Tuesday, September 6, 2016


This is not a review of the Suicide Squad movie. I’ve not seen that movie. I have also not seen the legal drama Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice or Man of Steel, which I assume is a documentary about steelworkers. I do recognize these are lame jokes.

Many people whose opinions I value have told me I will not like any of those three movies. What I have seen of the movies in clips and previews would seem to bear that out. However, I have made a semi-solemn vow to watch them as soon as I am caught up on the TV series Arrow, iZombie, Legends of Tomorrow and The Flash. I am just a mere 46 hours away from being in a position to either fulfill or rethink that vow. But I digress.

What I’m reviewing today is Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Trial by Fire by John Ostrander and Luke McDonnell (DC; $19.99), a trade paperback collection of Secret Origins #14 and Suicide Squad #1-8, all from 1987. I read most of these comics when they were first published, but have not revisited them since. On reading them a second time, I was even more impressed than the first time around.

“The Secret Origin of the Suicide Squad” covers all the variations of the team from the G.I.s who fought in “The War That Time Forget” to the Rick/Karen/Evans/Jess quartet of the early 1960s stories by writer Robert Kanigher with artists Ross Andru and Mike Esposito to the “black ops” team put together by Amanda Waller. I’m so used to thinking of Waller as a villain - because she is - I had forgotten the past that made her. Oh, I still think she’s a villain, but I’m sympathetic to the road of “good intentions” that led her to where she is today. Credit that realization to the fine writing of my pal Ostrander.

Ostrander’s Suicide Squad was an edgy mix of heroes with issues and villains with issues and villains who were quite content to be the bad guys, especially if they could get a pass from the government. Captain Boomerang is a black-hearted creep who lets a teammate die. He games the system by committing crimes disguised as other members of the Flash rogues gallery. He has no issues. He is precisely the villain he wants to be.

Deadshot is a stone killer and that’s really all he has. He lives at Belle Reve prison because a bed is a bed to him.

Team leader Rick Flag is no longer involved with team doctor Karin Grace because, in trying to do the right thing by her, he’s pushed her away. He’s a bitter and (rightfully) suspicious man and she’s become frostbite cold, as if her signing onto the team was for the express purpose of making Flag even more miserable.

Right down the Squad roster there are damaged people, some of whom yearn for a better, normal life and all them manipulated on a daily basis by Waller. This is grim and gritty storytelling that doesn’t have to scream grim and gritty. It just is.

The interactions with the rest of the DC Universe are well-played. There’s no doubt these comics are taking place in the DCU, but the Universe doesn’t overwhelm them.

McDonnell’s art and storytelling are solid throughout these issues. He makes the super-stuff look super and the real-world stuff look real. I don’t know if he’s still drawing comic books, but, if he’s not he should be.

Suicide Squad Vol. 1: Trial by Fire gets my recommendation. There have at least a couple more volumes released in this series and I’m looking forward to reading them.

ISBN 978-1-4012-5831


It was published last October, but Ghetto Klown by John Leguizamo with artists Christa Cassano and Shamus Beyale [Abrams; $24.95] just crossed my path last week via of my local Medina library and one of its associates in the Clevnet system. It’s adapted from the award-winning show staged on Broadway in 2011.

As per Wikipedia, Leguizamo “is a Colombian-American actor, voice actor, producer, stand-up comedian, playwright and screenwriter. As of 2009, Leguizamo had appeared in over 75 films, produced over 10 films, starred on Broadway in several productions (winning several awards), made over a dozen television appearances, and has produced or starred in many other television shows.”

This autobiography is gripping and so truthful it sometimes hurts to read it. Leguizamo doesn’t exempt himself (or anyone else) from the story of his life in blue-collar Queens, his rocky childhood, his introduction to acting and writing, his encounters with great actors and directors, his mistakes along the way and his unending efforts to get his life right.

Leguizamo’s honesty is depicted with edgy style by artists Cassano and Beyale. The result is a powerful work of graphic non-fiction. This won’t be for every comics readers, but those of you who, like me, relish the variety of our medium, should definitely read this book. I think it will stick with you.

ISBN 978-1-4197-1518-1


September has certainly been interesting so far. It promises to be hectic month for me, what with the writing and the not answering of questions I can’t answer at this time.

On a less happy front, there is a long-term medical situation with my mother-in-law that will disrupt things with my family and I as we try to find the best long-term solution for her. It has already been rough going and is likely to get more so. If you have any good thoughts to spare, sent them our way.

On the just plain stupid front, I was harassed at a recent comics convention by an area creep trying to force my involvement with a repugnant project of his. I am taking steps to make sure he can’t harass me at future conventions.

But that’s life, isn’t it? Good and bad, happy and sad, it is all part of the mix. I accept that.

If all goes as planned, I’ll have a new installment of my “Rawhide Kid Wednesday” series for you tomorrow. Later this week and next, you can expect to see installments of my other ongoing bloggy thing series, some more review columns and a couple convention reports. Hope you’re enjoying the ride.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

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