Graphic Novel Review: Suicide Squad, Vol. 1: Kicked in the Teeth by Adam Glass
Publisher: DC Comics
Author Information: Twitter
Tiara’s Rating: 3.5 of 5
Coming hot on the heels of my last journey into a DC comic is the first volume of Suicide Squad. The squad is comprised of Deadshot, a merc for hire, Harley Quinn, King Shark, a shark man hybrid, Black Spider, a vigilante who fights bad guys but still ends up in prison, El Diablo, a Latino gang member (I guess he’s supposed to be a gang member, anyway) seeking redemption who controls fire through an unusual method, and Voltaic, a kid who controls electricity. Deadshot serves as their unspoken leader.
Each member of the team is serving prison time. They’re offered the chance at shortening their sentences by becoming Amanda Waller’s pawns and completing suicidal missions in ways that heroes wouldn’t even consider. Even though this is an opportunity for these criminals to have time shaved off their sentences, they’re still treated as criminals and contingencies are put into place for the criminal who would entertain going off script. If you’re a Marvel fan, think of this as being sort of the equivalent of the old Freedom Force, but with a much sinister and cooler name. Readers follow the team through a series of missions from securing important cargo that would help the general population to hunting down their own team members who have gone rogue.
This was a mostly fun book full of fun and mayhem. It was like reading the comic book version of The Expendables with villains complete with dramatic team shots, stealth missions being bumbled with over enthusiastic members wanting to get right to the good parts, some sexy tension between characters, explosions, and corny one-liners. After a while the various strategic panels that managed to make eyes hover to Harley’s crotch in cut-off jean shorts and the general campiness of El Diablo started to grate on my nerves a little.
Speaking of Harley’s shorts, as far as sexiness in comics goes, I’m not against it if it doesn’t feel gross. Comics can use sexuality much like weapon of its own in some respects and just to be, well, sexy. The context of it influences whether I see its merit or not. Harley is sexy, and part of her arsenal of attacks includes her sexuality and femininity to control her situation. This isn’t her only means of attack as Harley is an accomplished brawler who gives as good as she takes, but she’s not beyond being the ditz, the seemingly harmless “girl,” the bouncy bruiser, the focused fatale, or the sex kitten. Her usage of femininity reminds me of a line from my favorite Emilie Autumn song “Fight Like A Girl“: I’m giving you a head start. You’re going to need it ’cause I fight like a girl.
Much like Joker, Harley molds herself to what she feels the situation calls for. You have to remember that she was a psychiatrist, and she has an understanding of how to be whatever she needs to be for her environment. However, there seemed to be a need to focus eye attention to Harley’s cutoffs that you don’t get when she’s wearing her normal costume, which also includes shorts. There’s a panel here of Harley buttoning up her shorts. A panel there of a slip of pink panties being shown behind unbuttoned shorts. A butt jutting out there to remind you she has on cutoffs while everyone stares. A scene of viewing someone from right between her legs looking like a terrified bystander who is about to be attacked by a maneater. She has a vagina, and vagina’s are magical. I understand as the owner of one myself. I guess they were going for that weaponized sexy there, but it was a little annoying for me. More on Harley later.
Let’s talk about El Diablo. Don’t get me wrong about El Diablo. For the most part I liked him, and while I realize they’re trying to be deep with his character where he might otherwise have been shrugged off as just a thug and want to remind readers he is a man of color who has a culture all his own that tempers him, it’s a little hit and miss there. Sometimes, he’s brilliant as a character, but sometimes, he’s hokey, very hokey.
Something feels slightly off at times in his characterization as if they’re trying too hard with him and the background he comes from on top of trying way too hard with this redemption angle. I can’t say that I don’t like the concept of him or how his powers work, though. I just hope they level him out more in later comics and make it feel less like they’re saying, “Hey, guys, we have this diverse group of people.”
For the record, Black Spider is a black man and while I wished he’d gotten more face time, I feel like they did an admirable job with him without making me feel like they had no idea what to do with his character. Marvel and DC both seem to flounder a bit in the creativity department to me when dealing with male characters of color.
