Friday, June 3, 2016

Michael J. Tresca gave 4 stars to: Suicide Squad Vol. 1

Michael J. Tresca reviewed:

Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Kicked in the Teeth (The New 52) by Adam Glass
4.0 out of 5 stars Bad and worse choices have never been so good, June 3, 2016
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The first volume of the collected Suicide Squad comics throbs with a grimdark view on the four-color world of DC superheroes. The gloves are off; our anti-heroes are a Dirty Dozen of leftover villains on death row who have bombs in their necks and disavow-able missions. This frees up writer Adam Glass to pretty much do whatever he wants to our protagonists, starting with the worst kinds of torture and spiraling from there.

The squad features Black Spider (DC's murderous version of Spider-Man, apparently), Deadshot (a guy who wears a skintight costume and an impractical mask that doesn't protect him from gas attacks), El Diablo (a gang leader covered in tattoos that unleash fiery blasts), King Shark (a giant, man-eating, humanoid shark), Harley Quinn (a stripperific version of Harley inspired by her video game portrayal), and Voltaic (shoots lightning).

Leading this team is the slimmed down, glammed-up Amanda Waller. Given that Amanda's nickname was "The Wall" the change is disappointing -- Amanda has been replaced with a younger, svelte model type who mostly communicates by threatening to blow the team's heads off. She's low on witty banter and doesn't even get any good one-liners in.

The team's makeup is curious. Deadshot, with the most military experience, makes sense as the leader. King Shark is pure muscle, the tank of the group. El Diablo and Voltaic are blasters, which can come in handy. Black Spider qualifies as the sneaky type, which leaves a question mark over Harley. She's practically impossible to disguise (King Shark is too, but the trade-off is understandable). Her lone contribution is running around with a hugely impractical hammer. And oh yeah, she's nucking futs. But it's clear we're all here for Harley and she gets the best lines.

The characters make for an interesting diversity of opinions. Black Spider mostly just wants to use his ninja skills to kill people. Deadshot is the grizzled veteran complaining about everything and trying to find another angle. El Diablo is a pacifist (at first) and lectures the team on trying to avoid casualties. Harley cracks jokes and has a strange attraction to Deadshot. Voltaic doesn't really have much dialogue (never a good sign). King Shark just likes to eat people.

The team's mission emphasizes how dark things can get in Suicide Squad: Murder civilians, extract babies, do stuff heroes wouldn't do. Several times innocent bystanders ask if these are the good guys, to which the Suicide Squad responds with a resound nope -- often offing the person who asked in the process. But they are, according to Waller's logic, doing the dirty jobs heroes can't do.

The fun thing about Suicide Squad is that anyone can die. That doesn't mean everyone does. In fact, the comic's fresh take on the DC universe will eventually be muddled by comic book logic: plots are introduced and ignored, characters commit unforgivable atrocities and then new writers hope you'll forget them, and artists have difficulty drawing anything that's not a slim, muscular superhero (Waller is an egregious example, but some artists can't drawn King Shark as anything but a muscular guy wearing a shark mask). For the first volume, it all clicks beautifully. Here's hoping the film takes its cue from these fresh-faced days when the Suicide Squad had only bad and worse choices.