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Book Review: Deadshot: Beginnings by John Ostrander, Kim Yale, et al.

July 13, 2019

Deadshot: BeginningsDeadshot: Beginnings by John Ostrander
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I started reading Suicide Squad because of Black Orchid (who has a cameo in this) and Shade, the Changing Man and stayed because of Ostrander’s writing (and later that of his wife, Kim Yale, who co-wrote this), eventually acquiring and reading all 66 issues, plus the Special and Annual I own issue 1, but I saw this in high grade for half off the cover price after struggling to find 2-4 without paying egregious shipping charges.

I started with the three Batman stories–excellent art (Marshall Rogers and Don Newton) and good writing (Steve Englehart, Doug Moench, and Gerry Conway), although Alfred Pennyworth having fathered a child with DC war comics hero Mademoiselle Marie seems far-fetched. These issues may be better than they seem here because only the issues in which Deadshot appeared (although not his first appearance, though a footnote makes clear that that’s not some Earth-2 version despite a more dapper costume) are included, and it ends with Deadshot revealing who hired him, which is an abrupt cliffhanger to end a trade paperback on. I guess these are in the back because they’re considered bonus stories. I thought Rogers’s art is the best in the book, although he could have done a little better setting up the giant typewriter that is used for the final battle. It blends into the background at first and had me turning back pages.

The first issue, which I’d already read for the aforementioned Black Orchid appearance, has Deadshot (real name: Floyd Lawton) offing the last member of “his old gang,” Silage, is mostly self-contained, but includes set-up for the rest of the story as Simon LaGrieve relieves Marnie Herrs from Lawton’s psych case for becoming too involved personally, and Lawton’s estranged wife contacting him for help when their son, Edward, is kidnapped. This begins Lawton and Herrs two parallel journeys that take them both to Lawton’s hometown, Lawton, which was founded by Floyd’s father, now wheelchair bound, supposedly because Floyd shot him, although he was never charged. Two deceased and never-depicted characters loom large over the events, Jennifer Herrs, Marnie’s sister, and an elder Edward Lawton, Floyd’s brother.

This leads to a powerful climax involving family betrayal, child molestation, murder, and mob violence–a complicated web to which Task Force X/Suicide Squad director Amanda Waller grieves having to become an accomplice to cover up to protect both Floyd and Marnie.

I thought the hints of romance between Marnie and the town sheriff were a bit contrived, but fortunately not dwelled upon, and the main story being pushed into three of the miniseries’ four issues might not have been the best use of space–having read the first issue, that the series was about a deeper examination of Lawton’s origin than had been previously told–was not clear even though the cover description makes it so. Luke McDonnell’s art has the feel of the eighties art in comics–even as a kid, I thought the art from the seventies I was seeing in back issues was better than a lot of what was on the stands (I was twelve when this series came out–I was aware of Suicide Squad on the stands but wasn’t drawn by the art or title, which I erroneously thought was DC’s answer to Marvel’s Strikeforce: Morituri, which I didn’t read either but knew what the concept was from Bullpen Bulletins), and doesn’t, to me, look as good as the art later in the volume. One image of Silage taking his gun from under his shirt had me studying the image carefully because the anatomy of the hand looked messed up, and continued to even after McDonnell’s intention became clearer to me. In the climax, there is a noticeable goof when Deadshot has his armed trained on someone, then lifts his arm when he is convinced not to fire, and his blaster appears on the underside of his arm when it wasn’t there before. For the most part, though, the art serves the story well, and there are some stylish low angle closeups of characters’ faces.

As with all of Ostrander’s Suicide Squad (at least through its initial cancellation in 1991–I have not read Raise the Flag), this has my recommendation.

View all my reviews

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