Deadshot #1 (November, 1988)
“Die But Once”
Writers – John Ostrander & Kim Yale
Artist – Luke McDonnellp
Letterer – Tim Harkins
Colorist – Julianna Ferriter
Editor – Robert Greenberger
Cover Price: $1.00
Looking through my last month or so blogging and I come to find that I’ve mostly been covering “current century” stuff. Yes, part of that is due to the quickness in which a recent issue can be synopsized… but also, there’s that “luck of the draw”.
Today we’re going to remedy that somewhat by travelling back to the late 1980’s… and check out a Suicide Squad spin-off miniseries.
We open with a woman arriving at a rather seedy apartment in search of Floyd Lawton. She checks in with the super/landlord and learns that Floyd only used this address to have his mail forwarded to a post office box… so, it looks like our lady has got bupkis. Well, not entirely… she does get the location of the P.O. Box, so there’s that. This woman, by the way, is Floyd’s ex-wife.
We next shift over to the man himself, who is in a bar in some tropical locale meeting with a man named Silas (though, he refers to him as Silage for some reason), who he was once in the clink with. We learn that they’re the two last men standing from their little prison clique… the rest had all perished in convenient “accidents”.
Outside, we can see that this meeting is being surveilled by Sarge Steel and Rick Flag of Task Force X. Turns out Floyd’s “on the job” trying to be connected with a man going by the moniker “El Jefe”.
Speaking of the Suicide Squad, we jump over to Belle Reve Prison to check in with Prison Psychiatrist/Therapist Marnie Herrs. This facilitates our getting a quick and dirty look at Deadshot’s origin story… and his rather unsuccessful career as a criminal. Herrs posits that perhaps Deadshot is truly on a “suicide mission”… as in, part of him hopes he dies.
Back with Deadshot, he is brought before a a stereotypical mobby dude named Ariosto. Floyd introduces himself as “Orlando Furioso”… which, c’mon… that’s just silly. Anyhoo, to test Deadshot’s loyalty, Ariosto drags a “traitor” into the room. For them to trust Sr. Furioso, he’s going to have to put a bullet in this poor dude’s brain. C’mon… that’s never a problem for ol’ Floyd.
Ariosto is impressed… and tells Deadshot he can meet with El Jefe… in six months… maybe a year. Well, that’s not going to work for Floyd, so he delivers an ultimatum. They meet tonight, or he walks. I’m not sure why, but Ariosto agrees. I think, personally, I’d let this masked-madman walk and chalk it up as a win.
Back at Belle Reve, Marnie continues reflecting on her time analyzing Mr. Lawton… finding him a tragic figure, with women issues out that wazoo… but, still… something drew her to him. Something which got her taken off his case. She decides it’s time for her to take a leave of absence from her position with Task Force X.
We rejoin Deadshot and company at a small airstrip. A plane lands, and the group boards. Inside we get a look at El Jefe. He’s… just a dude. He greets Deadshot and suggests that this masked man might want him dead. Floyd doesn’t correct him. El Jefe warns him that if he fires a gun, any holes in the pressurized cabin would kill everybody on board. Kinda begs the question as to why El Jefe is packing heat… but whattayagonnado? Perhaps it’s just a fashion accessory to the guy.
So, you remember that thing about Deadshot being on a bonafide “suicide mission” from earlier? Well, our man decides to throw caution (and bullets) to the wind… and blasts everybody on board! This includes Silage… the final member of his “old gang”, by the way… and perhaps the real reason why he took this gig. As promised by El Jefe, the fuselage comes apart… and our man is thrown from the plane.
He plummets for a bit, before Black Orchid swoops in to deliver him to safety.
We wrap up with Floyd surrounded by his fellow Task Force X members, including his “Jefe”, Amanda Waller. She has another mission for him, but he decides he’s going to take a little break.
Now this is a fun little series!
It’s weird in that so much actually happens… and yet, when I reflect on it, this feels like an issue I’d almost refer to as “quiet”. I feel like this uses the “right” cinematic sensibilities to make the story flow organically… and almost makes reading feel passive, just receiving the events. I mean, I suppose that can be seen as a bad thing… in that active reader-engagement is low. Luckily, we have Ostrander and Yale here… who made the whole magilla a great little experience.
I feel like my main takeaway here is the idea that Floyd Lawton might literally be suicidal. It’s been… forever, since I’ve read the main Suicide Squad title from the late 80’s, so I don’t remember if this was an ongoing plot thread concern… so I can’t really speak to that. As a “hook” for this miniseries, however, it’s a great one!
Of course, we’ve got the benefit of… yeesh, thirty years of hindsight to tell us that Floyd’s going to survive this miniseries, but I gotta wonder if readers of the day thought this might be a story to send him off? It sure feels like it…
Having Floyd not care whether he lives or dies changes the whole dynamic of the Suicide Squad. This isn’t like Captain Boomerbutt who has to stay in line… Deadshot simply doesn’t care. Waller can strap a ‘splody choker on him… and it doesn’t matter. Deadshot’s only going to do what he chooses to do. If The Wall doesn’t dig that, and decides to blow his head off his shoulders… that’s just fine by him!
The art comes from regular Suicide Squad artist Luke McDonnell… though, it didn’t quite look like his style in the opening pages. I had to check the credits to see if any of this was attributed to Keith Giffen. That scene with Floyd’s ex-wife… she looked quite “Giffeny”… probably the haircut. I swear, I thought that was either Keith Giffen or Trevor Von Eeden. Suppose that doesn’t much matter.
Overall… I really dug this, and would definitely recommend checking it out. The miniseries was recently released as the Deadshot: Beginnings trade paperback (likely timed to coincide with the Suicide Squad motion picture) and is also available digitally for two-bucks a pop. I should mention, it’s also pretty easy to procure from the cheap-o bins… at least in my neck of the woods. Whichever way you go, you oughta check this one out.
(Sorta the) Letters Page: