Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Suicide Squad: The Silver Age Omnibus, Volume 1
Dinosaurs fighting soldiers during World War II sounds like a veritable passport to excitement, right?
Not so much.
I was born with a near-pathological distaste for comics that are older than I am. There are exceptions, of course....the early Marvel Universe by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Steve Ditko being the prime example. Aside from a handful of work that was published pre-1970, though....every time I dabble, I have my heart broken. (A general rule of thumb that has served me well is this: Stan Lee-era Marvel is awesome, skip Roy Thomas-era Marvel, jump back in when Jim Shooter takes over.)
I left my comfort zone with this volume because it was written by Robert Kanigher, whose SGT. ROCK stories, at least the handful that I've been lucky enough to read, were uniformly excellent. This is no SGT. ROCK, unfortunately.
SUICIDE SQUAD: THE SILVER AGE OMNIBUS, VOLUME 1 collects stories from THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #'s 25-27 and 37-39, and STAR-SPANGLED WAR STORIES #'s 110-111, 116-121, 125, and 127-128, and they're broken into two distinct categories. The first category is the Rick Flag Suicide Squad, which appears in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD. This is a government-sanctioned team that investigates strange mysteries and bizarre occurrences, a la THE CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN. In the stories presented here, they fight dinosaurs and aliens, are shrunk down to doll size, encounter giant caterpillars, a cyclops, and a buttinsky who causes mirages. In one memorable story, they run afoul of a man who attempts to coat them in liquid gold, which results in maybe the best pairing of words and pictures ever: As liquid gold splashes down onto the unwitting team, writer Robert Kanigher dishes up this immortal prose:"At that moment from nozzles in the ceiling, a golden shower falls, stunning everyone..."
As I told my friend Andy, that piss-soaked image, along with that deathless caption, made the purchase of this book worthwhile.
The remainder of the book has nothing to do with Rick Flag iteration of the Suicide Squad, instead focusing on different soldiers sent out on suicide missions during WWII. Oddly enough, every....single...mission finds the men encountering dinosaurs and/or giant spiders, crabs, lobsters, fish, etc. (And despite the "Suicide " moniker, none of them ever dies.)
This gets old VERY quickly. (Especially when you consider the fact that I was reading this book side-by-side with SHOWCASE PRESENTS THE WAR THAT TIME FORGOT, which features a lot of the stories collected here, and then some.....) Soldiers find an island inhabited by dinosaurs, they get chased around, they escape, they decide no one will believe them if they tell what happened, blah blah blah. (Although so many soldiers seem to have encountered these dinosaurs, anyone that they told would probably have had a similar experience.)
Like I said, this gets old fast. Kanigher seems to have settled in on a method of telling the exact same story, over and over, and then telling it over and over again a few more times. Good for him, bad for us. This book was a Chore, with a capitol C, to get through. I'm a huge fan of the artists involved (Ross Andru, Mike Esposito, Joe Kubert, and Gene Colan), so there was that, at least. But the sheer repetition of the stories made for a few long weeks. I should have stopped reading, but I paid good money for this, God Dammit!! I'll suffer through! (That'll teach me to leave my comic-book comfort zone!)
SUICIDE SQUAD: THE SILVER AGE OMNIBUS, VOLUME 1 gets a meh five out of ten "Ring-tailed blockbusters", as Kanigher describes the dinosaurs ad infinitum:
(The five dinosaur rating is based solely on the art. And maybe on the golden shower joke. Mostly the golden shower joke.)