Check out our comprehensive review of Suicide Squad Volume 1: “Kicked in the Teeth.” And yes, there are spoilers.
Issues Collected: Suicide Squad #1-7
Writer: Adam Glass
Artists: Federico Dallocchio, Clayton Henry
Engulfed in the eternally searing flames of internet trolls, critics, and general audiences, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’s morose mood and distended plot have done little to instill faith in the DC Cinematic Universe. Audience apprehension regarding Suicide Squad has coalesced by blending the resounding negative reception of Zack Snyder’s bloated blockbuster with the volatile reaction of Jared Leto’s incarnation of the Joker.
In spite of this overall sense of foreboding, the media-hype train surrounding Suicide Squad is quickly gathering momentum as we approach the film’s release date. Suicide Squad’s perceived humorous tone, as well as each new morsel of tantalizing information released via television-spots, have helped to resuscitate interest in the DC Cinematic Universe through spiking curiosity in the film. Additionally, the prospect of seeing young Uncle Phil pop some caps into the “couple of guys who are up to no good and starting to make trouble in the neighborhood” appears to be worth the price of admission. Deadshot got into one little fight and the world’s sphincter squeezed, so the authorities sent him to serve out his sentence in Belle Reve.
Unfortunately, my excitement, and undoubtedly the excitement of others, is hampered by my lack of knowledge regarding the team. It is almost embarrassing to admit, but my knowledge regarding Suicide Squad, or Task Force X as they are known on paper, is limited to the brief exposure in Batman: Arkham video games, Assault on Arkham, and the various diluted animated series. As a result, I felt the need to brush up on the team before the movie is released by diving headfirst into the shallow end of the source material. For those of you who are also wishing to gain some knowledge regarding the team’s comic book exploits before seeing the movie, here is a lightly-spoiler-filled review of Suicide Squad Volume 1: Kicked in the Teeth.
“Super-villains recruited from prison, sent on covert missions and injected with a nanite bomb so we stay in line. A bad deal… And my teammates are worse.” -Deadshot, Suicide Squad #2
If you wanted to skip the first issue of the series, Deadshot’s concise description of Task Force X in the second issue serves as a wonderful introduction to the entire book’s premise. However, one might miss out on some of the character exploration presented in the first issue. The New 52’s incarnation of The Suicide Squad consists of Deadshot, El Diablo, King Shark, Black Spider, and Harley Quinn. Although Amanda Waller would lead you to believe that each of these villains should be fired out of a cannon into the sun as atonement for their sins, the book does a serviceable job providing ethos, pathos, and logos of each core character for the audience to relate.
The first issue in this collection serves as the vehicle for introducing the audience to the team members as well as the book’s overarching concept. Opening the issue with a sequence involving the torture of each team member for information regarding allegiance, Glass uses this framing device to pay special attention to Deadshot, El Diablo and Harley Quinn. These three team members appear to be core members of the Suicide Squad.
Floyd Lawton, Deadshot, can best be described as the world’s best marksman, hitman and the de facto field leader of the Suicide Squad. Lawton appears to have the best understanding of Task Force X.
Chato Santana, El Diablo, is best described as a warrior monk. After using his tattoo-consuming fire powers to torch the home of some gang bangers for not paying him for earning money on his streets, Chato discovered that the home was also occupied by the bangers’ families. He had murdered their “shorties and babies.” As a result of this crime, he did not resist when the police arrived at the scene. He has begun seeking redemption for his past sins.
Everyone’s favorite Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, Harley Quinn, or Dr. Harleen Quinzel, is the woman just crazy enough to call herself the Joker’s number one gal. In this scene, Glass touches on her crime spree as a means to garner the approval of her Puddin’, as the Joker has been missing from her life for some undetermined amount of time.
Throughout the course of the issue, only one of the team members cracks under the insurmountable torture. This serves as a plot device for providing exposition regarding the creation of Task Force X, and how the team has arrived at their current status quo. Once this rat is murdered for his treasonous words, Amanda Waller reveals her plan to test the resolve of this new team. With haste, the team is whisked away to the Megadome in Mississippi for their first official mission. Although the first issue in this collection is anything but superfluous, it does little to advance the plot of the series beyond character introductions. Moreover, Glass does well with providing some proverbial meat to the three core super-villains of the series. Additionally, the plot of this issue does a good job of exploring Amanda Waller’s true nature, i.e. a heartless harridan.
Issues two through four provide us with an exploration of the team’s first mission together. The Megadome in Mississippi is under a complete quarantine as the result of a techno-organic virus. The Suicide Squad is tasked with finding Caley Burns, a woman who is carrying an important package. Although the authorities may not know the origin of the virus, Amanda Waller demands that the team kill the techno-organic zombies with fire. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this situation is that it allows the audience to see the modus operandi for many of the members of the team.
Deadshot, the ultimate, pragmatic assassin, would rather destroy everything on sight than risk the lives of his team through attempts to save the infected. King Shark enjoys the taste of flesh, fresh or rotten, too much to control his urge to consume everything. Harley Quinn is happy to live out her, and the audience’s, fantasies of murdering the undead horde with extreme prejudice. Here, Harley serves as the voice of the audience as she spouts references that I have often screamed while quoting many video game viral videos. I’m not sure what this says about my own individual state of mind, but I’m sure it means that I need to visit my therapist very soon. Although the rest of the team happily opens fire on the stadium full of zombies, this does not sit well with El Diablo as his code of ethics prevents him from killing innocents. This provides for some nice dramatic tension among the team members.
