The 52 Steps: Week Thirty-Four

Sat, December 30th, 2006 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Justin Eger, Guest Contributor

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"It's the last big question for him." - Renee Montoya

"52," Week Thirty-Four
Week Thirty-Four

Previously in 52...
Christmas in the DCU. 'Nuff said.

This Week's Key Players
Vic Sage, Black Adam, Renee Montoya and Steel.

Guest Appearances
The Black Marvel Family, Atom Smasher, Amanda Waller and their Suicide Squad of Captain Boomerang II, Plastique, Electrocutioner, Count Vertigo and Persuader, Kate Kane, Lex Luthor, Clark Kent, Oracle, Black Canary, Huntress and a few of the Infinity Inc. kids.

Highlights
So, let's see. Our week begins in California, as Black Adam and Isis travel to meet Osiris, who had been on his way back from Titans Tower with Sobek, though the family reunion was a little broken up by the appearance of Atom Smasher and the new Suicide Squad. As former teammates, it's only fitting that Adam and Atom are the first real combatants, with Atom ending up on his oversized @$$, not that that's much of a surprise.

No, the real surprise is the mess that the rest of the Squad gets into trying to take out Isis and Osiris. The real showdown comes between Isis and Persuader, who starts using his massive energy axe to give the pretty lady a facelift. Osiris, hearing his sister's screams, comes rushing to her defense, literally, as he hits Persuader at what looks like Mach 2 or 3, ripping him to pieces with one hit. Following the incident, the Black Marvel Family retreats to Kahndaq, but Amanda Waller has what she wants, a video recording of the fight.

In Metropolis, a few of the Infinity Inc. girls go shopping, but with the help of a redheaded computer hacker and her agents, Steel managers to get a few minutes along with his niece. Rather than trying to push her to an answer, Steel simply provides evidence and challenges her scientist's mind to come to a conclusion: that Luthor giveth, and Luthor taketh away.

Speaking of ol' Lex, he takes it upon himself to kindap a mild-mannered reporter named Clark Kent and question him about the identity of Supernova, namely if 'Nova is actually Superman in disguise. This is, of course, met with outrageous laughter from Clark, but Lex doesn't think it's too funny. Couple that with another negative gene-graft result for Lex, and it's back to crazy town for the rich bastard. As the clock ticks down to New Year's in Metropolis, Lex unleashes a new and sinister plot.

And as the final moments of this year tick away, Vic sage passes quietly into the night.

Back-up feature
The Origin of Zatanna, as told by Mark Waid and Brian Bolland.

Justin's Thoughts and Concerns

  • 'Scuse me a sec… I think I've got something in my eye.

  • "The Bomb Squad?" Really?

  • So is this Electrocutioner Twelve or Thirteen, now?

  • Ah, it's funny to hear "Boomerbutt" again. Just like the old Squad days…

  • Way to rip a crappy villain in half, kid.

  • Another addition to the Thousand Titans roster of the missing year: Argent. Though I thought she'd be a little old to play Titan by now.

Crisis Continuity with Brian Eason
It Lives!

Welcome to the Crisis Continuity portion of our show. Everyone miss me? Good. Special thanks to my boss Justin Eger for all of support and his friendship.

This week we saw the latest incarnation of the team with the worst recruiting technique in comics, the Suicide Squad. The squad had its origins in "The Brave and the Bold" #25 in 1959 as a small backup feature. In those days the squad was little more than a modern (for the time) day version of many of DC's war comics. It was a little bit "Mission Impossible" (the TV show for all you youngsters) and a little bit "Dirty Dozen" (ask your parents). The Squad in those days were Rick Flag, Karin Grace (Flag's girlfriend), Dr. Hugh Evans, and Jess Bright. Not unlike the Challengers of the Unknown and (later) arvels' Fantastic Four, the four person team was the model for adventurers of the period. The squad disappeared with The Brave and the Bold #39 in 1960 and would stay gone for 26 years, a bit of a record.

In 1989, with the advent of the "Legends" storyline, DC reintroduced the Suicide Squad to their readership and in an unexpected turn, it took off like a house on fire. For their rebirth, DC brought in veteran writer John Ostrander (creator of First Comics' Grimjack) to revamp the team into a true inheritor of the Dirty Dozen and Mission Impossible models. Unlike the former team, the Squad was, with the exception of Rick Flag Jr.(and a few others), a team of second rate villains working off their prison sentences by performing covert operations for the government. In this case the prison was Belle Reve in the swamps of Louisiana and also served as home base to the team. The facility and the Squad itself was under the direct authority of Amanda "The Wall" Waller.

