As I write this, the first issue of a new Suicide Squad mini-series has just hit the stands and has inspired me to write something about the 1980s Suicide Squad. That and I didn’t know what to write for the blog this week. So I thought, “Hey! Suicide Squad! The best comic DC published in the late-80s. Let’s tell the kids today about that cool comic.” So here it is, kids.
Suicide Squad was first introduced in the pages of LEGENDS, a six-issue series which had the sole purpose of nothing more than acting as a launch pad for upcoming titles. Suicide Squad was one of those titles.
The premise is simple. The Suicide Squad is a secret government group tasked to accomplish politically sensitive and suicidal missions as all get out. The Squad is mostly made up of super villains who are given a choice: go on the mission, complete the mission and if you survive it, you get a full pardon. Sounds simple enough, right? Yeah, but the name’s Suicide Squad.
When we first see them in #3 of LEGENDS, the newly-formed squad is preparing for their first briefing by their boss, Amanda ‘The Wall’ Waller.
The Wall takes no shit from nobody.
By this time, the more astute of you may be thinking, “Wait a minute, man. These guys are crooks right? So who’s to say they won’t escape in the middle of the mission?” Gotcha covered there, buddy.
We will see later on if any of the Squad’s members were stupid enough to try and see if Big Momma was bluffing. But now, their first mission:
Suffice it to say, they succeeded in bringing down their target in the end. Fast forward about four months later and the Squad gets its own book. Yay!
I have to admit, that cover sold me to the Squad even more than their appearance in LEGENDS did. There’s nothing like floating heads on a black background that shouts “Instant hit series!” to me. And that tagline? Hell, I don’t know what stopped me from buying 10 copies.
Plotted by John Ostrander, the same talented guy who wrote LEGENDS, this first issue was mostly a build up to the Squad’s first mission in their regular series. Apparently, some super powered terrorists called ‘The Jihad’ have attacked what looked like to be a generic American airport. Except that it’s not:
Damn, that’s hardcore. They killed their own people for the sake of a product demonstration.
If issue 1 was the build up, issue 2 was the execution. The Squad’s bringing the battle to the bad guys’ lair before they could attack America. Bad news is the Jihad’s HQ is called Jotunheim, a crazy ass structure built into the side of a mountain.
Good news is they have a couple of undercover agents within the Jihad and one of them is Nightshade who can teleport in and out of anyplace like nobody’s business.
And the fun begins....
Deadshot gets to pair up with the Jihad’s Manticore, a guy who’s half lion and half scorpion or something. He’s also Greek. Manticore isn’t much of a people person and sleeps alone at the bottom of an elevator shaft:
Okay, so that didn’t work. Maybe Deadshot shoot try shooting him or something. No sense calling yourself Deadshot if you decide to just go ninja on your prey and kill him with an elevator shaft while he’s sleeping. Deadshot thinks so too and tries to take the Greek freak down face to face.
The other members of the Squad don’t have much trouble with their targets. Captain Boomerang, a longtime Flash fiend, is given the task of hunting down yet another speedster, the Jihad’s Jaculi.
I like what Ostrander did with Boomerang. The man’s a jerk and a killer and Ostrander never shied away from that fact. Later on in the series, Boomerang is used a lot as comic relief but in this issue, he’s a total bad ass. Still, if you can’t handle a middle aged Aussie guy with trick boomerangs then you don’t really deserve to live.
Oh yeah, remember the tagline on the cover of the first issue? The only Squad member to die is Mindboggler and even that was due to Captain Boomerang’s treachery.
See? Boomerang is a total dickhead.
Another Squad member, Enchantress, makes short work of the bad guy’s digitally engineered genie.
Basically, for a terrorist organization, the Jihad isn’t up to the Squad’s standards. They get their asses kicked big time. On their own turf too. Even Col. Rick Flag, the Squad’s leader, manage to subdue Rustam and this is a guy who can create a fiery sword from his fist. All Rick Flag had to do was just bitch slap this guy with his automatic!
There’re a few more fight scenes in this issue but you get the idea. Squad goes in, Jihad gets screwed, Squad flies home. Between that, there’s a double cross on both sides, some sweet kung fu fighting and the Squad’s own helicopter backup piloted by weird voice commands:
“We smooth. Peel”
Anyway, these first two issues of Suicide Squad totally blew me away. I got what I expected and then some. Up to that point, comics was all about the good guys doing good things like helping old ladies cross the street and knocking out that month's megalomaniac. The Suicide Squad ignored all that shit and gave us stories of intrigue that might just occur in the real world (if the real world had people running around in the night wearing yellow vests and killer boomerangs) while at the same time not forgetting that they are part of the DC Universe.
John Ostrander was at his peak then and he didn’t waste any time with pages and pages of the characters just standing around doing nothing. His job was to tell a good story from page 1 and he did just that. Luke McDonnell’s pencils I wasn’t too keen on. He wasn’t bad. Far from it. I just didn’t like his style. The people he drew looked stiff sometimes. Fortunately, he was inked by the alliteratively named Karl Kesel and he can make anyone’s pencil drawings look good.
It was a great comic that never achieved the sales that it deserved. Not enough boobs, I think. After a 66 issue run, the Squad was cancelled, a fact that I'm still bitter about today. Seriously, I felt like Chris Crocker. Damn you, fanboys!
Next: part 2