What I enjoyed most about this book was Harley Queen (despite the crotch shots) and Amanda Waller. They are the reason I ended up rating this as high as I did.
Amanda Waller is my hero, and she always has been. Say what you want about The Wall but she gets shit done, and she doesn’t kowtow to many people if any. My first experience with Amanda was when she was still a stout woman pre-DCnU when she put Batman in his place and dropped the mic on him. From that moment forward, that sealed a love and respect for her character, even when I didn’t always agree with her. When talking about kickass women in comics, Amanda is deserving of a place as a woman who isn’t a conventional hero or villain. She’s surrounded by super types while having no powers of her own, and she’ll still look them in the eye without cowering. She uses her wits to her advantage where she may lack in powers.
This book marks the first time I’ve encountered her since they gave her a new svelte body in DCnU. She reminds me of Angela Bassett who played a milder, kinder version of The Wall in the Green Lantern movie with Ryan Reynolds. I can’t be the only one who watched that movie. New body, same Amanda. I’m still pleased with her, as of this book. She’s the type of woman who has a backup plan in place even if that means her own life might be forfeit. If she’s caught unprepared, she manipulates a situation to the best of her abilities, but she still has her “throw everything but the kitchen sink” card.
She’s not ruffled by much. Her unofficial theme song (because I said so) is “I Don’t Get Tired” by Kevin Gates because I can so see her saying, “Get it. Get fly. I got six jobs. I don’t get tired.” Sure, she has outbursts of anger, but even when losing control of a situation, it’s always going to be The Wall who wins in the end. Think of her as Olivia Pope (from Scandal) with more guns and an attitude that says she’s not beyond doing whatever is necessary without wavering much in her resolve. I could see her using two of my favorite Olivia Pope power phrases: “Shut it down!” and “It’s handled!”
Despite this, there is a moment that shows Amanda’s capacity for affection. There are things and people she cares about, even if she doesn’t show it often, as witnessed in this scene:
Nerve gas is considered a weapon of mass destruction and is a terrible way to die, and even for those who manage to survive, the neurological damage is substantial. This scenes proves her willingness to do whatever she has to to control the situation, even signing her own death warrant.
Back to Harley. A few months back, there was discussion going on among comic book fans on Tumblr about how writers were starting to evolve Harley as a character beyond the “comically” abused companion of Joker. Instead she was beginning to show layers of her personality that betrayed how she has suffered because of the nature of the relationship, the depth of her emotional attachment to her abuser, and how she struggles with conflicting feelings to be more than Mistah J’s girl while wanting to be only that as well.
It’s long past due for this for Harley, and I think it’s an important step to take for her character and the relationship. So many readers and people who know casually of the relationship from pop culture think it nothing more than a comical relationship where Joker is only a little mean to Harley. It’s treated like slapstick comedy and romantic. You hear people saying things such as, “I want a relationship like Harley and Joker. I want a Joker to my Harley. I want a Harley to my Joker.” When you strip away the “haha” nature of the relationship, there’s nothing charming, comical, or endearing about it at all. It is an emotionally and physically abusive relationship that’s rarely explored for what it is.
This book reinforces that as it begins to paint the relationship and Harley’s muddled feelings into the most troubling picture. That is initially what prompted me to read volume one of her own series, which fell a bit flat with me. This book, however, gives a heartbreaking glimpse into Harley’s emotional state culminating into a chilling scene where she uses Deadshot, whom she expresses mild interest in, to vent her frustration, love, and fears about the failed relationship.
That’s not to say that Harley isn’t good, ol’ Harley in much of this, but they start to shape her as more than just the comedic punching bag. I’m curious to see more of these pivotal scenes for Harley.
I’d been meaning to read this much sooner than now, but you know how it is when you have so many books and comics to read. You have to pick your reading battles. This was an enjoyable read for the most part, and I look forward to continuing their misadventures.