Friday, August 05, 2016

Send For... The Suicide Squad! (DC)
Legends #3 When: January 1987
Why: John Ostrander & Len Wein How: John Byrne

The Story So Far...
From distant planet Apokolips, the New God Darkseid and his minion Desaad curse the heroes of the world known as Earth! These mighty mortals have risen to thwart their wicked plans time and time again!

Inspired only by evil intent, the New Gods devise a new plan! Operation: Humiliation -- a scheme to attack the heroes through monsters and media manipulation!

On the frontline of Darkseid's war is the firey goliath: Brimstone! A creature of sentient plasma hatched in the heart of a nuclear reactor, he believes himself to be a blazing fallen angel sent to cleanse the world of false idols.

Having come up short against titanic Brimstone, Firestorm and Cosmic Boy joined the Justice League of America in trying to stop him. All succumbed to his mighty powers. With the situation getting desperate, Task Force X spook Amanda Waller opts to initiate her plan to employ known criminals as expendable agents. Equipped with an experimental gun, Colonel Rick Flag leads the team to South Dakota on what can only be considered a suicide mission!

Tale of the Tape...
Strength: Brimstone 6 (Invincible)
Intelligence: Enchantress 5 (Professor)
Speed: Bronze Tiger 4 (Olympian)
Stamina: Brimstone 7 (Unstoppable)
Agility: Bronze Tiger 3 (Acrobat)
Fighting: Bronze Tiger 5 (Martial Artist)
Energy: Enchantress 6 (Mass Destruction)

Task Force X are: Rick Flag, Bronze Tiger, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, BlockbusterEnchantress.

Task Force X was originally established to respond to post-war super-human threats emerging in the absence of a congressionally disbanded Justice Society of America. Among their original personnel were members of the Suicide Squad who had served during World War II, and fought on Dinosaur Island.

Decades later; Agent Amanda Waller assumes control of Task Force X, seeking to resurrect the Suicide Squad as a secret team of government sanctioned super-villains. They are an expendable black-ops force operating with complete deniability for the chance to have their criminal records expunged. The only requirements: Accept the mission, complete the mission, survive the mission.

Leading Waller's team in the field is Colonel Rick Flag, whose father was a member of the WWII Suicide Squad, and Task Force X. Flag recruited deadly deprogrammed assassin and second-in-command Bronze Tiger, along with crack shot mercenary Deadshot.

They headed an original line-up of complicit and reluctant villains:
- Mark Desmond, aka; Blockbuster: A chemist whose experiments turned him into a dim-witted powerhouse who clashed with Batman and The Outsiders.
- June Moone aka; Enchantress: A powerful mystic able to conjure constructs, magic energies, illusions, and various other magic phenomena.
- Digger Harkness, aka; Captain Boomerang: Australian boomerang expert and frequent criminal foe of The Flash!

Operating as Task Force X; the Suicide Squad would learn of their expendability through their first field mission: To destroy a giant flaming monster rampaging across the United States! The monster they're targeting: Brimstone!

We've been following Brimstone's destructive exploits a lot in the last month. He first appeared from a techno-seed planted in a nuclear reactor in Legends #1, where he soundly defeated Firestorm. He would then fend off Cosmic Boy, before defeating the entire Justice League of America in Legends #2! That's a pretty formidable record, but the Suicide Squad have something the JLA didn't!

Understanding that Brimstone is composed of 'super-heated hydrogen plasma given sentient form by complex magnetic fields', Task Force X is able to equip Deadshot with an experimental laser rifle. Capable of firing a single blast able to penetrate the nexus of Brimstone's field - it's their only chance for success!

Can he make the shot? We've seen Floyd Lawton find his target fighting Manticore [Suicide Squad #2], but it was coming up short against the new Flash that got him caught in the first place, leading to his Suicide Squad recruitment [Legends #1]. A master marksman with skinny odds and a death wish.

Everything is working against their success, but that's what the Suicide Squad is for! Will they be the first to take down Brimstone, or die trying? Let's find out...

The Math: Brimstone Ranking: Brimstone (#92)

What Went Down...
In the shadow of Mount Rushmore, The Suicide Squad march uneven ground toward their fate. Captain Boomerang asks if he can change his mind. Brimstone welcomes the sinners with expectation and an explosion! No turning back now!

While the team recovers, Colonel Flag helps Deadshot size up the target. One shot to hit a bullseye at the nexus of magnetic fields. To help make it easier, Flag deploys the super-brute Blockbuster. With "spade-like" hands he scoops up the rock beneath Brimstone's feet and lifts!

Captain Boomerang does his best to chip in, tossing a baffle-rang that swirls around the monster's head. It induces momentary disorientation, but only serves to provoke an attack!

A column of flame descends from the goliath's hand. Despite her best efforts, Enchantress discovers she's unable to transmute the sentient plasma! The heat worries Bronze Tiger, but Enchantress remains confident and cool.

Blockbuster continues his attack of Brimstone's vertical base, smashing through the rocky terrain to reduce it to treacherous rubble! This too only serves to aggravate the behemoth.

Darkseid's destroyer reaches down with a giant hand and wraps it around Blockbuster. The size were as if he were a mere insect. The intense burning heat of the plasma - enough to reduce Blockbuster to a smouldering corpse!

