Friday, August 12, 2016

Up Against The Wall (DC)
Suicide Squad #10 When: February 1988
Why: John Ostrander How: Luke McDonnell

The Story So Far...
There's something not quite right about Belle Reve Prison and it's newest inmate: Matches Malone. Neither is what they seem and they're about to collide in a clash of wills!

Malone is in actual fact The Batman: Deep undercover, and intent on exposing what's really going on within the fortress stronghold of the Lousiana prison! Elementary for one of the world's greatest detectives and escape artists!

Having acquired the information he seeks, Batman stages his exit, but not without raising the alarm. Having faced down the female fury of Duchess and the gun scope of Deadshot - freedom is in sight, but the Suicide Squad have one more taskmaster to throw at him! Enter: Colonel Rick Flag!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Batman 3 (Athlete)
Intelligence: Batman 5 (Professor)
Speed: Draw 3 (Athlete)
Stamina: Batman 5 (Marathon)
Agility: Batman 4 (Gymnastic)
Fighting: Batman 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Batman 4 (Arsenal)

Colonel Rick Flag is a career soldier with ties to the original Task Force X and Suicide Squadron. The exact details of his early military career are unclear, but his unwavering dedication to the job, and years of experience, were evidenced in his role as field leader of a new Suicide Squad.

Created under Amanda Waller's Task Force X; The Suicide Squad forced Flag to accept command of a team of convicted super-criminals who accepted black-ops missions in exchange for an expunged record. His personal recruits included the deprogrammed assassin Bronze Tiger, and cavalier mercenary Deadshot.

We saw Flag bravely provide a guiding hand to Deadshot during the team's first field mission: A takedown of the burning behemoth Brimstone [Legends #3], who was an unstoppable living weapon sent to Earth by Darkseid!

Flag's role was strictly leadership, but thanks to the division's superior intel, his group succeeded where the Justice League of America had failed [Legends #2]! Had the mission required, he could've called upon expert hand-to-hand and firearms combat training. His two offensive options against the likes of Batman!

When it comes to tactical and combative expertise - few are better than The Dark Knight! We've seen Batman put on hand-to-hand clinics with renowned opponents like: Captain America [Marvel versus DC #3], Bullseye [DC versus Marvel #1], The Knight [JLA: Classified #3], Slam Bradley [Catwoman #22], Victor Zsasz [Detective Comics #796], and Killer Croc [Batman #621]. He's even relied upon fighting skills to face super-threats like: Amazo [Batman #637], Captain Marvel [Superman/Batman #4], Scorpion [DC/Marvel: All Access #3], and New God of evil himself - Darkseid [Superman/Batman #42]!

Suffice it to say: Rick Flag is up against steep odds! He does have a tactical advantage in this particular situation, though!

Batman has infiltrated the secret Belle Reve headquarters of Task Force X. To do so, he's already had to run a gauntlet of armed guards, new recruit Duchess (formerly of the Apokolips Female Furies), and old arch-enemy: Deadshot! It's a strategy Bane famously used to run Batman ragged before securing supreme victory - the famous "breaking of The Bat" - in Batman #497!

Granted, Bane's approach involved releasing dozens of the deadliest inmates from Arkham Asylum. That forced Batman into an exhaustive chase across Gotham City. In Belle Reve Prison, his shortlist of opponents are all in close quarters. That means less leg work, but more intense action, and a home field advantage where the lockdown security of the prison could force Batman into an unwinnable situation!

The Math: Batman Ranking: Batman (#1)

What Went Down...
Leaving a trail of defeated operatives, Batman sprints through the shadows of Belle Reve Prison. Approaching the main gate, he hears an apologetic voice...

Colonel Rick Flag dive tackles Batman from behind! The impact takes his legs out from under him, sending both to the floor.

Flag leans into his fist as he extends over The Dark Knight Detective's shoulder, pressing the advantage. Batman reverses the position, throwing his elbow back directly into Flag's exposed jaw!

The Batman uses the opportunity to rise to his feet. Both men hunching over, the pair of fighters square each other off at breaking distance. They move in!

Batman and Flag both lead with the backside of their left fist. Their forearms collide in a firm stalemate. Batman rockets his right fist into play, but Flag is able to curl his left arm up to block and sweep away from his face!

