As disappointed as I was by ‘Deathstroke’ #1 because it was centered around a badass, yet boring, villain as a main character, I actually enjoyed ‘Suicide Squad’ despite the fact that it centers around six villains. Of course it helps that most of the members of the Squad and the conspiracy surrounding them are actually interesting.

The idea behind ‘Suicide Squad’ is that there are black ops government missions that are too dangerous on which to risk good men and women. Instead, the powers-that-be use villains. The most dangerous villains of the DC Universe are often locked away in solitary confinement in Belle Reve Penitentiary. Their only hope of seeing daylight is by joining “Task Force X” (or as the participants call it “The Suicide Squad”). If a villain is chosen for the Squad, they are drugged, dragged out of their cell, and implanted with an explosive device at the base of their skull. The device is there to ensure the participants’ cooperation. If they fail to complete their missions or if they disobey their government leaders, then they’ll be retired from the Squad… permanently.

The ‘Suicide Squad’ concept has been around since the mid-80s and the lineup has, obviously, changed with each new iteration. The current Squad is made up of Deadshot (the assassin), El Diablo (a gangbanger that can shoot fire from his hands), Harley Quinn (the Joker’s girlfriend with enhanced strength, reflexes, and insanity), Black Spider (a techno-villain), Voltaic (electric-powered hitman), Savant (a spoiled rich ex-vigilante), and King Shark (a mutant shark-man).

[Warning: top secret government spoilers below.]

This issue begins with the Squad captured and being tortured for information by a group of unnamed assailants. Their captors, wearing burlap sacks on their heads, are demanding to know the identities of the group, who they work for, and what is their mission. Writer Adam Glass does a cool series of story-within-a-story type vignettes that tell the back-stories of most of the key members of the Squad, how they were recruited, and how they ended up in this predicament. As their suffering at the hands of their mysterious tormentors continues, the Squad refuses to break. Finally, after being subjected to a truly repugnant torture, one of the Squad breaks down and tells the masked captors everything. It isn’t until this point that the true nature of the Suicide Squad is revealed and their real mission begins.

This issue was a great read and got me intrigued as to the nature of these villains, their bureaucratic leadership, and how (or rather if) they will ever get out of the Squad alive. Glass’ writing was tight and well structured. The characters were fleshed out pretty well for the first issue of a team book. The artwork, from Marco Rudy (‘The Shield’), is beautiful to behold in spite of the hideous change to Harley Quinn’s classic costume. If I had to gripe about anything it’d be about Harley’s costume and the change in appearance of the Squad’s enigmatic handler. But those are small quibbles in light of the rest of the issue. If you’re a fan of conspiracy, action, or murderous villains keeping the world safe against their will, ‘Suicide Squad’ is the book for you.

Written by ADAM GLASS