Suicide Squad #1
Written by Adam Glass; Art by Federico Dallocchio, Ransom Getty, and Scott Hanna
Sep 14, 2011 Web Exclusive
As I neared the end of Suicide Squad #1 from DC Comics' New 52 relaunch, already thinking about how the new direction missed half the point of the Suicide Squad premise and how I would transform this opinion into a snotty screed, the very last page of the issue blew that jumped-up sense of self-righteousness right out of my head...to make room for an even more heavy-handed, perhaps more justifiably outraged fanboy screed.
Simply put: What have you done with my Amanda Waller?!!?
While Under the Radar's attempt to review all of the New 52 from DC in a timely manner necessitates a little brevity, I feel compelled to discuss the history of the Suicide Squad title, at least from its post-Legends relaunch in 1987.
The concept of the Suicide Squad is basically "Dirty Dozen with Supervillains." Much of the cast are established supervillains who undertake government missions, on which they are considered expendable, to reduce their prison sentences. The rest of the cast are the Squad leaders and support staff—the folks who need to keep superpowered villains in line during harrowing, near-impossible scenarios. During John Ostrander's epic run, the villains in the cast were well known miscreants that included Deadshot (an assassin and Batman nemesis), Captain Boomerang (a Flash foe), Captain Cold (another Flash villain), Poison Ivy (Batman villain), Dr. Light (a Justice League foe), and short stints by many more, including The Penguin (Batman foe) and The Parasite (Superman foe).
In other words, villains comics readers had seen often, or at least from time to time, getting their asses handed to them by heroes, now in a whole new context. The joke-and-a-half when he's fighting The Flash, Captain Boomerang becomes seriously compelling when you see him brutally kill a Flash knock-off; in some cases, the villains under the Squad's thumb would actually show some out-of-character heroism, or at least grit and determination. That's the "half of the appeal" I think the new version is missing.
The new Suicide Squad #1 has versions of some classic villains, but barely recognizable due to the soft reboot. Deadshot is in the Squad again, and seems pretty close to his old self, but King Shark (whose star really shined in Gail Simone's Secret Six) isn't very close, and Harley Quinn is criminally different from the delightfully demented Paul Dini cartoon-inspired version. So the problem is that we've lost the "familiar characters put in unfamiliar circumstances." They are brand new, revamped, softly rebooted versions of those characters; in other words, it's lost the "familiar" factor.
Now, onto the real crime. Amanda Waller, long my favorite character in the DCU, was the original chieftain of the classic Ostrander-written Suicide Squad books. She's a hugely over-weight African-American woman nicknamed "The Wall," who had zero trouble holding her own against the worst criminals in existence because she's tough—internally more than externally—and extremely smart and manipulative. Period. [Spoiler warning]. I'll allow that there could have been an artist's snafu on the last page, but our only view of Amanda Waller in this shows her to be...SKINNY. And hot. Waller's physical appearance made her nickname appropriate on several levels, and was a testament to her character that she didn't need to be a bikini-clad spandex type to exist in—or, really, sort of rule—a world populated with such.
So, here's the thing: despite hating skinny Waller, and despite lacking the extra hook of "familiar rapscallions in new contexts," I thought Suicide Squad #1 was decent. It's an introduction to the Suicide Squad concept in showing a group of villains undergoing torture on what they believe to be a mission, but turns out to be the final test before being made a member of the squad. It helps if you think about the bunch (particularly Harley) as brand new, but the personalities shine through in some cases and the quick flashbacks are efficient. It's pretty tense, if not quite gripping, and the truly new characters (I think) of Voltaic, Black Spider, and El Diablo are interesting in their own right. The cliffhanger introduces the team's first true mission, which seems daunting and inexplicable, and thus I want to know more.
On the art side: While I am not crazy about the character designs (again, especially Harley), the actual pencilling varies between serviceable and pretty good. So, in a sense, it's less than the sum of its parts—there seem to be a few different styles in here, and it's a little distracting.
Suicide Squad #1 in the end was a more or less okay introduction that could have been stronger if it had paid more respect to DC's past, in my opinion. I'll borrow a phrase from Kyle Lemmon's review of Green Lantern #1 earlier today; this issue points toward some interesting tales to be told later on this year. (www.dccomics.com)
Author rating: 5/10
Average reader rating: 3/10
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