Now this is what I’m talking about! Suicide Squad: War Crimes #1 is the type of Suicide Squad story that I want to read on a monthly (or bi-weekly) basis! Considering Ostrander introduced us to the Suicide Squad, it’s no surprise that I hold his idea of this title on a pedestal. This is a one-and-done story, but it still manages to satisfy nearly everything that I look for in a narrative. The pacing and energy is fast and furious, but there’s enough complexity to the plot that it isn’t just a shallow rush. Surprisingly, there’s actually some weight here despite the short form, just not as much texture and detail as we’ve grown to expect from arcing stories. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though. Sometimes it’s nice to have a moment to breathe, before jumping in on another long-form story.
War Crimes focuses on George Foster Carmody, the former Secretary of Defense for the United States. After completing a televised interview, Carmody is kidnapped by a group of criminals (or vigilantes, depending on how you look at it) known as Strikeforce Europa. The group intends on taking the former Secretary back to the Netherlands to stand trial for war crimes, and as you can expect, Waller has reasons for wanting to bring her band of misfits in on the action. The issue is hot and heavy from the get-go, so it’s nearly impossible for me to discuss the issue without giving away spoilers… So let’s just jump right into it…
The Art: Gus Vazquez and Carlos Rodriguez delivery some high-energy art for this issue. Initially, I wasn’t overwhelmed by their work – just whelmed – but my opinion quickly changed once the action kicked up a notch or ten. Almost every panel looked like a screenshot from a film. During the actions scenes (and there are a lot of them), I felt like I could almost hear a suspenseful, erratic film score playing behind it because the panels played so well with the narrative. Whatever the emotion, it was represented well!
Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.
The Good: Three minutes. When Waller first mentions that the Squad only has three minutes to rescue Carmody, I couldn’t help but want to react like the team and call her crazy… Then the story progressed, and I discovered that the travel time from Carmody’s holding facility to where the trial was being held was three minutes. At that moment, I was intrigued. I knew the Squad was going to get in a tussle with Strikeforce Europa, but what I didn’t expect was Flag and Deadshot’s infiltration into Carmody’s security detail. Yeah, I could ask how they managed to get into the ranks of the security detail, but it’s also not unbelievable. And besides, if you didn’t enjoy the reveal of these two during the mission, then you must not enjoy comics!
Characterization. Part of the reason Suicide Squad works, is largely due to the characters found in the story. Over the past few years, we’ve come to expect Harley and Deadshot to steal most of the attention, but this issue focuses on the members pretty evenly. In fact, I’d venture to say that Deadshot is used less than any other character in this issue, but that doesn’t mean he’s void of cool, memorable moments (see above). Ostrander still manages to imbue shades of the characters we love into the narrative, without ever stealing focus from one or the other. Boomerang is the total screwball we expect him to be, and Harley is unequivocally crazy. What I really enjoyed seeing though, was Rick Flag in such a commanding position. It felt like a team book, but more importantly like a team mission, with Flag calling the shots the entire time.
Shado. You know what I didn’t expect? Shado popping up and taking out Flag and Deadshot! That was a nice surprise! It gave me the comic book jollies to geek out to, but also tied it to real life situations considering she was hired by Carmody’s former sercurity agency, Black Mountain… Which is no doubt the DC Comic iteration of Blackwater.
Bad guys. The Suicide Squad movie liked to continuously remind viewers that the team was assembled with criminals, and that they were all “bad guys.” Unfortunately, none of them ever actually felt like “bad guys.” Thankfully, that’s not the case here. There’s plenty of less than heroic actions from the team. Two moments in particular that stick out for me are Boomerang’s betrayal of Mad Dog and Waller’s endgame. If you’re on the Squad, and you don’t like someone, a mission is the prime opportunity to rid yourself of them. Which is exactly what Boomerang does.
Waller endgame is equally as evil… and perhaps a little more evil. The Squad risks their lives to rescue Carmody, only for Waller to put a bullet in him. The justification for doing so is a little off, but I feel Ostrander didn’t have enough pages to fully lay it out. Regardless, it worked for me, and it gave me the Wall.
The Bad: Act of War. Waller mentions that the U.S. government was considering sending soldiers on a mission to rescue Carmody, but didn’t because it would be an act of war… This threw me a little, because I can’t help but think that the Strikeforce Europa’s actions are already an act of war. They infiltrated the United States, and kidnapped the former Secretary of Defense… That should still be considered a national security risk, so that could be presumed as an act of war. But when you sum it down to the fact that Waller wanted her team to reach Carmody for selfish reasons, I guess none of this really even matters…
Doppelganger. Flag and Mad Dog look so similar that I kept confusing the two while they were being briefed by Waller prior to the mission. It’s a minor problem, but it did make the narrative a little confusing.
Strikeforce Europa. I wanted to like these guys, and had there been more time to play with them/ develop them, I might have enjoyed them more… But in the end, they came out looking like a bunch of cannon fodder.
Logistics. I touched on this earlier, but some of the logistics don’t get fully explained in this story since it’s a one-and-done special. You could easily ask “How did Strikeforce Europa get Carmody out of the country without being stopped?” or “How did Flag and Lawton infiltrate Carmody’s security detail?” and I wouldn’t fault you for asking. They’re valid questions, and something I even thought, but I don’t hold this against Ostrander or the issue. Now, before you call me biased, hear me out. I used to harp on Sean Ryan’s New Suicide Squad for not providing logical plots… This was mainly because most plot points didn’t really add up or make sense, but even when they did, he wouldn’t explain how the team got from point “A” to point “B,” and he had ample pages to do so. Ostrander doesn’t have as much “real estate,” so editing needed to occur somewhere. If Ostrander had a six issue run to tell this story, I’m sure he would’ve she enough light on these circumstances to satisfy most readers.
- It’s the godfather of Suicide Squad writing Suicide Squad.
- You like fast-paced, action packed, twisty goodness.
- This Suicide Squad isn’t afraid to live in the gray.
Overall: While War Crimes doesn’t meet the prestige of Ostrander’s original run, it’s still extremely satisfying. It’s a pleasant read for any fan, but I would most likely recommend this issue as an introduction for people who aren’t familiar with Suicide Squad. In fact, this would be perfect for fans that want to transition from the film to comics. Regardless of the bracket you group yourself in, this is still a solid issue, and an incredibly entertaining read!