Last week’s pulls (week of 2-9-22)
Of all the titles that DC could put out as black label, Suicide Squad actually makes the most sense. There’s been a lot of times during that original 80’s run where this title crept right up to the edge of mature readers territory… And quite frankly, the first Deadshot miniseries absolutely should’ve been mature. So I was definitely interested when I saw Suicide Squad Blaze.
It’s splintered off of the main continuity, doing it’s own thing, and it’s fine, because it’s not really focused on the squad we know.
The government has several doses of a new drug called blaze, that will give an ordinary person superpowers… The problem is it also kills them in about three months. However they have a threat that they just can’t handle on their own, so they go through Gen Pop looking for volunteers (That is, after some of the more regular members of the squad flat out refuse). So the story is generally told through the eyes of a lonely loser who stepped up because the girl he loves also volunteered. What does it matter if they’re gonna die in three months?
The mission goes poorly, in grand Suicide Squad tradition and that’s fun. It’s gorgeously drawn in that gritty photocopy style that always appeals to me. Along with our super powered experiments, we still have some familiar faces from the roster. Peacemaker is there because they’re still trying to make this a thing, and tie into the TV show. Harley is there, because she’s kind of become inextricably linked to the Suicide Squad over the years. We’ve also got king shark from the movie…Not quite so dumb as he is in the film, but not the super intelligent plotter that the comics have portrayed him as in the past. He mostly just fights for special privileges, it really just wants to call his Mom. Rounding out the team is Captain Boomerang, a personal favorite. Boomerang’s always been good as the amoral comic relief of the team… And always added an interesting dynamic. In a lot of ways his role is been usurped by Harley, but I’m always happy to see him whenever he shows up. Interesting, they’re drawing him to look a lot like John Simm. (You may remember him as my least favorite version of the master from Doctor Who, but really you should look up some of his other work. His early comedies like Human Traffic are brilliantly cynical in a year 2000 way. Reminds me a bit of Seth Rogen and a touch of Adam Sandler).
Harley for her part is interesting here. This isn’t a typical portrayal for her… In her own books she’s cute and sexy. She’s charming and funny, it’s a little cracked in a slightly homicidal way. In this black label story, they’re not trying to make her pretty. She’s an attractive enough girl at times, but she’s also dangerously insane. Her face contorts into crazed anger, and she’s genuinely a bit frightening. There’s a sociopath edge to her personality that we’re not used to seeing anymore. Gone is the quirky, cute girl Deadpool routine we’ve become so familiar with, replaced by a dangerous psychopath and I got to say… It’s refreshing. This is exactly the sort of character I want to see in Suicide Squad. I’m really happy with this book.
I picked up Batgirls number three. It’s actually turned into one of those tiles I look forward to each month now. We’ve got a kid on the street using Scarecrow schtick, fear gas and such. It’s a nice straightforward adventure, and just a fun chance to spend some time and hang out with Steph and Cassie.
Steph is one of those characters that can be effortlessly charming in the hands of most writers. She basically writes herself, and you can stick her into a variety of situation and costumes and have her come off well. (Quite frankly, that’s pretty much what they’ve been doing for the last 20 years) but Cassandra is more of a challenge. You need a good writer to really handle her well. She’s largely mute, and very withdrawn, except for her physical prowess. You can basically either turn her into a background character or a tank. That’s about all. I’ve never really connected with Cassie. Oh, there’s been moments… I seem to recall an issue of Cassie’s old Batgirl series where Barbara takes her on a cruise and chance of having to fight bad guys. There’s some good moments there, like when they’re at dinner, or describing how wearing a swimsuit makes her feel uncomfortable because of the way she reads the body language of everyone around her. The almost romance with Superboy peaked my interest and I didn’t go anywhere, and the way Batman fired her at one point did nothing for me. In the past They would try too hard with her when they try at all, like putting her in the classic Batgirl suit (“Look! She tripped on her high heels!” Bleh.), or portray her as quirky, walking around the Outsiders compound naked in front of people because she just didn’t care… None of it lands.
That’s actually what’s been so special about this book. Giving Cassie a foil to bounce off of helps develop her and draw out her personality. One of the strangest things to me was a dialog box where they describe Steph as her best friend. And attacking her best friend is obviously going to make her angry… That’s interesting. It’s interesting because I never really looked at Cassandra as someone who even had friends. Maybe Barbara, but she’s more of a mentor. Cassie with that sort of a relationship… The best friend… A typical teenager thing… I like it. It feels like growth.
Barbara Gordon is living her best life here too. When they rebooted her as bad girl in the new 52, she felt decidedly younger. I know she’s probably 19-ISH… the way she was in the silver age, but especially once we got to that Batgirl of Burnside thing in the rebirth era, she seriously looked and felt like she was a 16-year-old herself.
