Bonus Book #10 – Bronze Tiger (1988)

Bonus Book #10 – Bronze Tiger (Holiday, 1988)
“Deadly Perspective”
Writer – Larry Ganem
Pencils – Peter Krause
Inks – Fred Butler
Letters – Helen Vesik
Colors – Matt Webb
Edits – Joey Cavalieri
Executive Edits – Joe Orlando

This is a weird one for a few reasons… none of ’em story-related.  This bonus was included with Suicide Squad #21 (Holiday, 1988), and is the only member of the Bonus Book family not to get a mention on the cover… so, to steal a line from Ed MacMahon, you might already be an owner of Bonus Book #10… and not even realize it!

Also, you might’ve noticed that I assigned this a “cover-month” of “Holiday”.  Ya see, this was during a time where cover-dates were getting shuffled… and, in fact, many of DC’s offerings around now don’t even get assigned an actual “month”.  If we look at the indicia for Suicide Squad #21… it just says “1988”.  Well, that ain’t ‘pacific enuff for me!  Some of DC’s books during this two-month time were assigned “Holiday” and “Winter” as their “cover-months”… so, I’ll just use those over the next couple of days.  Hope it isn’t too confusing… and, sure hope my explanation didn’t cause your eyes to glaze over!

Now, onto the Bonus Book!

We open with Bronze Tiger staking out a rooftop area… about to engage in battle with some uglies.  Looks like he’s being watched by somebody… almost as though this is a test.  Bronze Tiger gets his butt whupped, and is unceremoniously dumped into the alley down below.  As luck would have it, our hero manages to survive the fall with little more than superficial injuries.  It’s almost as though he meant to do that.

Later on, we catch up with the uglies… who are getting absolutely thrashed by the fella who was watching Bronze Tiger’s fight.  I mean, he’s cleaning house on these goofs, all the while lamenting the fact that he just can’t seem to find anyone who could give him a competitive fight.

As Neiko engages in some post-fight meditation, we can see that this time, Bronze Tiger was watching.  This prompts a flashback to his receiving this assignment from Amanda Waller.  This dude, the butt-kicker, is an assassin named Neiko.  He’s been contracted to kill Jules Santiago from Cuesta Verde… an act, which would very likely send parts of the Latin world into war.  Bronze Tiger’s gotta stop this from going down.

But, it gets better!  Neiko is also contracted to assassinate a drug kingpin named Louis Daniel DeMarco.  Ya see, the Wall doesn’t mind this hit going down… and actually prefers it does.  So, here’s the thing: Bronze Tiger’s gotta allow Neiko to murder DeMarco… but stop him before he gets to Santiago.  Just another day in the life for Task Force X.

We jump to the next day, where DeMarco is fishing for Marlin off his massive yacht… hopefully he’s cranking some Michael McDonald or Kenny Loggins.  When it looks like he’s got a bite… the line tenses, but then… snaps.  Hmm.  DeMarco leans over the back of the boat to see what’s going on… 

… and gets a harpoon through the chest for his curiosity!  Well, there’s Step One outta the way.

That night, Bronze Tiger heads over to Neiko’s safehouse/safe-apartment… hopeful he might catch the killer unawares.  This, naturally, isn’t going to be quite that easy.

Our men face off… it’s made clear that Bronze Tiger realized he was being watched on the rooftop, and his quick loss was just a way to lull Neiko into a false sense of security.  When get finally down to the nitty-gritty, Neiko gets the immediate upper-hand, though, is pleasantly surprised at what a competent fighter Bronze Tiger actually is.  Could he actually be… a worthy opponent?!

They fight out onto the fire escape… and the beating continues.  Tiger manages to get in a few blows, but this is definitely Neiko’s fight to lose.  All the while, Bronze Tiger recalculates his list of best fighters in the DC Universe… slotting himself down to fourth place (after Batman, Richard Dragon Kung-Fu Fighter, and now Neiko).

Finally, Neiko produces his firearm… and prepares to end this skirmish for good.  Bronze Tiger manages to kick the killer in the shoulder just as he pulls the trigger!  This causes Neiko to shoot his own damned knee out!  As he lay prone on the cold and filthy steel, our man retrieves the gun… and informs Neiko that this fight is over.

Rather than just blow Neiko’s brains out (which is probably the outcome The Wall was looking for), Bronze Tiger decides to appeal to Neiko’s Samurai side.  He will spare his life, in exchange for Santiago’s.  Neiko will (eventually) walk away from this fight… but he will agree, on his honor, to not harm Jules Santiago.  Neiko agrees.

This was awesome!  I really liked this one!

I feel like this sort of story is perfect for the Bonus Book format.  It doesn’t look to “change” anything… but, it adds to the lore.  You could take it or leave it, and it wouldn’t hurt the ongoing narrative in the story.  I’m not saying you’d want to “leave it”, because it was pretty great… but, I’d be lying if I told you I read this my first time through Suicide Squad!

I think my main… well, it’s not a “problem”, but… “issue” with the Bonus Books was their placement in the books.  I get that having them in the middle/at the staples, makes them feel like they can be “pulled out” to stand on their own.  I mean, some of the earlier Insert Prevues were referred to “Preview Pull-Out”.  I just think they’re easier to “miss” putting them in the middle.  I know in all of my read-throughs, I would skip these wholesale, so I could continue with the “main story” of the issue… and by the time I finished reading, I’d completely forget the Bonus Book existed in the first place.  I think I’m babbling at this point… but, what I’m trying to say is, if these were “back-ups”, I’m sure I’d have read more of them my first times through.

So, whatta we got here?  The entire story builds to a pretty stellar and smart fight scene.  Very well done by all involved.  Neiko is presented as a force to be reckoned with… and sadly, I don’t think he goes on to make any further appearances (at least if the DC Wiki is to be trusted).  Bronze Tiger is shown to be both a smart fighter and a fella who’s practically bursting with humility.  I really can’t say enough good things about this little story.

Our writer, Larry Ganem, much like many of the other creators we’ve met over the last week and a half, did not go on to be a prolific writer for DC Comics.  Outside of this Bonus Book, he contributed to an issue of the TSR-Licensed Dragonlance title (issue #21 – July, 1990).  He, like fellow Bonus Book-er Hank Kanalz, who we met yesterday, would go on to an office position with DC Comics.  As of a few years ago, Larry is/was the Vice-President of Talent Relations and Editorial Administration for DC Comics.  So, is he who we blame for how lousy the editing has been for the past decade?!  Unless, in the intervening years, the editors’ role has been relegated to tweeting out pictures of their lunch-plates and how “supercool” all their books are… without paying any attention to quality, continuity… or spelling?  Ehh, who could say, right?

Across the table, we’ve got Peter Krause.  He would go on to have a prolific career in comics, including a bunch of stuff for DC Comics.  He had a lengthy run on DC’s Star Trek: The Next Generation comics during the early-1990’s… though, when I think of Krause, the first thing that comes to mind is Irredeemable from Boom! Studios.  You can check out more from Peter at his website.  His art here is pretty great, and it’s hard to believe this was his first published work!

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