Upon finding their target, an infected Caley Burns, the team discovers that her unborn child is the package. The government is desperately trying to find the child due to his immunity to the virus. The entire ordeal is wrapped up nicely as Deadshot executes one of his team members, unbeknownst to the others, so that the authorities will have a villain to blame for the murder of an entire stadium of innocent civilians. It is evident that this guy is colder than my wife was after I spoiled the events of The Flash Season 2 Finale.
As the team waits for their evacuation by assuming civilian disguises, and King Shark is sent to wait in the woods, they are ambushed by the bounty hunter Mad Dog. He has been sent by another individual interested in the baby. When Black Spider is injured during the heat of battle, the audience is given witness to El Diablo’s compassion. He won’t leave another team member to die. This leads to a verbal clash of ethics between El Diablo and Deadshot, as the former has suspected Lawton of some foul play.
As the team narrowly escapes the clutches of Mad Dog through some of Deadshot’s ingenuity, they are met at the extraction point by their new leader, Captain Boomerang. He dangles the controller for their nanite bombs in front of them as though they were hungry dogs, and informs them that they are tasked with the abduction of Dr. Elisa Visyak, the woman who created the virus for the terrorist group known as Basilisk. During this mission Captain Boomerang reveals to Harley that the Joker was dead and had been skinned alive.
After obtaining their target, the group is ambushed by Grey Lora. At this point, Lawton turns the tables on the brash Captain Boomerang in order to escape and complete the mission. Without spoiling too much, Deadshot’s sudden but inevitable betrayal of Captain Boomerang is one of the most satisfying moments of the entire book.
Issues five through seven are the first Harley Quinn-centric issues of the series. As the team returns to Belle Reve from their inaugural mission, Harley Quinn’s nanite bomb is accidentally deactivated prematurely by one of the doctors on staff. During this time, she stages an elaborate escape from Belle Reve through orchestrating a super-villain prison riot. Her goal is simply to obtain the Joker’s remains. Task Force X is reactivated to end the prison riot and bring Harley back into custody.
Throughout these issues, Glass offers his most complex character work as the audience is introduced to more of Deadshot and Harley Quinn’s backstories. The introduction of Lawton’s daughter instantly makes him a more compelling character, as it is revealed that he is doing this to help support her.
Within the New 52, Harley’s origin remains mostly unaltered. However, one of the most disturbing scenes is when Harley has captured Lawton and forces him to wear the Joker’s severed face so that she can have a conversation and subsequent make-out session with her deceased Puddin’.
The grotesqueness of this image is compounded by the fact that I could not fathom kissing someone while wearing someone else’s skin. That is some bat-crap crazy that rose from the fresh hell that bred Texas Chainsaw Massacre. In this moment of weakness, Deadshot blasts Harley in the stomach with his wrist mounted gauntlets and apprehends her.
Suicide Squad is not a comic book title the average comic book reader approaches with the assumption that there is some grand, underlying meta-commentary regarding the state of humanity. This title is similar to one of those big budget blockbusters that contain some twists in order to maintain audience investment. Although the ground work of these twists regarding character deaths are never built upon from the beginning of each issue, I believe that this maintains the surprise of each death. Moreover, this does create a sense that none of the members are safe, aside from Deadshot, El Diablo, and Harley Quinn. Overall, the plot does not differ from many of these major blockbusters, but that does not diminish my enjoyment of the title. The individual motives for each of the super-villains provides for explosive character moments and plot developments.
One of the framing devices that Glass frequently uses is to project the story further in time and then revert backwards to illustrate the events leading to these crucial moments. This is particularly effective during monthly, episodic storytelling when used at the beginning of the story arc as it allows the audience to become more invested in the plot. Although this is one of my favorite methods of storytelling, it is not as powerful in the collected edition. I believe that if I was reading the issues on a monthly basis, this would have been an adequate hook for each issue. Unfortunately, I tend to read the collected editions in one sitting. The jarring timeline jumps made the overall story confusing here, because I ultimately felt as though my book might have been missing pages. This initially hindered my enjoyment of the title. It wasn’t until after flipping between issues several times that I was privy to the plot progression and began to fully appreciate the book.
Glass more than makes up for this downfall by providing the grotesque moments that will be haunting my nightmares for the weeks leading up to the movie’s release. The make-out session between the Joker face-wearing Deadshot and Harley Quinn provides an extra layer of crazy to “Daddy’s Li’l Monster.” These moments are what make the book a twisted read and guilty pleasure for the audience. Ultimately, I feel that anyone who is interested in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie should check out Suicide Squad Volume 1: Kicked in the Teeth. It will provide you with a crash course of knowledge regarding three of the Squad members featured prominently in the film. Unfortunately, it will only give the reader short glimpses into Deadshot’s character. My hope is that Lawton is further fleshed out in subsequent issues of the series.