I read these issues A WHILE back, and I meant to comment and then I never did. So I’ll do it now, 3 months later…
I’ll start by saying that reading these issues reminded me of how much I love the Suicide Squad. So much so that I decided to go back and try to read every Suicide Squad issue and appearance in order. I didn’t quite read them all, but I read quite a bit. Currently, I’m on issue #13 of this 2011, New 52 series.
In all my Suicide Squad reading, so far, the Ostrander/Yale run from 1987-92 is still my gold standard for the Squad. And, it’s maybe not fair to compare this 2011 run to my favorite, but… I also can’t help it. That’s just the way I am. So, I’m going to frame my comments by outlining the differences, both positive and negative, between the 1987 run and the these first four issues of the 2011 volume.
I’ll start with my biggest complaint: There is no moral, humanistic balance in the first four issues of this 2011 run. The 1987 run started the trend of sending supervillains on suicide missions. However, the '87 team also contained some heroic characters like Rick Flag, Bronze Tiger, and Nightshade. You also got to know some of the Belle Reve support staff who provided some great humanistic character moments. The '87 run even gave Amanda Waller some sympathetic traits (especially following Kim Yale’s addition to the book as co-writer).
In contrast, this 2011 team is all-villains, all-the-time. There are quite a few problems with this. The first being there’s no real moral counter-point. El Diablo tries his best, and comes off as, maybe, the most sympathetic, but it’s not quite enough. This also forces Deadshot into the leadership role which alters his character quite a bit from how he used to be written. Finally, it was just so difficult to relate to a majority of this 2011 team or to feel positive about anything that was going on.
Another thing that was absent from these first four issues was the global, social-political “realism” attempted by the '87 run. The '87 team would be thrust into real-world crises like the fall of the Soviet Union or the hunt for the Columbian drug cartels. In these issues the 2011 team were sent into a domestic terrorist situation against a fictional organization. On one hand, this may be a positive. If there’s any major criticism I can throw at the '87 run it’s that the treatment of some of the real world situations they engaged could be considered reductive. For instance, it’s hard to go into the real nuances and complexities of the South American drug trade and US policy on it within 25 pages of a comic book. In these 2011 issues, this wasn’t an issue. However, putting the Squad into these real-world scenarios made these C-list villains feel important, valid. That magic was also not present in these 2011 issues.
These first four issues were also a lot darker, more violent, and more cynical than I remember the Squad ever being. Sure, the '87 Squad was violent and played heavy on moral ambiguity. Also, the concept has always been pretty dark. It is the SUICIDE Squad, after all. These issues went over-the-top, though. This was the moment that really got me:
I mean holy $#!%… cutting the baby out of a dead zombie’s womb… That’s DARK. And I’m not saying you can’t go there, but, if you’re going to go there, I have to feel like there’s a reason. Like there’s some message or payoff that the moment needed to convey. I didn’t feel it. I felt like it was there to be dark and mature and shocking. And that’s cynical… And that’s how I felt about a lot of the things that when on in these issues. It was all just pretty joyless and cynical just to be joyless and cynical. That was never the point of the Squad.
All that being said, I don’t want to come off as all negative. There was one, bright point that the 2011 issues had that the '87 squad never did:
Adding Harley to the Suicide Squad was a brilliant idea. For the Squad, it gave them the kind of popular, marquee character they never really had. For Harley, it allowed her to step out from under Joker’s shadow. She added the fun that I needed in these issues, and she got me through them. I’m not sold on the Harley/Deadshot hook-up moment (felt like another moment where the book was trying to convince me how edgy it was, and I do not ship it). It was great having Harley be part of the Squad, nonetheless.
Anyway, those are my reactions regarding the first four issues of this 2011 volume. I try not to be quite this negative most of the time, but… I felt this rant coming, so I guess I needed to get it out. I mean, I did just say all of that and still went on to read the next 9 issues, so it wasn’t all bad. I promise I won’t be as negative in my next post. Thanks for reading!