Friday, August 26, 2016

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

The Story So Far...
The New God of evil Darkseid has wicked plans for the heroes of the mortal planet of Earth! For their role in thwarting his plans time and again, he strikes with new weapons -- including a techno-seed that gives birth to the deluded giant known as Brimstone!

This self-proclaimed fallen angel marches to the false gospel of Darkseid. Bathed in a sentient flame that is his infernal body, Brimstone begins his cleansing of false gods with the shocking defeat of the Justice League of America! This prompts government agent Amanda Waller to initiate a dangerous new plan under Task Force X!

Utilizing convicted super-villains and volunteer agents to run secretive covert-ops, Waller launches the Suicide Squad! With the heroes out of action, the bad guys save the day, but the dark side of one of the team has bubbled to the surface. Now the apparent saviours unleash a deadly new threat upon an unsuspecting world - the dark sorcery of Enchantress!

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

Bronze Tiger is Benjamin Turner: Master of the martial arts and charter member of the Suicide Squad! He served notably as one of the team's few non-criminal members - the first recruit chosen by Amanda Waller and Rick Flag!

Flag had led a mission to rescue Turner from The League of Assassins some time prior to reforming Task Force X. As Bronze Tiger, Turner was brainwashed into becoming one of The League's deadliest global assassins. He even turned on his friend Richard Dragon before being deprogrammed by Waller.

Bronze Tiger's renown as one of the world's greatest martial artists belies humble beginnings on the streets of Central City. Urban crime confronted young Ben Turner with a natural acumen for combat. Searching for a better path for himself, he travelled the world, eventually finding the teachings of the legendary O-Sensei, in Japan. It was there he studied alongside Richard Dragon before both returned to the United States, briefly opening a school of their own.

Enchantress is June Moone: Granted magical powers by a mysterious entity known as Dzamor, Moone becomes the host of a powerful mystic alter-ego. In her early adventures she wielded this magic persona for good, but as the years wear on, calling upon the Enchantress sways her intent to the side of evil.

Her powers of sorcery are difficult to define by conventional means. Her abilities range from standard energy projections and transmutation, to demonstrations of: levitation, teleportation, healing, mystic sensitivity, and magic leeching!

When she was approached to join the Suicide Squad by Amanda Waller, Moone opted to volunteer her services. She subsequently joined the team on their very first mission: to neutralize the Apokolips giant Brimstone [Legends #3].

As we saw, Bronze Tiger was paired with Enchantress as a teammate during the first mission. He would later coach her in the martial arts. They should be working together, but as we're about to learn, the price of Enchantress' incredible power is the constant threat of her other evil persona!

Can mortal martial arts stand against the unbridled might of a sorceress?

Enchantress' powers protected the team from the fallout of Brimstone's lethal flames, but could only do so once they were no longer sentient. That bodes well for the ever-sentient Bronze Tiger! Will it be advantage enough to take her down when things go bad? Let's find out...

The Math: Bronze Tiger Ranking: Bronze Tiger (#405)

What Went Down...
Deadshot finds his target: firing an experimental laser directly into the nexus of Brimstone's core! The magnetic fields that maintain his integrity begin to fail, prompting Brimstone's plasma body to literally tear itself apart!

The giant monster becomes a towering inferno and in doing so - sends an explosive fireball in the direction of the triumphant Suicide Squad!

With a wave of her hands, Enchantress effortlessly comes to the defense of the team. The once sentient fire now dead and susceptible to her sorcery - reduced to a harmless snowstorm before it blankets the team!

The Squad's first mission seems to end in victory, but in unleashing her magicks -- the darkness in Enchantress' heart is brought forth! She turns on the team!

As snow flakes fall gently over Enchantress, mystic energy continues to blaze around her hands. Grinning gleefully, she twists to deal with her teammates -- unaware of their preparations to deal with her!

The martial artist Bronze Tiger leaps into action -- revealing his true purpose amongst the team! He may have been outmatched by the brute power of Brimstone, but by staying close to Enchantress, he's perfectly positioned to strike with an expertly delivered nerve-pinch!

Enchantress collapses unconscious into Bronze Tiger's waiting arms. The threat is over! Averted thanks to the foresight of Colonel Rick Flag.

