Behold a review of yet another fringe bat-title. “Suicide Squad” (the first, if not the only New 52 title to go UP in sales rather than down) is one of those New 52 books that I neglected reviewing because I didn’t consider it to be “Batman” enough. The bat-qualities of “Suicide Squad” are few and far between. Yes, fan-favorite characters Harley Quinn and Deadshot are here and we even visit Gotham in two issues, but other than that it’s a completely different animal.
“Suicide Squad” is basically DC’s “Dirty Dozen” comic. Marvel does the same thing with “The Thunderbolts”, and Fox Kids! had “The Terrible Thunderlizards” (which is probably going to be the most obscure reference you read today). The premise is that a secret government organization in charge of handling the worst possible missions (so bad, some might even say it’s suicide) enlist the aid of super villains at Belle Reve prison in exchange for time off the inmate’s sentence. It’s a very good premise for a comic book. It’s a premise that makes for fun, fast-paced, and surprising stories. Since the book is mainly going to be using a cast of B and C-list villains that nobody cares about, the writer can go nuts and kill off characters from time to time. That means that “Suicide Squad” is one of the ONLY books in DC’s New 52 that can actually have consequences for its characters. If there’s a cliffhanger ending in let’s say “Detective Comics” in which Batman is about to get crushed by a wall of ice, we know that when we pick up the following installment Batman will have survived somehow. But in “Suicide Squad”, if a character named “Yo-Yo” finds himself in a sticky situation there’s actually a good chance this guy’s gonna die. “Suicide Squad” is far less predictable than any other team-up comic in the shop!
So here we are, the first 7 issues of “Suicide Squad” in one softcover book. Let’s see if it’s as fun as the premise makes it sound.
Part I: Characterization
Now, I took some flak in the comments section of the “Old Rogues in the New 52” article I did a few months ago because I said I enjoyed “Suicide Squad”. Turns out there’s a lot of hate for this title and I just don’t get it. I think it may be because fans wanted Gail Simone’s “Secret Six” (a book with a similar premise) back. I never read that series, but I have only heard excellent things about it. Since I never read “Secret Six” I was able to go into “Suicide Squad” without any expectations. I just looked at it as a lighthearted action book without any depth. That’s what I got. And since these characters are all B and C-listers I know almost nothing about their characterization so I’m able to approach them with an open mind.
The only characters I can look at and know if author Adam Glass is writing well are Harley Quinn and (to an extent) Deadshot. The other characters like King Shark, Savant, El Diablo, Yo-Yo, Light, and Lime… I had never heard of these characters before. All I know is that they look like the sort of ridiculous C-List villains I see on the covers of non-Batman comics all the time. There’s another team member named “Black Spider” who apparently was in Batman comics as well but I have no recollection of him. The only Black Spider I remember is the one from “Batman” #518 whose real name was Johnny LaMonica. I remember thinking he was a potentially cool villain when I read that at 9 years old and I bet he was. The character was made by Doug Moench and he’s easily one of the most under-rated Batman writers. Ever. This Black Spider is a vigilante of some sort. So if these characters are portrayed poorly, I’m oblivious to it.
Deadshot on the other hand feels way more level-headed than I remembered him being. He doesn’t seem to have a death-wish at all and that’s a pretty key part of his character. Apparently he’s a full-fledged anti-hero now and I’m not sure if I’m totally on board with that. I think that the character works well in this story as the leader of the team and he still does things that are quite villainous (all the characters do), but he only felt like Deadshot to me in appearance only (his helmet looks way too busy), then again I’m far from an authority on that character.
Harley’s characterization is something I went back and forth on. Her new look is terrible. They over-sexualized her. She now wears a tiny cape, a corset, panties, a holster, and thigh-high stockings. Her origin story has been re-written as well in the worst way possible and you can read my full thoughts on that over in the “Old Rogues in the New 52 Article” (I hated the chapter that dealt with Harley’s origin. Hated it.). But there are also moments in which she’s the most interesting and entertaining character in the book as well…
So basically, I’m saying its a book you shouldn’t take too seriously nor is it a book that wants to be taken too seriously. It’s a guilty pleasure. If you love Deadshot or Harley or any of these other characters then chances are you might hate this book. But if you’re a tourist like me, you’ll probably read it and have a few laughs.
