Eye on Comics

Comics criticism and commentary from Don MacPherson

A New 52 Review: Suicide Squad #1

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

“New 52 Reviews” on Eye on Comics are sponsored by All New Comics, Happy Harbor Comics and Strange Adventures. Show your support for Eye on Comics by supporting these retailers.

Follow Eye on Comics on Twitter.

15 Responses to “A New 52 Review: Suicide Squad #1”

  1. Shawn Says:

    I like the part where you talk about Joker. I cannot wait to read this! I hope i can get every issue!

  2. Don MacPherson Says:

    Shawn wrote:
    I like the part where you talk about Joker. I cannot wait to read this!

    Well, the Joker doesn’t really appear here. I referred to him as an influence on Harley.

  3. MotleyDrue Says:

    I feel like I’m in the minority here, but I love the Harely Quinn redesign.

  4. Don MacPherson Says:

    MotleyDrue wrote:
    I feel like I’m in the minority here, but I love the Harely Quinn redesign.

    Is it a complete redesign, or is it an adoption of (or close approximation of) the Batman: Arkham Asylum videogame design for the character?

  5. Captain Jim Says:

    I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. I’ll probably take a look at #2 and decide then if I’m going to pick it up or not.

    I’m not opposed to a new direction per se, but John Ostrander’s previous versions, and even more so, Gail Simone’s Secret Six were so well done, this really pales in comparison to me. At least so far. Gail’s characterization of Deadshot and Killer Shark was so well done, they seem like cardboard characters here, in comparison.

    Perhaps I’m expecting too much in a #1, but 8/10 seems way too high for me. I think I’d give it a 5/10, at best.

  6. David H. Says:

    Harley has a new costume and Waller has slimmed down. it is what it is folks but the story wasn’t half bad so let’s get on with the series and see if it has legs moving forward from here.

  7. ThatNickGuy Says:

    The Wall will now be called The Rack.

  8. Victor Von Douche Says:

    This Suicide Squad — and the frauds behind it — is a bad joke. The creators ripped off the character “Hammerhead” from an indie book called Hard-Bullied Comics and used him for this supposedly “new” King Shark. That Federico guy drawing SS was the artist on the indie before he hit.

    DO NOT SUPPORT STEALING FROM INDEPENDENT CREATORS.

  9. Don MacPherson Says:

    Victor von Douche wrote:
    This Suicide Squad — and the frauds behind it — is a bad joke. The creators ripped off the character “Hammerhead” from an indie book called Hard-Bullied Comics and used him for this supposedly “new” King Shark. That Federico guy drawing SS was the artist on the indie before he hit.

    That does seem odd, but your rabid denunciation seems a bit much. After all, King Shark was an established DC character boasting a design stemming from a different kind of shark. For all we know, he was directed by the writer or an editor to retool King Shark to look like a hammerhead shark. Who knows?

    Furthermore, it’s not like the concept hasn’t been done before. There was a bounty hunter character in the Star Wars moves called Hammerhead with a weird look that included eyes at the end of stalks. There was a hammerhead-shark-looking pirate in the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

    “Ripoff” might be overstarting. To call the design derivative is a fairer comment.

  10. Victor Von Douche Says:

    Hello Don. I get what you’re saying, but look up Hard-Bullied at graphicly. This book was done before Pirates anyway.

    My problem and why it makes me so mad is Federico, the guy drawing SS, was the artist for Hard-Bullied for issues 5, 6 and 7. This whole thing stinks. Indie fans are really protective of these books we seek out and love. Seeing this “coincidence” really bothers me.

  11. Don MacPherson Says:

    Victor wrote:
    This whole thing stinks. Indie fans are really protective of these books we seek out and love. Seeing this “coincidence” really bothers me.

    Your irritation of the perceived slight seems to go beyond a fan’s reaction. Are you a fan of Hard-Bullied, or were you involved in its creation?

    Either way, isn’t Dallacchio’s work on a New 52 title possibly good for the indie title on which he worked previously? Couldn’t fans of his new work seek out his previous efforts as a result?

    As for what the Pirates movie came out, my point wasn’t that there could’ve been another “theft” of an idea. I was just pointing out other creative types can come up with similar ideas or visuals independently of one another.

  12. Victor Von Douche Says:

    I wish I was involved, but alas my talents lie in the financial arena — tax prep/gen accounting. Federico, the artist on SS was involved in it, though. I have been seeking this book from the beginning when it first released under the name Hard-Boiled Comics, before the name change. It is a great book and you are missing the point of all this. It is the principle. This man who used to draw the Hard Bullied books is drawing a character in Suicide Squad to look just like the character from Hard Bullied and they’re not crediting the creators of Hard Bullied and they never will. It is so obvious to me and really anyone who looks at the facts of what happened: the little guy got stomped on, while Glass and company get all the credit for the “new” take on the character. But they just stole Hammerhead from Hard Bullied because they liked the look and know they can get away with it because of vague arguments like yours. And they are getting away with it. I mean, that is what happened. They took the Hammerhead character. It seem pretty clear to me. Too many coincidences and there are no such thing in situations like these.

  13. Don MacPherson Says:

    Victor wrote:
    It is so obvious to me and really anyone who looks at the facts of what happened: the little guy got stomped on, while Glass and company get all the credit for the “new” take on the character. But they just stole Hammerhead from Hard Bullied because they liked the look and know they can get away with it because of vague arguments like yours. And they are getting away with it. I mean, that is what happened. They took the Hammerhead character. It seem pretty clear to me. Too many coincidences and there are no such thing in situations like these.

    I don’t think it’s as cut and dried as you make it out to be, and your argument seems based on emotion, overstatement and assumptions (assumptions that could be correct, but we don’t know). To say DC “stole” the Hammerhead character is a fallacy. King Shark has been around for a while; what’s new is the hammerhead shark look. Even if the design change can be directly attributable to Dallacchio’s work in Hard-Bullied Comics (which it can’t be conclusively at this point), a single tweak in the character’s appearance is hardly an outright theft of an entire character concept.

    I’m curious… since you’re unconnected to Hard-Bullied, why the pseudonym?

  14. Victor Von Douche Says:

    I’m at work, Don. That is why the pseudonym. I somehow do not think the boss would like me debating comix online instead of crunching credits and debits in SAP.

    I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. To me the hammerhead it a striking visual, and like the main villain in Hard-Bullied. It bums me out to see it appropriated, and especially in a book this outright terrible. Sorry if you don’t want to see it, but to me this at worst “theft,” at best “influence” is blatant given the people involved.

  15. Don MacPherson Says:

    Victor wrote:
    I’m at work, Don.

    Me too! Well, not your workplace, but you know what I mean. :)