Captain Boomerang is horrified as the sizzling body lands before him. His sacrifice provides sufficient distraction. While it fell, Deadshot sized up Brimstone through an experimental rifle scope. Seeing an object at the heart of the creature's magnetic fields, he finds the target! Rick Flag orders him to fire!

The focused laser beam strikes at the centre of Brimstone's chest! The unfeeling creature is confronted with sensations of agony unlike anything he has known!

Brimstone cries for the dark god who forsakes him, clinging to a delusion of religion that tells him he is a fallen angel. Darkseid shows no mercy. A truly expendable agent whose usefulness is served in the defeat of the Justice League and death of one of Earth's legends: the man-brute, Blockbuster!

Coming apart at the seams, Brimstone becomes a screaming, out-of-control blaze! Even in death - he continues to threaten the lives of the Suicide Squad! A giant ball of flame hurtles toward Bronze Tiger and Enchantress!

Now that Brimstone's flame is no longer sentient -- Enchantress can end the threat with a simple enchantment that turns inferno into a harmless snowstorm!

The Hammer...
Just like that: Deadshot and The Suicide Squad save the day!

Not a bad result for their first appearance! Of course, poor Blockbuster wasn't so lucky. His rather grisly death helped drive home the name and mortal stakes of The Squad. He, the first in a list of fatalities that would plague the group!

In revisiting these early, post-Crisis comics, I'm really reminded of the livewire sense of excitement they created! As much as this was a new beginning for the DC Universe, it also clearly felt like a sharpening and refining for a lot of characters, and properties.

The Justice League got a much needed jolt in transition away from Detroit-based third stringers [Legends #2], to a constructive mix of old and new icons, some originally sourced from other publishers. An all-star assembly that could refresh classic heroes, and elevate new ones to legendary status!

The Suicide Squad played a big role in that reinvigoration and juxtaposition, too! By assembling a few issues earlier in Legends, they became of the same world, cut from the same cloth. They were destined to compliment and clash with the heroes that would leave issue six to become Justice League International. A step ahead of the global topical concerns of the JLI, more immediately rooted in the world of military black-ops, espionage, and beaurocracy.

It was fitting that the two teams would finally meet in battle in Russia. Both teams would feature in stories negotiating the friction of the tail end of Cold War hostilities between The Soviets and America. JLI may have been taking a more worldly view of super-heroes, but The League and Squad both owed their origins to the height of the Cold War in the early sixties.

The Suicide Squad was originally created at the tail end of 1959, appearing in The Brave and The Bold. They were uniform soldiers in the mould you know. A far cry from recurring super-villains like Deadshot and Captain Boomerang, but a modern legacy that continued its tradition -- rather than deleting it in reboot.

The Squad of the late eighties refreshed what was around them by building something new from old parts. Rather than partaking in hard rebooting, the meta principle became part of the core of the book. What if you could have a team with a genuine sense of mortal danger? What if the modern new DCU tried to get a little something extra out of some of its lesser characters, rather than simply writing them out, or frivolously destroying them?

In the world of the Suicide Squad, Amanda Waller is giving them a lifeline of redemption and clean slates. In the world of publication, characters like Blockbuster and Enchantress are getting second chances to mean more than they had in the past. Granted, I'm not sure the series really played out like a do-or-die scenario for expendable intellectual property, but that core concept is exciting! Join the book and become a new icon - or be deleted!

In Legends #3; overseeing arch-villain Darkseid chalked Blockbuster's death up as a win in the spread. If only he knew what would happen! Siblings and clones would keep the DC Universe populated with Blockbusters for years to come! Brimstone came back pretty quick, too. Darkseid promised he would, though.

I'm not sure either character was compelling enough to demand their deaths be undone, but I go with it. Misfits of science both, their pseudo-resurrections have a way of working with their innate simplicity. I especially like that Brimstone continued as a recurring problem for Firestorm. Their encounter in Legends #1 has stuck with me these past few weeks. Somehow it just worked!

Thirty years later, death doesn't mean what it used to. I may forgive the pseudo-return of the team's original fatality, but the circus of death and resurrection is fairly constant in Marvel and DC Comics. It's hard for the Suicide Squad to really mean the same. Likewise, the material drifted over the years, losing the drama of the early Ostrander years to action-movie frivolity. Yet, through it all, there's no denying the appeal of this ragtag group of villains, held to a short leash by a very scary, very powerful woman called Amanda Waller!

Little wonder, then, that Warner Brothers has launched the property into a feature film screening in theatres today - August 5th!

We'll be taking the opportunity to look closer at some of the characters in the film with a feast of feature fights and Hero of the Week spotlights throughout the month of August!

Read and own the entire first appearance of the Suicide Squad by using the Amazon purchase link embedded in this article [right]. Find more stories with these characters and others by following links, or diving into the Issue Index Archive!

Winners: Deadshot, Blockbuster & Captain Boomerang
#95 (+206) Deadshot [+1 Kill - Brimstone]
#98 (-6) Brimstone [+1 Kill - Blockbuster]
#291 (new) Blockbuster (Mark Desmond)
#292 (new) Captain Boomerang
#404 (+63) Bronze Tiger [+1 Assist]
#495 (new) Col. Rick Flag [+1 Assist]
#496 (new) Enchantress (June Moone) [+1 Assist]

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