New 52 Review: Suicide Squad #1

Suicide Squad #1

Back when Adam Glass first started talking about his new take on Suicide Squad, I questioned whether or not he'd actually read the John Ostrander run as he'd claimed, since he implied that it was cheesy, when for its time (hell, even for now) it was very much the opposite.  I'm not calling him a liar, per se, but the fact that he doesn't even know how to spell Belle Reve, the prison that was the Squad's longtime headquarters, would seem to cast even more doubt on that assertion.  In Suicide Squad #1, he keeps spelling it Belle Reeve, and I'm not about to believe that giving that name to a hellhole for psychopaths is somehow paying homage to Christopher Reeve.  Not that Glass has claimed that, but call it a pre-emptive strike.

Everything I'd heard about this series before opening it for the first time had predisposed me to dislike it – not the least of which is that it was taking characters I loved in Gail Simone's Secret Six and messing with them for no good reason.  However, I found myself surprised to learn that I didn't hate everything about it.  Just a lot of things.

The gist is that the Squad has been captured and is being tortured to reveal who they're working for, only to find out that it was actually just a test, and now they're on a mission for realsies.  And they have bombs in their necks in case they smart off.

Let's talk character designs.  Glass mentioned that Jim Lee contributed to some of these new looks, so I don't know whether to blame him or the trio of artists credited here – Federico Dallocchio, Ransom Getty and Scott Hanna – for what we see here, so we'll spread it around equally.  The art, taken objectively on its own, is pretty good, but what this art is rendering is particularly frustrating. 

1.  Deadshot looks like a cyborg.  It's possible his appearance at the beginning is just a matter of his helmet having been shredded off of him piece by piece, but that remains unclear.  His full costume looks like someone got dipped in glue and rolled in a junkyard to see what scrap metal stuck.  Listen, fellas, the reason that one-eyed gun-sight look worked was because of its spareness, so all your ridiculous faceplate clutter just dilutes and muddles it – having three other tinier red-eyes decorating it like they're orbiting moons just craps on it even more.  And what's with the damn Jesus cross-face?  Also, he looks like he's 24 and he does not have the awesome stache.  What is it with the New 52 and crapping on classic facial hair?  First Green Arrow just has lame-ass stubble and now Floyd Fucking Lawton has the same shitty pubescent look?  Glass has a decent approximation of his voice here, but being a young guy completely undercuts that grizzled aloof veteran Jonah-Hex-Reincarnated asshole vibe that's always been so compelling about him.  Has his dark and ugly history been erased?  Was having a son murdered by a pedophile too "cheesy?" 

2.  Harley Quinn looks like a Tim Burton-themed stripper.  Yes, I've made that joke several times, but it's the truth.  Why they felt the need to alter her design to semi-approximate her look in the Batman: Arkham Asylum video game, it's hard to say.  Maybe comic book folks are so desperate for sales to keep the business alive that they'll morph to whatever catches on in other media forms.  Also, she's not funny or cool, but it's apparent we're supposed to think she is.  She charges into an enemy hideout and yells "Pizza party!"  She makes a "___ called and wants their ___ back" joke. 

3.  King Shark is now a hammerhead instead of a great white, which makes him look like a doofus instead of part-doofus, part-terrifying thing he has been before.  Even biting off a guy's arm and chanting "MEAT!  MEAT!  MEAT!"  doesn't fix that, although it does show Glass has at least a decent bead on his character.

4.  Savant has a mask that looks like Casey Jones of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fame.  He's also the guy that breaks under torture first, even though he used to be a guy who could take tons more torture than anybody else thanks to a funky memory quirk.

5.  Voltaic, I believe, is a new guy with some kind of electrical power.  But he's just a guy in his underpants on the floor.  There's one image of him in gear, and he looks like a male version of Live Wire.  Whatever.

6.  Black Spider has that same overly-armored lookin' head issue, but since on the opening splash page, it looks like he's bleeding out of his anus, I'm trying not to think too much about him yet.

7.  El Diablo, aka Chato Santana.  Relatively new character, plenty of room to mess around with him without frustrating people, and he looks kinda cool, actually, all painted up like a Day of the Dead festival.  He's to serve as the resident conscience, it seems, as his simple, tragic mistake that landed him in prison rings true – a guy with fiery powers getting reckless with them while trying to cement his criminal rep.

8.  Amanda Waller is now Halle Berry.  She is no longer The Wall.  This is the worst thing. She's cleavagey, with her bra lace even sticking out.  Do we blame this on the Green Lantern movie and their casting of the great Angela Bassett in a role that should nonetheless have been played by Mo'Nique?  Good job on the diversity thing, DC.  Skinny booby women were vastly underrepresented.  Also, she's sending the squad to wipe out an entire football stadium full of sixty thousand people.  What the fuck?  This had better be an evil cult and not actual innocent people so they can claim terrorism and get all Patriot Act on us or something.

The Waller thing is the real kick in the junk.  A lot of the other stuff is annoying superficial crap, but could potentially be overlooked.  But The Wall is The Wall and not Rihanna.  Also, torturing the hell out of your cast and strong-arming them into slavery is a lot cheesier in this day and age than Ostrander's work was, with Waller dealing with each individual on the team as human beings with messed up human problems. 

As much as Glass wanted to term this new iteration of the Suicide Squad as "kick-ass," it falls far short of that mark.  It's just grating.