[21 October 2013]
PopMatters Comics Editor
During the dying days of the Cold War (when were there Cold War days that didn’t involve American deaths, many of them secret and on a distant soil), the Suicide Squad appeared out of nowhere and presented a new kind of storytelling to mainstream comics. Maybe experiments of this kind wouldn’t have been possible without the direct market, but the raw premise of the book was this—forget heroes, even superheroes, and think about the murky of half-truths and hidden-mirrors and psych-ops, and the heavy price paid by nameless, faceless Cold Warriors.
With the reboot of the Squad for the New 52, writer Adam Glass offered a powerful high concept statement on the Suicide Squad—the idea that the Squad itself could be evolved beyond a Cold War dynamic, and beyond even a post-Cold War dynamic, and yet remain as powerfully meditative as it ever has been.
Glass achieved this conceptual shift in two ways. Rather than work consistently with one artist to produce a highly stylized, highly recognizable look, Glass worked with multiple artists to always produce unique signatures tailored to the themes of each individual storyarc. And in addition, Glass shifted the storytelling focus to the psychological, suggesting each character’s backstory as motivation for their violent sociopathy. Effectively under Glass, Suicide Squad became a psychological halfway house who somehow failed to grasp their own need for redemption. And it was exactly this that gave way to Glass’s greatest achievement with the Squad.
It would be easy enough to describe what Glass hath wrought with the Squad, weaving it in to the Great American drama. But it would also be unfair to you, Dear Reader. You’d get an understanding of the mechanics, but not the sense of the project. The sense of it, the sense of Glass’s project, is where the truth of it lies. And the sense of it is this. Imagine watching Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh, while the albums from Tom Waits’ most productive, most disturbing decade (from 1983’s Swordfishtrombones all the way thru to 1992’s Bone Machine) is piped thru the theater sound system.
If you can imagine that, you can imagine the fractured nature of psychologies stepped in black ops, you can imagine the human experience of breakdown and survival that Glass’s characters must confront, and yet often fail to. It’s that urban disillusion from O’Neill, with dreams and best intentions being ground into the dirt, juxtaposed against the unease at the idea of an America still large enough to contain strange customs and even stranger customers.
If Glass achieved anything with the Squad, it was the lasting legacy that the book’s high concept can be evolved meaningfully even beyond its military spec-ops roots.
Please enjoy our exclusive preview of Suicide Squad Vol. 3: Death is for Suckers.