Friday, August 5, 2016

Suicide Squad #1 (1987)


Suicide Squad #1 (May, 1987)
"Trial by Blood"
Writer - John Ostrander
Penciller - Luke McDonnell
Inker - Karl Kesel
Letterer - Todd Klein
Colorist - Carl Gafford
Editor - Robert Greenberger
Cover Price: $0.75

Feels like it's been a little while since I've said this but... we've got another comic book movie coming out this weekend that I'm not gonna see!  I've long wanted to discuss this series, however, kinda shied away in light of the property's recent run-in with relevance.  I do so hate being cliche... but, eh, whattayagonnado?

I mostly wanted to discuss this issue (in particular) due to the circumstances surrounding my acquisition of it... and a lesson I learned from it.  I decided several years back that I wanted to own as complete a run of DC Comics from post-Crisis onward... with a special emphasis on the mid-late 1980's.  This feels like something of a golden age for me.  Things are new, different, and exciting... and we hadn't quite run into that speculatory wall.  For the most part, these books are pretty easy to come by... they clog many'a quarter and fifty-cent bin.

One of those books, was Suicide Squad.  These were among the most ubiquitous in the cheap-o bins... cuz, after all, who's ever gonna care about this book, right?  I managed to find just about every issue I needed for under a buck... except the issue we're going to discuss today.  I searched high and low for this bugger... driving for, literally hours, to strange and exotic comic and used book stores... I always came up empty.  This would go on for the better part of a year.  I realize I could've just ordered the damn thing online... but I'm really about "the hunt".  It's so much more satisfying finally tracking a coveted issue down... for me anyway.

I used to work on the road.  I'd put on several hundred miles a day driving throughout the city (and neighboring... and not-so-neighboring towns/cities).  I was particularly far out one day... and during a break, decided to see if there were any comic shops in the area.  As luck would have it... there was one!

Rather than wander my way through this foreign-to-me town, I did perhaps the stupidest thing a person who is looking for a particular comic book can do... I called ahead.  I called them, and asked if they had a copy of Suicide Squad #1... from 1987... because there's been several.

Well, again... as luck would have it... they actually had a copy!  I did the next stupidest thing a person looking for a particular comic book can do... I inquired what they were asking for it.  Stupid!  The question was met with a pregnant pause... followed by a few "uhhh..'s".  I could almost hear the woman's eyes darting about... trying to figure out if she should check eBay or the Overstreet.

She finally manages to stammer out a "F...fo.... five... dollars?".  It was a hair more than I wanted to pay (at the time it was listed at $2.50 in Overstreet), but I agreed.  She then got cocky... she pretended she was looking at the wrong issue... then bumped the price up to $10.  I told her $5 was my limit... over my limit, in fact... and she relented.

Later on that day... I dropped a Lincoln-plus-tax on the counter and snagged my book.  It wasn't until I was halfway home that I noticed the price sticker (which was on the BACK of the bagged and boarded book)... for ONE dollar.  Oh well... ya live, ya learn.  I've never called a shop ahead of time to see if they had what I wanted since.

Now, onto my normal spoilery (and probably underwhelming... I doubt I can do this one justice) synopsis.

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We open at the busy and bustling Hub City Airport where they are both the Mayor and Governor are awaiting the arrival of the President of the United States.  A mustachioed man in a red shirt is our focus character for the time being.  He goes about his business, picking up his bags and people watching.  He gazes out the window as Air Force one touches down... then gives the signal...


A portal opens up in a wall, and a pair of mercenaries burst through it.  The man we've been following hops in the portal after being waved in by a masked woman.  The mercs begin mercilessly slaughtering the civilians.


As the police attempt to intervene, our POV man reenters the scene and drops a strange box that a digital genie appears to emanate from.  The Djinn makes short work of the law-enforcement threat.


The fella in the red shirt starts tailing the Governor and Mayor as they start fretting over the welfare and safety of the POTUS.  He garrotes one, and stabs the other in the chest.  Air Force One has been informed of the terrorist threat, and begins taxiing on the runway.


Unluckily for them, our man is armed with a flaming sword.  He's on the tarmac before they can take off.  He chops off AF1's landing gear and a wing, and it noses down before exploding in a fiery mess.


The group of mercs hop back into the portal... leaving nothing but disaster and death in their wake.


Three semi-well-dressed individuals begin walking through the wreckage.  They're calculating casualties, and time frames.  One is revealed to be Marlo the President of Qurac, who also operates the terrorist group, The Jihad.  We learn that this was all just a demonstration... the President is save... the people present were really killed, however.  These people are described as criminals... and actors thinking they were in a movie.  The next time around... those dead will be American citizens.  The Jihad have passed their test.


We shift scenes to Belle Reve Prison in Louisiana.  Warden John Economos is giving a guided tour to reporter Vicki Vale.  He takes her to the cell of Superman villain, Parasite... who they are keeping just barely alive... but not so alive that he an do any harm.  They feed him by sending one rat in every so often so that he may siphon its life energy.  Vale is visibly disgusted, however concedes that she herself has no better plan.  She eventually leaves, and staff member Flo Crowly gives the "all clear" to Amanda Waller.


