Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Back Issue Box: Suicide Squad #8

I continue my look at the corruption of Mark Shaw/Leviathan by looking at Suicide Squad #8 from 1987. 

Suicide Squad was one of the many new ideas which sprung from the immediate post-Crisis DCU. It felt like DC was really creatively clicking on all cylinders around this time and this book was one of the better things during this time to hit the racks. 

John Ostrander had written Legends and in that series put together this new concept Suicide Squad. Super-villains were being pressed into duty for their country. With bombs implanted in their necks, the bad guys had little choice but to try and survive risky missions and shave time off their sentences. All this was done under the thumb of the newly created Amanda Waller.

The rumor (and I would love to ask him if it is true) is that Ostrander thumbed through Who's Who to find C and D list characters to add to the every rotating cast of characters. Sure, there were regulars - Captain Boomerang, Deadshot, the Enchantress to name a few. But there were plenty of villains who met their end in this book too. It gave it an edge.

We see Mark Shaw in this issue, his first true post-Crisis appearance. Did Ostrander find him in Who's Who and advocate for his inclusion? Was he already toying with the idea of the Manhunter solo book which is just around the corner? Or was this a sort of mandate by DC given Millennium and all the Manhunter nonsense there was around the corner?

With a couple of missions under the team's belt, Ostrander slows things down a bit with this issue. 

'Personal Files' (note that it isn't personnel files) is written by Ostrander with art by regular artist Luke McDonnell and inker Bob Lewis. In it, Simon LeGrieve takes a look at recent character interactions. There isn't much super-heroing happening here. No mission. Just a look at the characters personal lives ... hence the title.

I can't help but wonder if this was an homage to the famous 'A Day in the Life' issue of the Wolfman/Perez New Teen Titans, also coincidentally the eighth issue of that book.

As for McDonnell, I can only say I love his art. It is gritty and rough, perfect for this book and it's themes.
After a difficult and draining mission in Russia, the team regroups at Belle Reve.

Rick Flag is exhausted physically. But he is also emotionally bereft, trying to figure out his relationship with Karin Grace. When she tries to pull away, he gets a little too handsy.

In steps ... who else ... The Privateer. All done up in his classic JLA costume, complete with thigh boots and eye patch, he plays the part of the gentleman, asking Flag to listen to Karin and leave.

But when Flag won't relent, Shaw decides to dust knuckles.

Now I will remind you that we have seen Flag portrayed as a tremendous specimen and brilliant fighter. In the future we see him able to stick around in a fight with Batman.

So I am going to give him an excuse of fatigue here as Shaw connects time and time again.

And again and again.

Shaw acknowledges Flag's exhaustion as a reason he won. But he also brings up his Manhunter training.

With that, he introduces himself to Karin.

Remember, outside of a Secret Origins issue, Shaw hasn't been seen in comics in about 10 years and only then as a guest in over half a year of JLA. So I am sure readers were glad for the line about his Manhunter training. Others were probably running to their Who's Who books to remind themselves of who this guy is.

What struck me in this little interaction is how Shaw acts. This isn't a crass Captain Boomerang or a murderous Deadshot or even a mentally unstable Enchantress. He comes across as somehow .... proper. He might be a recruit, meaning he has been a villain and has been imprisoned but he comes across more heroic. Debonair. Dashing.

Shaw is about to make another dramatic turn in his history. He'll serve on the Squad to pay his debt to society.

But it is interesting to remember that he know has connections with the JLA and now the Squad. And knowing Leviathan's hatred of secrets and spy organizations, it is interesting to see these roots.

We'll have more Squad reviews soon!


H said...

For some reason, Suicide Squad has never done anything for me. Maybe it's too 'new DC' and I'm more of a fan of old-school DC, maybe it's the focus on villains- whatever the case, I'm more in the camp of the Justice League International approach to that era of DC.

Rob S. said...

I love McDonnell's art too -- it was perfect for the Squad!

And yes, I agree -- this story appearing at issue 8 seems a deliberate attempt to copy that part of NTT's winning formula. It definitely worked for me: we were right at the point where I wanted to know more about the various characters in the Squad.

I'm loving your Mark Shaw retrospective, by the way! There's so much more here that leads to Leviathan than I'd originally thought! He's one of those heroes, like Captain Comet, who was in some of the first DC comics I bought, so he looms larger in my head than he does in actual DC history.