The John Ostrander-penned Suicide Squad book is probably one of the more seminal runs of the late 1980s. With a rotating group of villains and heroes, some of whom were B-list (or even C-list), it’s known for breathing life into characters who probably would have ended up in the “mort” pile otherwise. Furthermore, it’s known for being a really good action series based on a solid concept, which is villains doing government special ops missions as a way to buy their way out of jail.
I first came across the series in 1990 through the War of the Gods crossover and while I wasn’t exactly hooked enough to subscribe to the series, I do remember it being one of the better issues in what was a rather uneven crossover event. Fast-forward to a few years ago when I had started listening to comics podcasts and this series had been brought up several times. I went to my LCS to see what was there and was pretty surprised to see a number of issues available for just fifty cents. About a year or two later, I piled most of the series’ 66 issues into the shortbox I was filling for “Shortboxtober.” In just a couple of afternoons, I was able to get the vast majority of the series.
I didn’t read it at first, however. I figured that with about 11-12 issues missing, I could hold off and wait until I found them. I found about half of that in my LCS’ bins today at $1-2 each, but I’m still missing about half of the Janus Directive crossover as well as three key issues that may run more than just a dollar because they are early Oracle appearances, and I am going to have to hunt down the final issue. That being said, I’ve decided to start digging into the book to see what it’s about and whether or not it is worth the hype. I figure that I’ll read what is here and then come to a decision at some point as to whether or not I will be holding onto what I have and completing the run.
The series sets itself up perfectly on the cover of its first issue: “These eight people will put their lives on the line for their country. One of them won’t be coming home!” I don’t know if you can do better than that, to be honest, and what we have is a mix of international intrigue and superhero actioning. Ostrander sets us up with a couple of very 1980s stories in these seven issues, starting with the rise of a terrorist group called Jihad, which is one of those very dated “Arabs as Terrorists” type groups, and also getting involved in some late-Cold War back and forth with the Soviet Union and a dissident who wants to defect. The former story, while a solid read, does show its age quite a bit. The latter is definitely of its time but takes from the same tropes as classic spy flicks, even bringing in classic DC spy characters such as Nemesis, whom I hadn’t read since an old issue of The Brave and the Bold.
When it’s not spies and international incidents, Suicide Squad plays in the DCU by keeping us in the loop as to what happened after Legends concluded. The series was a spin-off from that crossover, and in issue #3, we get an update on Glorious Godfrey, who is still in the catatonic state he was in at the end of that event. In issue #4, we get an odd story about a vigilante calling himself William Hell, who is using medieval imagery to gain a following as some sort of weird militia leader.
But even when the stories are a little odd, the characterization and artwork are very, very good. I wasn’t a huge fan of Luke McDonnell’s work on the latter-day issues of Justice League of America, but his style works exceptionally well here and it is gritty, dynamic work without being too overstylized or letting that aesthetic overtake the story. The characterization is all fascinating, with characters like Amanda Waller and Rick Flagg running the show and giving real life to the concept of running Task Force X without them killing anyone or each other.
It is off to a strong start. I didn’t go too in depth about individual issues because all you really need to know is that this good, fun, entertaining comics and you should seek them out.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?
Keep (for now — a final decision will be made when I finish the run)