This Barbara feels more mature. She feels like a 30 something with the age and experience to really mentor these two girls (and I’d love to see that discussion between Babs and Bruce… About setting up basically the girls dorm of the Batman family, and him needing her to mentor them because there’s things that women need other women to teach them.). Barbara really feels like Oracle again here. And I gotta be honest, that was really her best destiny. I know that sounds ghoulish to say that her best, most ultimate form, was the ex superhero, paralyzed and trapped in a wheelchair, but Oracle really did more good with a greater reach and Batgirl ever did. Barbara Gordon had a greater maturity and depth in that era and it just makes her more interesting character rather than just a cute but derivative one. I like that I’m seeing some of that character in depth here, and all these elements together just make this a great book.
I had a friend in the Panels Comic Club mention to me that he may wait to get this in the trade… You can do that, but honestly, I don’t know how long this series is gonna last. After watching the untimely demise of the super sons, I’m honestly approaching this personally as a miniseries. If we get more than six issues, I’ll be pleasantly surprised. If we get more than a year, I’ll be shocked. But, as one of the few new comics coming out that I’m really liking, I’m going to hang on and enjoy the ride.
Don’t be fooled by the cover of this next book. Spider-Man (Neither Ben nor Peter) appear in this issue. Issue 88.bey is strictly a side story and I got to admit, I really wish they’d just done a separate issue – kind of the way they did with that Mary Jane and Black Cat story last month. It was just a better way of doing things, even if this team starts to become bigger players in the main title.
That’s all I have to say about this issue. I probably would have passed on this thing if I’d realized what it really was.
I picked up Secret X-Men on a whim. Mainline Marvel titles like the Avengers books or the X titles I like to dip my toe in every once in a while just to see if there’s anything worth reading. X-Men hasn’t been all that worthwhile for quite a long time now. The X titles are ugly preachy books with some disturbing ideas. It used to be that X-Men was solid superhero storytelling with a subtext about equality. It would bubble to the surface here and there, and frequently they would deal with things in metaphor. The problem is, metaphor isn’t good enough anymore and the current crop of writers have put the subtext in the foreground and frequently forget to write an adventure. You know how I describe large chunks of the CW shows as “attractive-people-standing-around-in-hallways-talking-about-their-feelings“tm? The X-Men comics are all that. And all the talk is very much “Look how diverse we are! Look how gay we are!“ (It’s strange actually, every new mutant created seems to be required to have some LGBT characteristics. Just being a mutant isn’t enough… But then again like I said, these people don’t understand metaphor anymore. Wierd. It’s a statistical unlikelihood and sure fire Darwinian path towards extinction by the way). The X-Men themselves have become full on segregationists living on an island only for mutants. It’s actually almost crossed over into kind of racist territory… Like I said. These books have gotten ugly.
Secret X-Men jumped out at me in large part because of the lineup. It feels a lot like an X-Force variation. I always really enjoyed X-force, perhaps even more than its predecessor New Mutants. They managed to keep the relationships and chemistry very much intact here. One of the real pleasures of reading this book is watching sunspot and cannonball interact. It’s too old best friends just falling right back in the sink… It’s just Roberto and Sam, and it feels very genuine. That’s sort of male relationship where you can let down your guard a little bit and where you just know each other. We need to see more of these kind of friendships.
I like a lot of this team. Boom Boom and Banshee have always sort of been fan favorites and Strong Guy is a really fun character when he’s in the right hands. I’m actually a little disappointed that we don’t get more funny stuff with him, although there’s a bit of a whopper towards the end involving holding breath at a graveyard.
I’m also really enjoying these costumes. A lot of the X-Men redesigns have been hit or miss, but as far as this whole uniform looks goes, it’s a great take on it. The artist blends the aesthetic of the classic Xavier uniform with modern elements like the digital X and the more ribbed and leathery textures.
More importantly, it’s a genuinely fun book. Bobby is hitting a party and trying to impress people by telling them he’s the leader of the X-Men… But this backfires when Deathbird recruits him because she needs the X-Men’s help. Bobby then recruits a crack team of familiar faces… Mutants who didn’t qualify for membership in the current roster of the X-Men, and off they go on a spacey adventure. It’s good times and it feels like 90s X-Men to me (an era I’m particularly fond of). I’m not sure if I’m gonna stay with this book, but I’m definitely gonna pick up the next issue just to see where this goes.
By the way, I’m also sticking with Devil’s Reign. It’s a hard book to review, because it’s really one big six-issue story, but it’s been good. REALLY good. Gimmie a crossover like this with political intrigue, super villians, the Marvel universe heroes, and put Daredevil at the center for a change? Yeah. I’m really liking it. Can’t wait to finish it so I can really digest it and talk about the whole thing.
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