THIS WEEK: With Suicide Squad: Blaze #1, writer Simon Spurrier and artist Aaron Campbell re-team after a critically-acclaimed Hellblazer run — can they recapture the creative magic?
Note: This piece contains spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdicts.
Writer: Simon Spurrier
Artist: Aaron Campbell
Colorist: Jordie Bellaire
Letterer: Aditya Bidikar
I’ve been looking forward to this comic since it was announced, repairing as it does the team of writer Simon Spurrier and artist Aaron Campbell. Previously, the duo had done great work on a critically-beloved run of Hellblazer. Now, they were getting a chance to work with the Suicide Squad, a team that has for some time felt a bit stale, a constant retread of the (mostly) same characters and same gritty themes (although, to be fair, the current Suicide Squad run has been delightfully madcap in surprising ways, but I digress…). While the Spurrier-Campbell team had shown themselves capable of making great, interesting comics, moreover I had no idea what their take on the Squad would look like, and that was exciting to me.
Well, Suicide Squad: Blaze #1 is here now, and it makes good on my high expectations and then some. The first thing I noticed from this book is it was going out of its way to give readers a natural entry point into what is otherwise a dark and fantastical world, doing so through a somewhat schlubby minor criminal character that feels like an everyman. Readers won’t necessarily root for this character (I know that I didn’t), but he does provide a relatable lens, reacting in the way many of us would if Harley Quinn or The Peacemaker or King Shark was suddenly in our faces.
The second choice I really enjoyed in Suicide Squad: Blaze #1 had to do with deconstructing superhero tropes. Now, this has obviously been done quite a bit since the 1980s, but this book does it in a way that feels more relevant for 2022. A knock on the superhero concept — both as done in comics and in mega popular films — is that it sort of glorifies putting one’s faith in powerful individuals, trusting them to act in the interest of the good of everyone, rather than for their own agendas. It’s this concept that Suicide Squad: The Blaze #1 is specifically taking aim at, rather than the policing and authoritarian aspects that have largely marked the most successful superhero deconstructions.
This isn’t a book interest in looking at the realistic global-political implications of a power-structured maintained by superheroes. No, it’s much more concerned with the potential for any human being to be a straight up sociopath, or outright depraved. That’s what this book wants to tackle, this notion of how can we put our faith in seemingly noble individuals when humanity has these sort of dark depths in them. It’s an issue the comic charges right out, doing so with near-flawless storytelling that really plays to the strengths of its themes.
Past that, the book also puts a different sort of spin on the squad. The whole Amanda Waller brain bomb thing has been essentially leveled up. Instead of the same characters doing what Waller says because they don’t want to be blown up, we get a new set of characters imbued with superpowers under the condition it will shorten their lifespan, imminently. In this comic, it’s no longer the threat of a suicide mission of being blown up. No, these characters have all consented to sudden death, a choice that feels familiar to this property’s concept, a sort of evolution for the higher stakes this book wishes to tackle.
Anyway, in summation, I absolutely loved this book, my favorite take on the Suicide Squad, and it’s my favorite take on the property dating back to the legendary late ’80s Suicide Squad comics by John Ostrander and co. — I don’t say that lightly. This book is really well done.
- Batgirls #3 remains charming as all get out, with a tone that matches its characters and concepts perfectly. The same is true of the art. Your creative team for this one is writers Becky Cloonan & Michael W. Conrad, artist Jorge Corona, colorists Sarah Stern & Ivan Plascencia, and letterer Becca Carey.
- We got I Am Batman #6 this week, and this book is really picking up momentum, having moved new Batman Jace Fox from Gotham City (crowded with Bat-themed vigilantes) to New York City, where he is the only one — and the book is all the better for it. Also, is the New York Department of Tourism scouting locations for this book? I think we saw both The Vessel and Little Island in this one, two of the newer city landmarks. Your creative team here is writer John Ridley, artist Ken Lashley, colorist Rex Lokus, and letterer Troy Peteri.
- In regards to Justice League 2021 Annual #2021 — welp, now I want a full Justice League miniseries from artist Sanford Greene, colored here in part by Matt Herms. This is a good-looking comic, in a way that we don’t usually see the Justice League done. The rest of the creative team is writer Brian Michael Bendis and letterer Josh Reed.
- Finally, holy cow do we get a nice reveal at the end of The Joker #12. I won’t say much more than that (it’s a big fun reveal, after all), but I will once again reiterate that this book has surprisingly been one of the best from DC in the past year, serving much less as a comic about The Joker and much more as a psychological international manhunt mystery starring Jim and Barbara Gordon. Your creative team for this particular issue is writer James Tynion IV, artist Giuseppe Camuncoli, inker Cam Smith, colorists Arif Prianto & Romulo Fajardo Jr., and letterer Tom Napolitano.
Miss any of our earlier reviews? Check out our full archive!