Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Kobra Week! SUICIDE SQUAD #45, 46, 47 DC Comics, 1990
All right, this is one of my favorite Kobra stories ever in one of my favorite comic books ever, so if you expect The Mockery, look elsewhere. Let’s just get that out of the way now.
The “Serpent of Chaos” storyline ran through issues 45-47 of Suicide Squad, and let me tell you, writers John Ostrander and Kim Yale - They Know Kobra. They Do Kobra Right. The only things that would have made this comic better is a) breasts, and b) Alan Davis art. Don’t get me wrong, I like artist Geoff Isherwood just fine, but sometimes his characters look a little distorted to me, and I find it distracting.
I’m nitpicking though; let me show you how frickin’ cool these comics are. Let me share my love with you -- all night long.
This storyline takes place during the “plain clothes” incarnation of Suicide Squad, when Task Force X mastermind Amanda “The Wall” Waller and her group of super-misfits hit the road and sells their services, sans costume, to the highest bidder. This newer, leaner Squad consists of field leader Bronze Tiger, strangle-happy assassin Ravan, animal-powered heroine Vixen, ice cold gunman Deadshot, the shifty Captain Boomerang, and a man who may or may not be the original Atom.
We start off with Kobra, also in plain clothes, strolling the streets of shell-shocked Beirut with an undercover federal agent who is pretending to sell Kobra some weapons of mass destruction. Kobra breathes in the ambience of war-ravaged Lebanon and he likes what he smells – death and chaos. Take a look (click for a bigger picture):
The undercover agent in the Hawaiian shirt springs his trap, and government commandos pop out of the rubble to arrest Kobra. But the King of Evil is no dummy, and he springs a trap of his own on the unsuspecting agent.
Things don’t go well for the guy in the Hawaiian shirt, as we find out in this panel (below) where Amanda Waller chats with her new client, an Egyptian intelligence official:
Amputated the guy’s limbs and removed his eyes? That’s Kobra Kold!
Most of the Squad heads to Israel to track down Kobra. We learn that a team of Israeli super-agents are hunting him as well, and that Israel has developed a Jewish version of 2001: A Space Odyssey’s HAL. This sentient computer program, named Dybbuk, factors heavily into the story.
Deadshot and Captain Boomerang are conspicuously absent from these issues because of a mix-up with their luggage. It seems that Boomerang decides to pound back a few drinks in an airport lounge and as a result, they miss their flight. Their luggage, however, goes to Israel without them – including all of Boomerang’s boomerangs and Deadshot’s signature wrist-magnums. Deadshot is pissed – if they lose their luggage, Boomerang loses his life. He’s serious, too.
Boomerang realizes this:
I think everybody can relate to that panel (above). Sometimes the crushing weight of mortality, the existential angst and futility of it all, is just too much to bear. Sometimes it’s just that Taco Bell you had late last night working its way through your system. Either way, we’ve all been there.
Moving on. Bronze Tiger and Ravan infiltrate Israel by boat as they are both not welcome in the country. BT worked for an African super-merc firm called The Janissaries and Ravan was a member of a little club called The Jihad, so they’re not getting Israeli visas anytime soon. The two men have a hate/hate relationship ever since Bronze Tiger broke Ravan’s back way back in the day. Ravan informs Bronze Tiger that his ultimate goal in life is killing Kobra. You see, Ravan is a Thugee (the guys Indiana Jones fought in Temple of Doom) and he dedicates each kill to the Indian goddess Kali in an effort to forestall the Kali-Yuga, which is sort of like the Hindu version of the End Times. Kobra, on the other hand, is very much interested in bringing about the The Age of Chaos, so Ravan and Kobra are pretty much on opposite sides of the whole Kali-Yuga issue.
Here’s Ravan telling Bronze Tiger, “You think you’re bad? You ain’t so bad.”
Ravan is so cool.
Anyway, Kobra ends up getting captured by the aforementioned Mossad super-agents, and thrown in a Jerusalem jail cell. The King of Evil goes down pretty easy, though – suspiciously easy. The Mossad chief gloats when he shows Amanda Waller their captive prize…
Waller has had some experience with Kobra before (in the “Janus Directive” storyline) and she knows something is wrong. Somehow, getting captured is precisely what Kobra had in mind – but WHY? Why damn it?
If there was any doubt in Waller’s mind that Kobra is up to No Damn Good, this panel should confirm her suspicions. Here’s Kobra doing his best Hannibal Lecter:
"I once ate a Checkmate agent's liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti."
Remember I mentioned Dybbuk, the Israeli super-computer? Kobra is aware of Dybbuk and knows that it will be monitoring his cell. He uses the opportunity to engage in a philosophical dialogue with the powerful but naïve computer program in an attempt to sway Dybbuk over to his side. Talk about confidence. The guy’s so sure of himself that he gets captured, knowing that he’s smart enough and eloquent enough to sway Dybbuk into doing his bidding. Cheeky!
Here’s Kobra holding forth while Dybbuk listens and absorbs:
Waller doesn’t share her Israeli counterpart’s overconfidence and knows that Kobra is up to something. She sends The Atom to spy on Kobra’s cell in miniature form. Kobra somehow siccs some scorpions after The Atom, but he overcomes and figures out Kobra’s ultimate plan.
Here’s a panel where The Atom, up in a ventilation panel, figures everything out:
That’s right, Kobra has convinced Dybbuk that The Dome of the Rock must be destroyed! The computer has electronically taken over a flight of Israeli jets (I’m a little unclear as to how) and is going to use them to bomb the mosque so that the original Temple of Solomon can be rebuilt. This, of course, will start a huge war in the Middle East and “ignite the Kali-Yuga.”
I’d like to take a moment to say how much I love writer John Ostrander’s work. He always threw real-world politics and a cynical world-view into the mix on Suicide Squad and other titles like Hawkworld and Firestorm. His plotting is always dead-on and well-paced, and over time he developed memorable characters like Amanda Waller and Boomerang that really grew on you, even if they were total bastards. The great thing about Suicide Squad is that the possibility of a major character dying was always present – you just never knew who was going to bite it next. God, I loved that series.
Speaking of dying… As the plot heats up and the jets are on their way to bomb The Dome of the Rock, Kobra easily escapes his cell, only to be confronted by Ravan.
Finally, Ravan’s lifelong goal of slaying Kobra is within his reach:
Kobra is not to be fucked with lightly, as Ravan discovers. His staff carries enough poison to put down an adult rhino, and he’s not afraid to use it.
Kobra pretty much kicks the ever-lovin’ shit out of Ravan, and gives him a double-shot of lethal poison for good measure. The Atom arrives at the Israeli prison in time to stop Kobra before he escapes, but it’s too late for our man Ravan.
Dying, Ravan begs The Atom to kill the now unconscious Kobra, but The Atom refuses.
Ravan does not take this well:
You can keep your Supergirl/Anti-Monitor death, I vote Ravan’s demise as the Best Death Ever.
For the past year or so the readers had been getting slowly attached to Ravan, who despite being an unrepentant terrorist, was actually kind of a mellow guy. Just when you think Ravan has made it to the Inner Circle of the Suicide Squad, safe from death because he’s too popular… Ostrander yanks the Kashmir rug right out from under the reader and kills him BIG STYLE! Plus, the guy dies unfulfilled. His life’s dream is within his grasp, and just as he dies, he realizes that his quest will remain incomplete, all because of this frickin’ Atom guy.
If you can read these comics and walk away thinking Kobra is not cool… well, you suck.
“The Serpent of Chaos” storyline: Kobra and Ostrander at their finest.