The Hammer...
Well, that was fairly painless! With a single strike: Bronze Tiger wins!

Imagine how much easier life would've been if the Suicide Squad in theatres only remembered to bring Bronze Tiger to their fight! Win some, lose some, eh?

We've been looking back at the early days of The Suicide Squad throughout August, and plodding our way through the Legends mini-series, in the process. Just six issues long, it's a post-Crisis landmark that works to establish the new Justice League, the modern Suicide Squad, and a nice plot involving the manipulations of the masses through media by Darkseid and his minions, too.

It's understandable that the series didn't really have the time to dwell on every facet of the Suicide Squad, but I like that the broad beats are all essentially laid out. The moral frailty in a team of coerced super-villains is one the inherent joys of the concept. Enchantress establishes the looming sense of internal threat, even if it's pushed aside quickly. Captain Boomerang further drives home the potential for the team to unravel, quitting the group shortly after. With any luck, we'll get a chance to explore that tangent in a future fight.

Today we're focusing on other curios, such as Enchantress, who was a character I don't think I'd ever even heard of before reading her adventures with the Suicide Squad!

It's just another of the joys of the Suicide Squad series and the attitude that created it. By churning the vast soil of the DC Universe, they unearthed seeds that gave the post-Crisis DCU a crop of unexpected icons! They were disparate elements elevated by being brought together to make a glorious new whole! Still steeped in histories that were probably completely unknown or forgotten to young readers like myself! Middling properties ready to be embellished!

Enchantress originally came from mid-sixties mysticism in Strange Adventures #187 (April 1966), twisting into a villainess of the early eighties, before settling as the conflicted sorceress of the Squad. A revelatory reconciliation of her different roles, wrapped in a deliciously eighties design (as drawn by Byrne and McDonnell) that I simply love. Faux-80s faux-nostalgia has a way of grinding on me, but if I could choose any comics character to rock that look, it'd be her!

Bronze Tiger's history came from the kung-fu boom of the seventies grindhouse cinema. DC Comics got into the act with Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter #1 (May 1975) - a series that introduced two American "kung-fu fighters" who studied in Japan. Their battles with The League of Assassins provided nice hooks to tie a lot of disparate elements of the DCU together over the following years and decades. A nice hallmark of Dennis O'Neil! You probably know them best for Ra's al Ghul and Batman's struggles. They played a role in Bronze Tiger's Suicide Squad backstory as a brainwashed assassin.

Admittedly, I always viewed Dragon as the poor man's Iron Fist: Marvel's much cooler martial arts hero, with a much cooler African-American best friend in Power Man. Suicide Squad certainly elevated Bronze Tiger in my eyes, though.

Similarly unrelated histories underscore the rest of The Squad! Deadshot: A one-hit wonder of 1950 Batman, dusted off in '77 and given new life in the Squad. Rick Flag: A tie to the war comics origins of the Suicide Squad of Brave and the Bold #25 (1959). Captain Boomerang: 1960 bad guy, destined to be a recurring menace of The Flash's Rogues! Blockbuster: 1965 man-monster who played the part of a poor man's Hulk, and the seminal mission's "suicide". Amanda Waller: The new glue that binds it all together as something fresh for the times.

I love it when superhero comics make their bizarre and wonderful universes work for them! This is such a great example of what can be achieved by uniting elements with a single great, intuitive idea! It highlights the strength of having a back catalogue and the value of creating "new reader friendly" comics through a continuum of exciting new stories, rather than do-overs and regressions.

With any luck, we'll get a chance to follow the chains of history back to see more of these characters. I'm sure we'll be going forward as well.

You can master this fluid reality of time in any year you might be reading by diving into the Issue Index Archive! That's the nexus of realities where you can jump to all the previous feature fights. You can also find more topics of interest by utilizing links littered through all the posts on this blog!

As September dawns, we have one more special battle inspired by the ensemble cast of the Suicide Squad film - in theatres now! In the mean time, check out Hero of the Week Mondays and stay tuned for a month of action focused on a certain character mentioned somewhere in this post. Can you guess who?

Winner: Bronze Tiger
#130 (+275) Bronze Tiger
#505 (-9) Enchantress (June Moone)

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