The Dark Knight Returns. Arkham Asylum. Miracleman. Elektra Assassin. The One. Bratpack. Maximortal. The reconstruction of the superhero became quite the thing in the eighties and nineties, but also delved into horror, just driven forward by the kinetic excitement of the superhero form. Watchmen, by the way, did not do that, it was a far slower book with a cleaner, more classic look, courtesy of Dave Gibbons, with a structure more about examining events that had already happened, running flashbacks more than running forward.
Suicide Squad: Blaze, by Simon Spurrier, Aaron Campbell, Jordie Bellaire and Aditya Bidikar is probably the most horrible comic book DC Comics has published in some time, but also the most thrilling, and it's all done with a purpose. A story about a superpowered character who only appears as a blur, killing around the world, sees a new kind of Suicide Squad formed together to tackle it. All fine and dandy. But from a Battle Royale to choose those members, to the fate of Superman and the rest of the Justice League, to what the hell happens to Iceland, Amanda Waller's decisions have never been colder, lacking in empathy or pure bloody-minded evil.
Aaron Campbell and Jordie Bellaire create a world of blurs, to mirror the killer being tracked down, they force you to concentrate to actually work out what is being portrayed in each panel, rather than spoon-feeding you easy comic book ink lines. Things are happening, you are recruited alongside the team, it is your job to catch up. It also jumps from style to style, from painted portrayals to crosshatched inks, within the individual panel. The normal world is portrayed in black ink, and flat knocked-back colour palettes. The power of the Blaze and that which it targets, knocks back the black into all manner of colours and lets paint explode it across the page. This starts off being annoying, especially after just reading something classically clean and consistent like Alan Davis, say. But by the end, it is exhilarating, like picking up Bill Sienkiewicz's New Mutants for the first time when you are eight years old, like a roller coaster ride that makes your stomach heave to begin with but, by the end, you are screaming for high heaven.
And while Si Spurrier needs only to have dropped some cool bon mots for the Suicide Squad while they are murdering everyone they can – and he does do that – we also get a treatise on the art of, and need for, storytelling. It's not wanky space filler either, it's an integral part of the plot that only reveals itself at the end. It also delves into modern relationships, co-dependency, and where toxicity comes from. You know, just in case you were enjoying yourself too much. Oh yes and Captain Cold trying to shag King Shark's mum.
If you want a superhero comic that treats Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman and the like with disdain, have the people in charge of our "heroes" be the worst people on the planet, and whatever "happy" ending can be dragged from this thing, leave you with a feeling of dread and despondency, but nevertheless has you rushing towards it at the speed of pumping blood, filling you with endorphins from merely reading a comic book, Suicide Squad Blaze is it. And funnily enough, I do.
Suicide Squad: Blaze will be published in hardcover for the 13th of December, just in time to give someone a very nasty present (I'll be putting it on my wishlist) but all three chapters are available individually in comic book stores now. Oh and in case they want a quote for something…. "It's Dark Knight meets Arkham Asylum, as violent as Miracleman and with the disdain for superheroes of a drunk Garth Ennis. Or a sober Garth Ennis come to that." Nah, they'll never use it.
Suicide Squad: Blaze hardcover – 13th of December,
To catch a monster, you have to become one—but some folks have a head start. The critically acclaimed John Constantine: Hellblazer team deploy Task Force X on their most brutal and bizarre mission yet! The attacks begin without warning. Brutal, sudden…cannibalistic. A metahuman with all the power of Superman but none of his humanity. An unstoppable being ruled only by hunger and instinct, striking at random across the world. To stop this threat, Harley Quinn, Peacemaker, Captain Boomerang, and King Shark have been assigned to corral, nursemaid—and if necessary, execute—five deadly new recruits: the expendable products of a secret government procedure called BLAZE. They're ordinary prisoners, endowed with incredible power…and the certain knowledge that it'll burn through them like wildfire. They have six months to live, maximum. If you're staring down life in prison, maybe that's a good deal—especially if you're Michael Van Zandt, desperate to reunite with the mad lover who forsook you after your Bonnie-and-Clyde crime spree. But that power? It's surprisingly transferable. As each member of the Squad dies…the others get stronger. What would a hardened criminal do with that knowledge? Worse yet: What would a desperate, lovesick idiot do with it? One thing's certain: this time the Suicide Squad's bitten off more than it can chew. Win or lose-they all burn.
Simon Spurrier and Aaron Campbell, the creative team behind the critically acclaimed John Constantine: Hellblazer, are turned loose on the one DC title even more horrific and blackhearted than that one. Brace yourselves! Collects Suicide Squad Blaze #1-3.