They lean into each other -- foreheads pressing like the locked horns of two bulls! Flag throws a probing right hand in the rib direction of Batman's body. The Dark Knight opts instead for a fist full of t-shirt. He pulls Flag toward him!

The gambit gives Batman the opening he needs to nail Flag with a devastating uppercut! The blow sends the Colonel sprawling to the ground! As he scrambles on all fours, The Batman leaps - cape extending like a giant living shadow!

Just as it seemed the fight was entering the end game - a volley of gunfire rings above both men's heads! They stop in their tracks!

The shots come from the gun barrel of Amanda Waller! Backed by Duchess, Deadshot, and the Belle Reve Warden and personnel who were taken out earlier - she challenges The Dark Knight!

He questions her methods. She draws parallels. Batman invokes the tax payers who unwittingly fund her squad of unreformed criminals. She trades a secret for a secret: The Batman had to go under deep cover to infiltrate the prison facility. He wasn't wearing gloves the whole time. She'll keep his secret identity if Batman agrees to keep theirs. The begrudging bargain brings Batman's excursion to an end. He's free to leave.

The Hammer...
While it looked as if Batman was getting the upper hand in the fight, we have no choice but to call this battle a draw!

For their role in bringing about a neutral conclusion to the outcome: Amanda Waller, Deadshot, Duchess, bespectacled John Economos, and moustached guard J. Daniel "Murph" Murphy have earned an assist.

I tend to think of the outcome in terms of the first Rocky. Just going the distance with Batman is as good as a win for Rick Flag.

If you thought he'd be happy about his team's intervention in the skirmish, though, you've got another thing coming!

It's one of the interesting dynamics of the Suicide Squad team. Flag may be a career soldier with trouble in his past, but he isn't worlds apart from Batman when it comes to judging the covert employment of his super-villains teammates. He respects Batman, touting The Dark Knight's valor over the self-serving moral ambiguity of his team. An ally 100% committed to his team, even if he doesn't really like them.

Batman is a welcome presence throughout the issue. His break-in under the guise of frequent alias Matches Malone is a lot of fun. The way Amanda Waller uses it to turn the tables -- threatening to uncover Batman's secret identity through his need to go gloveless -- a great power play!

Did Batman really expose himself so carelessly? This isn't quite the invincible, omnipotent planner that Batman would become, but it is a tough ask to accept that he didn't have some kind of plastic fingertip covers, or the like.

His infiltration sets up an action-heavy escape for most of the issue. He runs through the guards, Duchess, and Deadshot, before being jumped by Rick Flag in the featured fight. I'm sure we'll aim to revisit the issue for those other fights. The battle with Duchess (aka; Lashina) is definitely one we'll need to document!

My only real complaint of this milestone issue is that the action seems to get away from penciller Luke McDonnell. It falls apart particularly in the Flag fight, which suffers from indistinct actions in a broken down, blow by blow battle.

It's no doubt the layouts are supposed to show the inching strategy and effort of the two fighters. An attempt to demonstrate Flag's ability to match Batman hand-to-hand, at least for a while. The exact movements are just a little too hard to discern from the artwork. The repeating, thin panels perhaps better replaced with a more dynamic impression of a short fight. I'm not sure.

McDonnell does great work throughout the early issues of Suicide Squad. I think his stylized photo-realism really creates an iconic look for the series. It's of the same cloth as Kevin Maguire's pencils, but lays on heavier shadows and slightly less super-heroic dynamism in scenes. This plays out well when "Matches" is setting his plan into motion in the empty prison. The way Batman slinks down the corridors and toward the reader in a two-thirds page reveal - awesome!

Want to see the whole issue for yourself? Pick up the collected edition by using the Amazon link provided for your convenience to the right! Like the tax dollars that fund the Suicide Squad, your purchase helps keep the wars infinite!

August is Suicide Squad month on Secret Wars on Infinite Earths. Check back for Friday Night Fights and Hero of the Week updates featuring the characters from the movie and beyond! You can find even more features by infiltrating the Secret Issue Index!

Winner: Draw
#1 (--) Batman
#370 (+125) Rick Flag
#95 (--) Deadshot [+1 Assist]
#406 (+61) Amanda Waller [+1 Assist]
#497 (new) Lashina (Duchess) [+1 Assist]
#498 (new) John Economos [+1 Assist]
#499 (new) J Daniel Murphy [+1 Assist]

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