Waller is currently chatting up a few of Belle Reve's mental health professionals.  Task Force X is on the other side of what I would assume to be a two-way mirror.  Here the Wall runs down all of the team members' stats.  Our "main" team consists of Rick Flag, Bronze Tiger, Enchantress and Captain Boomerang... they are joined by a pair of "newbies", Mindboggler and Plastique.


I'm glad they put a pair of new kids in the group.  It gives the Squad an opportunity to go over their mission statement without it feeling forced.  If you missed the Squad appearances in Legends or Secret Origins, this is all new information.  We get the skinny just as the new members do.  These folks volunteer for potential suicide missions, in the hopes that their jail sentences will be changed to "time served"... of course, they've gotta survive...


Plastique is a bit perturbed that she has to wear an explody bracelet.  Ya see, until Waller and Company trust you... you gotta wear the hardware.  If you wander a bit too far off the beaten path... you go boom.  Digger can't keep his fool mouth shut, and winds up sportin' jewelry himself for this mission.  Another great way to deliver this information to the reader without it looking forced.


Waller begins her debriefing with the team.  This is an awesome scene... she goes through the members of the Jihad via overhead projector slideshow.  I love that we can see her shadow on the "screen".  This is another awesome way of sharing information with the reader in a natural and organic way.  We learn that the digital genie is called Djinn, the ugly Sabretooth-lookin' merc is called Manticore, the spear-wielding Rambo lookalike is Jaculi, the masked woman is Chimera, and our point of view fella from the opening scene goes by Ravan.


Waller continues, discussing Quraci President Marlo, and international terrorist called Mushtaq, and the Jihad's mountainside headquarters Jotunheim... which is the Squad's target.


Task Force X readies for their trip east.  This is another fun moment... just watching the Squadies killing time until it's time to kill.  Col. Rick Flag, the point man for the Squad is surprised to see that they will be joined by one Karin Grace.  They were apparently lovers at once point, however, I'm not terribly familiar with her.


Captain Boomerang, being his flirtatious and delusional self can't seem to leave poor Plastique alone.  Mindboggler's seen enough, and so she... er, boggles his mind.  Digger don't dig bein' made to look a fool (if only he knew), and so he chucks a 'rang at her... which is caught by Bronze Tiger.  They share a contentious... and almost racist moment.  This promises to be quite the eventful outing...


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This is one of those stories I try and read through every so often... it's an awesome way to start this series.  This current reread was no exception, I really enjoyed my time with it.

The opening pages are designed in a cinematic style.  The credits pop up in consecutive panels, most of which have no dialogue, giving a feeling of progression and almost a "weight" to the seemingly innocuous actions occurring within.

Ostrander offers up introductions on the core Task Squad X as well as the members of the Jihad.  These bits feel organic, as while this is something of an info-dump... it's meant to be "in story" as well.  This all works beautifully, and at least for me, helped with my engagement to the story.

The team members hardly get along, and that also works well.  We've (already) got new members, and they fit in to the dysfunctional dynamic really well.  Captain Boomerang is definitely a fun one to watch.  He's just such a goofball... can't help but like him.  Amanda Waller... I've spoken about her before, but, Waller... this Waller, is such an awesome character.  The Rick Flag and Bronze Tiger as "parents" or, at least babysitters for the crew is fun to see as well.  They both give off that Martian Manhunter in the JLI vibe.  They know how dire and serious the situation is... and they've gotta somehow make that clear to the rest of the team.

Let's talk about the Jihad for a bit.  These guys are frankly, pretty terrifying.  The horrendous lengths they are going to... just for a demonstration (!) really speaks to their depravity... and how unlikely they'd be to listen to reason.  What's scarier than terrorists?  Well, terrorists with super-powers, of course.

Last thing I want to mention, is the amazing Howard Chaykin cover.  This is one of those that I like to call "immediately iconic".  Just beautifully laid out... even the heavy text doesn't take anything away from it... in fact, it fits quite well.

That's really all I've got... overall, great issue... great arc, and more often than not, a great series.  I doubt I did it the justice it deserves... luckily, in light of current events, I'm sure any interested parties can easily and affordably procure it in collected edition.  If you are headed out to see the film, hope you have a great time!

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2 comments:

  1. This is definitely a great issue, and an awesome way to kick off the Suicide Squad series. There's a part of me that wishes the movie drew upon this first issue for all its characters, but then mainstream audiences wouldn't know who a bunch of these people are, so I guess for revenue's sake they had to throw in some more widely-known figures like Joker and Harley Quinn.

    I agree that this version of Amanda Waller is really awesome, and the comparison of Rick Flag to the JLI's Martian Manhunter is pretty spot on, never thought about that.

    Awesome write-up, as always :)

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  2. I like the "live and learn" story about procuring this issue...something all collectors have to learn eventually, the art of negotiation. Funny thing is it's something I never apply to any other facet of my life, if I'm at a street fair or getting a gift for my wife or something, I never haggle--like, I don't really have a baseline for the price of home-made cat-faced mittens, so if you say they're thirty bucks that's good enough for me. But try and sell me a copy of Binky and his Buddies with a rolled spine for fifteen bucks, you've got another think coming!

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