(NOTE: Spoilers ahead!)
The intent of imprisonment by the Department of Corrections is two-fold: to incarcerate and rehabilitate, not to punish. The effectiveness of their methodology is up for debate, but there are those within the field of criminal rehabilitation that believe a small percentage of those currently under the care of the D.O.C. cannot be rehabilitated. They will never be functioning, productive members of society and are wards of the state – though “liabilities of the state” is probably a more apt description. Though most of them will waste away in their cells, there are some whose rarified skill-set could prove to be an asset to the state instead of just a liability. These outliers of the norm make up DC’s Suicide Squad – Adam Glass of Deadpool fame on story and Federico Dallocchio, Ransom Getty, Scott Hanna on art with Val Staples on color.
The Suicide Squad is comprised of six lifers at Belle Reeve Prison (Belle Reeve, loosely translated means either “to beautifully pass a rope through” or “a beautiful overseer” – so pick your poison there) who are given the chance to get an early release in exchange for completing missions that have an astronomically low survival rate. Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Deadshot, El Diablo, Voltaic, Black Spider and King Shark were imprisoned for their sociopathic tendencies and it is those same tendencies that make them the ideal candidates for the Suicide Squad because the lion’s share of their missions involve murder, chaos and destruction. Unfortunately these aren’t good Samaritans and Amanda Waller (the wrangler of these miscreants) simply can’t take it on faith that they’ll complete their missions so a tiny explosive device is implanted in their necks and in the event a member of the Suicide Squad decides to go rouge – they’ll have to do so sans caput. As an added measure, the Suicide Squad is put through weeks of tortuous physical and mental preparation in an attempt to break their will (tortuous is not hyperbole in this case). This is where Suicide Squad #1 picks up.
It is tricky to write a story like Suicide Squad, because the writer has to create protagonists out of characters that are, by their very nature, antagonists. If you make them heroic you lose all sense of the character, if you make them completely unlikeable then it’s impossible to become emotionally involved in their plight. Adam Glass finds a nice little workaround to this problem. Instead of trying to make the members of the Suicide Squad likeable, he makes the government agency pulling their strings completely despicable. Amanda Waller’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” make Gitmo look like a weekend on Fire Island and while this may be for the greater good, it’s hard to see what letting rats eat through somebody’s chest accomplishes. Waller is also a grade-A bitch when it comes to the working conditions of her team. After an especially vile torture session they are immediately sent out on a mission. Black Spider requests medical attention prior to going into the field, but is handily denied by Waller. Glass has also selected a good variety of villains to fill out the squad. Deadshot is the cold-blooded hitman for hire, Harley Quinn is the anarchistic hellion, El Diablo is the villain with some kind of conscience and King Shark is . . . well, a shark. Not much is known about Volatic and Black Spider as they are new-ish characters, but with the broad spectrum of baddies already on the board the average comic fan should be able to find at least one they can pick out as their favorite (coughsHarleycoughs).
Dallochio & Getty tag team this issue giving it a split personality of sorts – one for the torture scenes happening in the present and another for the action/flashback scenes. Dallochio’s heavily detailed photorealistic style carries us through the torture scenes creating a very horror-comic vibe that lets the reader know bad things are happening to bad people and we’re not 100% sure they’ll all be walking away from it. While there is less definition and detail in Getty’s panels, stylistically they are much more kinetic and action-oriented, which juxtaposes well with Dallochio’s work. You can almost hear the “whoosh!” of a flash back when the transition happens between the two artists’ work. The unifier in all this is Val Staples who keeps the color choice very consistent so that new readers won’t get confused when the art style changes. The tones for each of the character flashbacks are a nice touch as well. Deadshot has the classic sepia tone for his, El Diablo’s is a burnt yellow and Harley Quinn’s back story is drenched in purple – giving each a little more distinction for readers. Harley Quinn’s new look is the 800 pound elephant in the room, as many were displeased with the costume change, but it’s really not that noticeable and honestly works well for the character – if anything it makes her more intimidating. This comic is not sexualizing her character with the new costume (okay, maybe the cover), but making her look more like adult.
So why is Suicide Squad so Freakin’ Awesome? It takes the antiquated notion of the “anti-hero” and hooks up a car battery to its cheekbones. These aren’t complicated people grappling with their internal angels and demons, but are so cool that we begrudgingly like them – these are bad people who do bad things and now are forced to do them for the US government. And that’s pretty frickin’ awesome.
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