joao's Reviews > Suicide Squad, Volume 1: Trial By Fire

Suicide Squad, Volume 1 by John Ostrander
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Aug 16, 2011

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Read in August, 2011

Consider the Reagan era of international politics. A decadent Soviet Union, CIA ops still running wild all over the world, and odd Middle-East oligarchs demanding favors. This is all an excuse for cynical laughter in Giffen and DeMatteis' JLI, which pretends to be naive enough to believe in US-led United Nations policing, while cracking a few jokes every now and then. The humor in Suicide Squad exists as a nervous break, and mostly as a wink to the reader, who recognizes some of these oddball characters from the background of DCU comics.

As expendable soldiers, the Suicide Squad could only be led by the volcanic Amanda Waller, who embodies a Jack Kirby motto, "anger will save your life". Of course she's as much a shrink case as her freak operatives, because she's the one who has to juggle with the distorted internal affairs of the day. For instance [spoiler], when a Central City vigilante turns out to be recruiting felons for a supremacist organization, Waller is asked to dirty his image, rather than take him down. Even doing good is too complicated in this series. However, much like its lighter counterpart, Justice League International, SS's nuanced version of global action actually serves to ridicule a diplomacy of balanced interests; only loose cannons that don't serve any flag can come to realize this.

Luke McDonnell's art is quite uneven, though SS is probably his best known piece of work. What happens is his storytelling techniques fail him in some key moments of the story (like the Female Furies finale), and then, when you're distracted, he puts in something truly cinematic (the driver-Black Orchid reveal, or the whole Russian winter sequence). Nevertheless, it's now rare to find an all-action superhero comic that doesn't use two-page spreads for all-out brawls, or closeups for witty dialogue. There's a true attention to detail that shouldn't be ignored here, and by the way, look out for the moody colors, including the soft tint of rosy to lilac tones, which makes everything a little more feverish. A comic of having-your-hands-tied-all-of-the-time, which is perhaps best represented by the character Enchantress, an old-school witch double, somewhere between the Hulk and the Negative Man, who grows in sadistic desire as much as it is kept locked up. As long as I remember, I haven't seen the prison genre in superhero comics, but there's an outline here somewhere, and it has nothing to do with 'Arkham Asylum' or the G. Johns 'Iron Heights'.
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