comic series EVER!

In the future I’ll review/gush over individual Squad issues, but I grow weary of making fun of bad comics and just wanted to give Suicide Squad some props.


Anonymous said...

When you have a sight on your eyeball and one on your gun, your shot is gonna be DOUBLE ACCURATE.

Woody! said...

I think the Suicide Squad is gonna make an appearance on Justice League Unlimited cartoon pretty soon.

I missed out on this series the first time around and you're not the only one to rave about this title. Any idea if it's ever been/going to be collected?

Guy LeCharles Gonzalez said...

I'm a big fan of the Squad, and have been slowly rereading the original series, the first 30 or so issues of which I grabbed off eBay a while back. They certainly don't make them like they used to.

Greg said...

Woody: As far as I know, they haven't been collected. DC is horrible about collecting stuff. The individual issues are pretty cheap, though, like Guy says. I agree, Dave - this is the kind of thing that we don't see in comics anymore, although for a while, it seemed like they were heading that way. This is brilliant storytelling. Ostrander does this on any title he writes, and he's extremely versatile. Check it out - GrimJack, Firestorm, SS, The Spectre, Martian Manhunter - quite the resume.

David Campbell said...

Ostrander is, as the kids say, "the shit."

Anonymous said...

The eighties were to DC what the silver age was to Marvel. They didn't hold back from throwing things to the wall to see if they stuck. SS was a great read. Not sure how well it holds up, but one has to assume it's a notch above most of the dreck that's out there.

Anonymous said...

Ironically, eventually, we all did laugh at Captain Boomerang. Fairly recently in fact.

DougBot said...

I'm not sure you could even do the Suicide Squad these days.

If memory serves, the opening issue involves killing like 300 people in a fake airport, just as a training exercise.

I am slowly trying to grab issues when I can. This is why I adore my shop for their 50%-off-back-issues sales.

Pete Milan said...

What exactly is a "bloody bike" anyway? Is that some kind of messed-up Australian slang for punkass ho? I've wondered about that for years.

Justin Cognito said...

I may be too late to answer Pete's question, but judging by how CB follows it up with, "You black--", I'm guessing it's a derogatory term for Aboriginals.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't this be an incredible choice for a Showcase collection. 500 pages of Suicide Squad in one sitting.

Anonymous said...

Waaaaaaaaay late to the party, but a "bike" is a "bitch" in Aussie slang.

(And we all know that the all-purpose "bloody" equates to "fuckin.'")

Love the blog.

Anonymous said...

Suicide Squad was a zesty barbecued rack of awesome, served with a side order of awesome, and a tall frosty glass of awesome to wash it down with.

I always loved their recurring battles with the Jihad--metahuman fucking terrorists were just too scary a concept. One of my personal "Fuck Yeah!" moments was when Duchess tried to shoot Manticore with her Mega-Gun and discovered that he was bulletproof inside and out. So she ripped off his tail and beat him to death with it. I'd marry that woman.

For the record, in that last picture Captain Boomerang had just hit on Mindboggler--the chick with the mohawk--and gotten shot down in flames. Dude doesn't take rejection well, and starts flinging insults and boomerangs at her. Bronze Tiger, who is so fucking bad-ass that he talked shit that he could back up to Batman in the middle of a fight, stepped in to be the Dad and separate those two. Which of course led to the attempted racial slur from the Captain.

Boomerang turned out to be the heart and soul of the series in many ways, which shows you how good a writer John Ostrander is. He could make you care about characters that other writers treated as has-beens or jokes or disposable. And then he frequently killed them--anybody could die at any time in that book, and you knew it.

By the way, Boomerang got back at Mindboggler during that adventure. She had some kind of sonic or mental whammy powers, and was using them to take out a horde of enemy soldiers in front of them. Boomer saw some more soldiers coming up behind her and could have warned her, but didn't because he's a bastard. So she caught a hail of AK-47 fire and died of chronic lead poisoning. The moral of the story, girls? Put out for Captain Boomerang.

Anonymous said...

What are Suicide Squad comics worth i have volumes 1-3, 5-9,11 and 12

Anonymous said...

Briscoe was his name...You also didn't mention (my personal fave) Nemesis.

"Sheba knows her daddy."

Anonymous said...

shame that the new squad was fucking crappy. bad art (fucking lame ass wanna-be manga shit) bad story (no real sense of direction)
and..and.. well, it fucking looks like anime. FUCK ANIME

Felicity Walker said...

That’s an awesome premise. I wish the art were better. I’m spoiled by the fact that the first time I saw these characters they were drawn by John Byrne in Legends.

You know what’s funny? Based on his mask and costume, I never expected Deadshot’s unmasked face to look like a sleazy British rake.

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