Part II: Story and Art
So it’s a book about a bunch of amoral characters who get thrown into the most impossible situations. Anything can happen. And I forgot to mention this earlier, but they all have bomb implanted in their heads too so if they try to escape while out on assignment–BOOM. Sort of like “Battle Royale“–And no I haven’t seen or read “Hunger Games” but it sounds like a knock-off of “Battle Royale” to me.
There’s quite a bit going on here so I think you’re getting bang for your buck just in the variety department alone. The cast is constantly changing so things stay fresh and there are multiple cases that the squad must undertake from robot zombies (yep. Robot zombies) to the Joker’s severed face–which may be of interest to those of you who have been wondering about that ugly mug since it was lopped off back in “Detective Comics” first issue. “Suicide Squad Vol.1” is action packed and funny. You just have to get into the spirit of things. If you’re one of the “grounded-in reality” types then you might want to look the other way. And if you’re shopping for richer storytelling, go check out “Rachel Rising” or “Sweet Tooth”. BUT if you’re in the market for a comic with explosions and banter (although the dialogue definitely gets iffy at times), then this is the one for you.
The art is constantly shifting and that’s a bit aggravating. I hate it when a TPB or graphic novel doesn’t have a consistent look throughout an arc. Richards, Dallocchio, Henry, Ig Guara, Bressan, etc. etc. It’s just too many cooks in the kitchen. Switching between artists is fine when you’re reading a book month-to-month but when you sit down with a TPB and see the style change from chapter to chapter like this it gets a bit distracting. Some of its scratchier than others, some give a more cartoony depiction that better fits the material, some go dark and gritty, but the terrible re-designs remain the same. I must say, that even with the art as varied as it is, it was never clear who was the worst or who was the best. Each chapter looks good and each artist captures a specific element of the series better than the last be it with the sexiness, the violence, or the comedy. Like I said, it’s a guilty pleasure of a book. It’s not “The Shawshank Redemption” it’s “Roadhouse” (I know one is better than the other but love both of those films. Don’t make me choose).
Just when I start to think I’ve seen the TPB with the worst supplemental material a new contender steps up. “Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Kicked in the Teeth” features 2 pages (1 page front and back) of Jim Lee’s original designs for 4 of the team members–not even the whole team, just 4 members! And it’s not like they are never before seen images. You can run a Google search and find all 4 drawings online in seconds so no, there’s nothing of interest to be found in this book’s supplemental material. You’re coming for the 7 issues and that’s it.
$14.99 for seven $2.99 comics isn’t a bad deal. You’re saving $5.94 (not including tax) and if you’re like me then you’ll have a fun reading 6 of the 7 issues so it seems well worth it to me. But if you want to get a really good deal, head over to Amazon where the book is selling for…wait. What’s this? Apparently Amazon is having trouble with their stock of “Suicide Squad Vol.1” and until they find the problem all sales have been suspended. But if it’s back up and running by the time you read this article, then Amazon has it for $10.19. In the meantime, the good folks at Midtown comics have it for $12.74 (also a very good price and you can grab a few more comics and other rare nerdy swag as well). I think there’s good enough value here (especially at the discounted prices found at Amazon and Midtown) that these 7 issues are more than worth the price of admission, especially if you enjoy the more zany, actiony stuff like “Deadpool” (which is another series Adam Glass has written).
Although there are many folks trash talking this series, I think it’s good if you read it for what it is: mindless fun. It’s a better team book than “Justice League International” and at times its a better team book than even the “Justice League” but it’s definitely not for everyone. Be sure to Google a few previews of the comic or flip through it in the store before you spend your hard-earned cash. In my opinion, this ridiculous 7-chapter book is well worth $10 bucks…the issues that have come since then have been less than stellar, however.