On The Cheap: ‘Suicide Squad’ #58, The Issue Where John Ostrander, Kim Yale And Geof Isherwood Kill Grant Morrison
Over the past few weeks, Comixology has done a pretty amazing job of staying on top of DC's Convergence event with a string of sales based on the different eras that were brought into Bottleworld to fight it out, and this week is no exception. There's amazing stuff in there focusing on the Justice League International, the amazingly underrated 90s Superboy run, and one of the greatest comics of all time, the late '80s Suicide Squad.
But with all those great books to choose from, you might need a little help narrowing it down. Like, let's say you can only buy one comic from the entire sale. If that's the case, then my recommendation would be that you jump on Suicide Squad #58. You know, the one where a werewolf kills Grant Morrison.
Admittedly, if you've never read Suicide Squad before, this issue's going to be a pretty weird place to jump on. For one thing, it's nearing the end of the book's 66-issue run, with all of the characters and relationships pretty well established, and for another, it's a tie-in to "War of the Gods," a crossover that almost nobody remembers and even fewer people ever talk about. That said, it's still pretty great.
The basic concept behind Suicide Squad is one of the most brilliant ideas in the history of comics, mainly because of how well it takes advantage of what the DC Universe was like at that specific time in its history. When the book launched in 1987, the DCU was just coming out of Crisis on Infinite Earths, and not only had they consolidated all the worlds of their Multiverse into a single timeline, they were also making a push to move away from the sillier, gimmicky stories of the Silver and Bronze Ages. The end result of that there were suddenly a whole lot of goofy villains from the past 50 years that nobody really wanted to feature --- they still existed, but the fact that nobody was really interested in reading stories about boomerang-themed robberies in a world that had just read Watchmen meant that they were also expendable.
Thus, Suicide Squad, the book where old villains went to die. Literally, in some cases --- the original gimmick of the series was that at least one member of the cast would be killed in each story arc, reinforcing the idea that these really were suicide missions. To that end, John Ostrander and Kim Yale had a gift for resurrecting obscure supervillains and adding a ton of character and depth. The perfect examples are probably Punch and Jewelee, a husband-and-wife team of bank robbers from Captain Atom who were recast as an amoral pair whose cartoonish exterior hid a shockingly violent side. Deadshot, of course, was the breakout star, but while he'd been rescued from obscurity (and redesigned) by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers in their run on Detective Comics, almost all of the character that he has today was a product of his time in Suicide Squad.
Also, as heretical as it might be for some readers, I'd even go as far as saying that Captain Boomerang got more character from Squad than he ever did in Flash --- especially since the Flash comics at the time were moving away from Barry Allen's villains in order to give Wally West his own foes to fight.
Point being, that dedication to expendable minor characters led to one of the best moments of the entire series in this issue, where The Writer is recruited for a mission that was guaranteed to have a pretty high rate of casualties.
The joke, of course, is that "The Writer" is Ostrander, Yale and Isherwood's take on Grant Morrison, who famously wrote himself into an issue of Animal Man the year before. Even at the time, it was regarded as one of the landmark moments of pushing the boundaries of what comics could do, and the crew behind Suicide Squad roping him into one the most superheroish stories of all time is an amazing, fourth-wall shattering gag that goes beyond just being a goofy inside joke --- especially when you consider what Morrison would go on to write about "Fiction Suits" and switching places with characters in books like The Invisibles.
Plus, the way he actually dies is one of the funniest moments in comics history.
Even beyond that, though, it's still a pretty great issue. Suicide Squad was often at its best when it was dragged into those line-wide events, largely because it was one of the few books that managed to capture a sense of urgency and danger thanks to a cast that could be killed off at any time, and this one's no exception. There's great character work and interplay, and one of the book's many, many great summaries of why Amanda Waller is such a great character:
There's a lot of great stuff in that sale --- that issue of JLI where Batman "disguises himself" as Bruce Wayne to go undercover is one of the highlights of that run, and the animated-style Superboy #4 is a great little one-off too --- but that last little bit of Suicide Squad and this issue in particular are about as no-joke awesome as it gets.