The Suicide Squad as written by John Ostrander is one of the greatest ensemble comic books of all time. There is a version currently available on the stands, but comics now have ten or so pages less than they did in 1989, and that has made the new series rather rushed.
The concept is simple, America has a need for black ops personnel and the jails are crowded with supercriminals. Government operative Amanda Waller decides to use those criminal for various missions that statistically have a low rate of survival.
They get fitted with explosive bracelets or collars which be detonated by Waller or her handlers.
If they live, they get time reduced, and perhaps even freedom. But in the 66 issues that followed, the Squad suffers heavy and consistent fatalities. That was one thing that made this series special, ANYONE could die, and they did often. And there were no comic book resurrections.
Waller (aka The Wall) is one of the greatest characters in comics. Unattractive, obese, black, brilliant and highly motivated, it is impossible to describe her as either a villain or hero. In her headquarters at Belle Reve penitentiary, she surrounds herself with good people to act as her conscience, because she can’t trust her own. The Wall is obsessed with power, and always seems to get the upper hand. She needs that toughness. She will take on supervillains, rival governments, warlords, corrupt politicians and her own family.
To run the Squad, Waller uses Rick Flag Jr, a focused military man whose one failed mission comes back to haunt him and everyone around him; Ben Turner, a world class martial artist previously brainwashed into becoming a fearsome persona known as the Bronze Tiger; and Nightshade, the daughter of a prominent politician, and someone that does not know anything about her powers or where they come from. She can also rely on Nemesis, a government operative and master of disguise, the shape-shifting Vixen, and mysterious bruiser Black Orchid.
There is also a long cast of people working at Belle Reve that Ostrander brings to life, again separating this series from pretty much every other book. From Flo, the doomed secretary that falls for Ben Turner, to Briscoe the pilot who loses his family to violence and develops an unhealthy attachment to his helicopter.
Waller needs every hand she can get. She is dealing with some of the worst villains in the DCU, although Ostrander is smart enough to include some of the most inept as well.
From lowlife loser Captain Boomerang, to bi-polar royal Count Vertigo, the Squad is packed with criminals waiting to outmaneuver, or even kill, their handlers. Their missions never tend to have accurate information and extraction is a problem.
Sometimes the Squad just plain needs someone dead. That’s when they turn to the most notorious and unpredictable member on the entire team, a tormented man with only one gift, utterly infallible aim with a gun, and no hesitation in using it. The only problem is… Deadshot is insane, and because he is so stoic, some times he makes your forget how crazy he really is.
The Suicide Squad was full of rich characterizations, missions with a twist and constant surprise. The costumes were a little 80’s, but that’s easily updated. And one of the cool things about the team is that the roster was constantly shuffled. Even Bane was briefly on the team, so you can tie movie and other characters. This show absolutely needs to happen and not in one of those crap Smallville/Arrow type series.
(With thanks to Dave’s Long Box, daveslongbox.blogpost.com, whose ardor for the Suicide Squad made this column easier. )