A history of suicide, the first international hero, and the rise of Bibbo!
Secret Origins #14, Zatanna Special #1, Adventures of Superman #428, Booster Gold #16, and Green Lantern Corps #212
Secret Origins #14 by John Ostrander and Luke McDonnell
Amanda Waller and the new incarnation of the Suicide Squad made their debuts in the pages of Legends, but that series left a lot of questions about the team and its history. This wasn’t the first time DC had a Suicide Squad and the new incarnation opened a few questions about the previous incarnations.
The story is framed by a conversation in the Oval Office between Task Force X’s leader Amanda Waller, CBI head Sarge Steel, and President Ronald Reagan. The conversation on the table is whether or not Task Force X should stay active and continue using super-criminals as agents.
Waller’s argument is rather simple: Task Force X has been around for decades and this is just the latest evolution of its work. Over the rest of the issue, she delineates that history, starting during World War II and the original incarnation’s war on Dinosaur Island. They end up under the command of Rick Flag, who whips them into fighting shape.
From there, Flag ends up conscripted into the fledgling Task Force X and is put in the lead of a new Suicide Squad in the sixties. They become the first (and only) public incarnation of the team, as they serve as substitutes for the superheroes forced into retirement during the Red Scare. He meets his future wife as part of the team, but in the process loses the rest of the team.
Flag retires and has a kid, Rick Flag Jr, who of course ends up looking pretty much exactly like him. This would be the Flag that joined the Forgotten Heroes, met Superman, and fought in the Crisis. He would also be the Flag chosen by Waller to lead the new Suicide Squad into battle with Brimstone.
Amanda Waller also gives her own back story, as a young woman growing up in the worst parts of Chicago. She loses two children and a husband to crime and sets out to put both her remaining children and herself through college. From there, she rises to note on the national level by taking a local candidate for Congress with no chance and winning him a seat in the House.
President Reagan agrees that he sees a necessity for the Suicide Squad to exist. But after Waller leaves the room, he also confides in Steel that he’s more than willing to kill two birds with one stone. He sees Waller as less dangerous in charge of Task Force X than she would be running the office and campaign of a potential political opponent.
While this issue serves to introduce Amanda Waller and the modern Rick Flag, it spends as much time showing us they are both fundamentally broken people. Flag has lost his family, the love of his life, and his career path to the Suicide Squad. He’s a man with only his mission left. Waller is a woman bent on seizing power in order to protect herself and anything she sees as hers. They are clearly as flawed as any supervillain they will recruit.
This issue carries the Legends trade dress that marks it as “Part 22” of that saga, but it barely even serves as an epilogue to that series. This book is truly an “issue zero” to the Suicide Squad series, which would debut fourteen days after its release.
Ostrander is only a couple of years into his comic writing career at this point, but he’s already shown at First that he had the talent for smart storytelling. While this issue is very much a typical event A to event B narrative, he sets down seeds that will play out in the months ahead in his first DC ongoing.
McDonnell is a veteran of comics, with years-long runs on Iron Man and the Detroit-era Justice League of America. He will never be mistaken for a superstar artist, but his clean lines and concise storytelling work perfectly for an espionage comic with a huge cast of characters. Here his art seems to be hampered by the work of inker Dave Hunt, who thankfully does not carry over to the regular series.
With nary a supervillain in sight, this book barely serves as a tease for the future ahead, but it is certainly enough to intrigue anyone curious about DC’s new team with an old name.
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