Posted by Don MacPherson on September 14th, 2011
Suicide Squad #1
“Kicked in the Teeth”
Writer: Adam Glass
Pencils: Federico Dallocchio & Ransom Getty
Inks: Dallocchio & Scott Hanna
Colors: Val Staples
Letters: Jared K. Fletcher
Cover artist: Ryan Benjamin
Editor: Pat McCallum
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $2.99 US
This issue opens with repeated depictions of torture, and not super-hero genre torture. Rats, torches, jumper cables, cattle prods… it’s an ugly scene. Sure, those being subjected to the torture are villains, but it’s an ugly, distasteful scene, and I wonder if it’ll turn off some readers who are giving DC a first or renewed look given the popularity of its New 52 initiative.
That being said, I liked this first issue. Even the torture stuff. Despite the rating of T+ on the cover, this is a comic book for adults, and it’s for adults with specific tastes. I enjoy dark storytelling from time to time. I think delving into the dark side of humanity through pop culture is just as important as heartening, bright and funny entertainment. The dirty deeds that unfold in this comic book are the sort of thing one might find on TV on such shows as Criminal Minds, 24, and some HBO or AMC dramas, so I don’t think it crosses the line. Furthermore, while the cover art is more cartoony than what one will find inside the comic, it doesn’t mislead the consumer as to what sort of story he or she can expect. But the torture isn’t what made this an interesting read for me. Instead, it was Glass’ initial examination of some broken characters, about bad people who are the way they are for a reason.
Seven costumed criminals find themselves in a dark room, chained and subject to the whims of evil men who want an answer. They want to who sent them to retrieve a captured federal agent. The criminals-turned-mercenaries aren’t giving the information up, keeping to themselves they are part of Task Force X, also known as the Suicide Squad. Directed by Amanda Waller to carry out missions for the U.S. government in return for lesser sentences. They weather the pain inflicted upon them, imagining instead what they’ll do to their captors should they get free. The question is… who will break first?
DC’s website still lists the artist on this issue as Marco Rudy, but he’s not involved in this project. The site also lists Howard Chaykin as the cover artist, even though the Ryan Benjamin cover image is posted right alongside that erroneous credit. I don’t know what Rudy would’ve had in store for us, but I do know the art within suits the nasty tone of the story quite well. Two artists with disparate styles handle the art chores, which could’ve been problematic save for the fact that the art shores are divided according to the scenes. Ransom Getty illustrates the flashback scenes that depict how the various characters ended up in a torture chamber, and that keeps the shifts from being jarring. That being said, Getty’s style boasts a more conventional super-hero look, while Federico Dallocchio’s is much darker, intense and expressive; it’s like a cross between the styles of Kelley Jones and Kevin Maguire. I particularly appreciated how he conveys Harley Quinn’s illness and Savant’s desperation. I also appreciated the character redesigns here (or at least the restoration of a short-lived look for Deadshot). They look less like the garish garb of super-villains and more like mercenary or espionage gear. A glaring exception, of course, is Harley Quinn. Fortunately, she isn’t depicted quite so much as a tart in the interior art as she is on the cover.
I get why DC opted to redesign the classic Suicide Squad for this series. This is even darker fare than the original. Earlier incarnations of this property had stronger ties to super-hero genre conventions, and the brighter logo that debuted in the late 1980s had some traditional super-hero logo elements to it. This new series looks much less like a super-hero/villain series than its predecessors and calls for something different. Still, I think the logo doesn’t quite work. The incorporation of bullet holes, a handgun and a target seems redundant (especially since only one of the characters is packing heat), but most of all, the softer curves in the letters don’t suit the harsh tone of the property in general and this story in particular.
There’s one clear cue that indicates this isn’t a continuation of previous incarnations of the Suicide Squad, and that’s the depiction of Task Force X chief Amanda Waller. In the world of the New 52, she’s lost weight… a lot of weight. I assume this is attributable to her recent portrayals in live-action adaptations of DC properties — by Pam Grier in TV’s Smallville and Angela Bassett in the Green Lantern movie — and she definitely more closely resembles the latter. I thought this was a bit disappointing, as I liked the juxtaposition of Waller’s matronly figure with her bad-ass attitude. It’s a minor point, but the creators definitely made an unnecessary change.
Harley Quinn is by far the most interesting character in this inaugural issue, as Glass explores her obsession with the Joker and demonstrates how it informs every thought and action she has or makes. She’s truly a pitiable figure. Unlike the Joker, her crimes come off as the result of her mental illness, and as a result, she engenders sympathy rather than disdain. The choice to dress her up on fetish gear isn’t the best one, but it does make some sense in the context of her character. She sees herself solely as the Joker’s lover, and sexualizing her appearance has a certain logic to it. But I think it detracts more from the story than adds to it. She’s the only female member of this team, and tarting her up ultimately seems gratuitous.
When the New 52 relaunch was announced and the titles revealed, a lot of fans lamented the fact that Gail Simone’s Secret Six wasn’t going to survive in the new DC Universe. I’m pleased to say, though, that those who enjoyed that title will probably appreciate what writer Adam Glass does here. I was reminded of the darker side of Secret Six at several points, and I honestly don’t think it’s a coincidence by the end of the issue, the team is made up of six members that include past members of the Secret Six. 8/10
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