With a setup like that it couldn't fail to make sales could it? O.K., so it doesn't sound like a top seller, but it was. Much of that credit goes to Ostrander's ability to make each member a three-dimensional character and, not in small part, because team members would drop like flies! This wasn't the Justice League or the Avengers, you were never convinced that a character would make it through a story arc, not even our hero Rick Flag (who carried a detonator for the explosive bracelets that were fitted on the team of malcontents).

From their first story arc it was easy to see the Ostrander style at work, from the honorable assassin the Bronze Tiger, to the treacherous cowardice of Captain Boomerang to the sexual tension between Nightshade and Rick Flag, it was obvious the characters on this book had legs. The other top draw for this book is seldom mentioned. The squad was a covert military unit of (primarily) villains. They killed the bad guy and in 1986, that was a hot draw. Heroes had already started to become "grim and gritty", but compared to the squad they were pantywaists. Now, as much dark and twisty villainy and unexpected character deaths were exciting, that alone was not enough for this book, every action had a reaction. The book could segue from killing super powered terrorists in Qurac to political intrigue in Washington D.C. in a heartbeat.

In what may be the high water mark for this remarkable series, a U.S. Senator named Cray begins blackmailing Amanda Waller when he learns about the existence of the squad, in an attempt to ensure re-election. In a shocking turn of events, Flag, our true-blue hero (and no fan of Waller) opts to assassinate Senator Cray to protect the Squad from being revealed. What does Waller do? First, she sets up a counter-blackmail and then she sends the squad after Flag to stop him. In the single most brilliant piece of writing in the series, Deadshot confronts Flag as he is about to assassinate the Senator. Following the letter of the mission (to prevent Flag from killing Cray at any cost), Deadshot kills the Senator himself. That moment of loyalty to Flag and to the Squad did two things: first, it reminded everyone that this was not a book that would take the easy road and, secondly, it made Deadshot into an overnight hero. He even got his own book out of it. While this was a powerful example of what this book could be, it is only one example and I could happily recount them all, but we have time and space restraints.

The series concluded with issue #66. In that final story arc, the team traveled abroad to the island of Diabloverde to face the dictator Guedhe and his personal bodyguards. What was so interesting about these bodyguards? They call themselves the Suicide Squad. In a nice closure to the series, the Squad defeat the pretenders to their name and then journey into the mystical jungles of Diabloverde where they must face their personal demons and inner fears (excepting Deadshot, who either has none or is at peace with them). Sadly, at the end of the series, Waller disbands the team.

A second, mostly short lived, squad was relacuhed a few years later, with only minimal ties to the original book and a less-strong creative force behind it. As such, it lasted only about 12 issues. Later, other groups of villains would be drafted and called the Suicide Squad by assorted DCU folk, including President Luthor, but none ever retained the popularity or interest of the original and were mostly throwaway teams that appeared for a single issue.

During the "One Year Later" event we saw in the pages of "Checkmate" that Waller recruited Rick Flag (who was languishing in a Quraci prison) and Bronze Tiger to bring in a rogue version of the Squad being lead by Mirror Master. These events, coupled with their appearance in "52" and the return of John Ostrander to DC comics gives me great hope that the Suicide Squad may have a little life in it yet.

Looking Ahead
Well, we know that Vertigo and Waller end up in Checkmate as the year ends. As for the fate of the mantle of 'The Question,' there are a few hints still lurking out there, but I suppose only time will tell. Once again, though, I have to say it's odd that Batwoman hasn't shown up post-OYL yet.

Panel of the Week

Betcha Verty is having flashbacks. That's why they call in the Suicide Squad, man.

Archives
Week Thirty-Three
Week Thirty-Two
Week Thirty-One
Week Thirty
Week Twenty-Nine
Week Twenty-Eight
Week Twenty-Seven
Week Twenty-Six
Week Twenty-Five


Week Twenty-Four
Week Twenty-Three
Week Twenty-Two
Week Twenty-One
Week Twenty
Week Nineteen
Week Eighteen
Week Seventeen
Week Sixteen


Week Fifteen
Week Fourteen
Week Thirteen
Week Twelve
Week Eleven
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Week Nine
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Week Six
Week Five
Week Four
Week Three
Week Two
Week One

 
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