Friday, September 16, 2011

Suicide Squad #1 - A Review

DC Comics fans knew – going into this revamp – that there would be a lot of changes. Change is the one constant, as the old saying goes. But after reading Suicide Squad #1, another old saying comes readily to mind – “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”

Most of the changes in Suicide Squad seem to be pointlessly arbitrary. It is one thing to change Superman’s costume to more closely resemble his look in an upcoming movie. It is quite another to depict Harley Quinn in an outfit that makes her look more like a member of The Suicide Girls than The Suicide Squad. This costume was not created for reasons of practical change. The only purpose this costume serves – apart from inspiring unintentional humor as Harley traipses through the snow without looking at all uncomfortable - is offering titillation to the audience and perhaps inspiring more hot goth chicks to explore an interest in cosplay.

But isn’t this attitude purism at its’ worst? Harley has worn similarly revealing outfits in the past when appropriate (i.e. her naughty nurse uniform in Batman: Arkham Asylum) and she’s still been her usual wacky self. Surely this is a complete overreaction on the part of the change-resistance fandom and there are no unpleasantries at all contained within the pages of this book?

Well, I’m sorry folks. But to quote Lemony Snicket, “the pages of this book, I'm sorry to inform you, contain such unpleasantries.” For the soul of our beloved Harley Quinn has been changed along with her visage and the woman who has replaced her is unlike any incarnation of Harley Quinn we’ve seen in any form of media. The old Harley was a proactive romantic. This new Harley is a pathetic groupie. The Harley of old was a classic Warner Brothers cartoon. This new Harley is a dark comedy that inspires more tears than laughter.

Perhaps this is unfair of me, having a preference for the kooky Quinn of Batman: The Animated Series but there is little to laugh at here. Could this scene be funny? Yes. But writer Adam Glass lacks the comic timing of a Paul Dini or a Gail Simone needed to make this sort of thing work as dark comedy This is a shame, as the artwork by Frederico Dallocchio conveys the humor of the scenes with Harley far more elegantly and subtly than Glass’s dialogue.

The rest of the issue, which shows off the rest of the team as they are being tortured by unknown captors, is similarly confusing for old-time readers and woefully incomplete for new readers. Deadshot, the one character new readers are likely to be aware of besides Harley Quinn, is given six pages of back-story which say little more than he’s a sniper, an assassin and fought Batman once. By contrast, more obscure characters like Black Spider and Voltaic are given one panel each so that we can learn their names but little else. More established characters like King Shark and Savant have been changed inexplicably, with King Shark now being a more generic and less articulate monster than the incarnation we saw last month in Secret Six and the master manipulator Savant reduced to the role of an easily broken mook in a mask.

Perhaps the most drastic change of all comes on the last page, in which it revealed that Amanda Waller – the government official organizing The Suicide Squad – appears to have lost a little weight around the middle and gained a bit of weight around the top. This could be explained away as DC Comics wanting to more closely emulate the characters appearances in other media – Amanda Waller was recently portryaed by Angela Basset in the Green Lantern movie. Or perhaps this is a prank between the creative team, with a reveal planned in upcoming issues that will show that the figure we see above is not really Amanada Waller but an underling speaking on The Wall’s behalf?

In all this talking about the costumes and the look of the book, I realize I’ve said very little about Dallocchio’s style, which is far better than Glass’s script deserves. Whatever qualms I may have with the writing and the changes in characterization, I can say that this is a good looking book. Dallocchio has a particularly good grasp of expression, which is sadly underused in this book when most of the cast is grimacing in pain for most of the issue. Still, I love the expression on Harley’s face in this panel…

Unfortunately, I don’t like the art enough to give this book a chance for another month. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong and my bellyaching will be proven to have been premature. I hope that’s the case… but I doubt it.

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