Friday, August 5, 2016

Book Review: Suicide Squad Vol. 1 by A. Glass et al.

Suicide Squad Volume 1: Kicked in the Teeth written by Adam Glass with art by Federico Dallocchio, Clayton Henry, and others

Belle Reve is a maximum security prison for supervillains. Government official Amanda Waller is head of Task Force X, a program that lets the villains go on secret missions to reduce their sentences. To keep them from going awol, the selected villains have nanite bombs in their necks, hence the team's nickname, the Suicide Squad. They do the dirty work that superheroes and legitimate government agencies would never do or even condone.

The first mission teams up Deadshot, Harley Quinn, El Diablo, Voltaic, Black Spider, and King Shark. They are sent to a stadium full of technologically-zombified people. They need to find the one person suspected of having a cure and to kill the other 59,999. Not exactly a job for Superman, eh?And the job needs to be done in under six hours or else the nanite bombs will blow.

Along the way the group has casualties, so the roster changes slightly every couple of stories. Some of the supervillains I'd never heard of and definitely look as if they should be wearing red shirts when they show up. Harley Quinn and Deadshot are the stars and get the most character development. Harley's back story (i.e., how the Joker turned Arkham Asylum-psychiatrist Harleen Quinzel into a love-sick maniac) is given in some detail, which is the most interesting part of this book.

The storytelling tries to ride an ambiguous moral edge. Some of the villains make an effort not to hurt innocent people but the prevailing attitude is "do whatever is expedient to get the job done." That includes killing innocent people and betraying allies, all in the name of getting shorter sentences or not getting heads blow off (which does happen). The violence is grimly graphic, including a whole story of the team being tortured. The book also falls into the comic book trope of overly sexualizing all the female characters (except Amanda Waller).

So the book isn't kid friendly, which isn't necessarily a problem. But the art with its graphic violence and chesty women seems aimed at teenage boys rather than adults. And the main villain (who zombified the stadium among other crimes) is basically a rip-off of Marvel Comics' Hydra. Other than Harley Quinn's back story, I didn't find much in the story that was interesting or original.

The movie just released as this review is posted looks less sexualized (except for poor Harley), less gruesome, and more fun if the trailer is accurate:

 Killer Croc is a smart substitute for King Shark. We are a long way from a walking shark looking plausible in a live action film. And Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn may actually upstage the Joker, which would be an amazing accomplishment. It is weird that the heavy-handed and sober DC movie universe is getting a lighter, more fun treatment by focusing on villains. I'm interested in seeing this, which is more than I could say about Batman v Superman.

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