Monday, September 2, 2013

Deadshot: Beginnings

Apparently, I've got some pull with DC Comics.  Yep, the world's oldest comics publisher actually seems to listen to me.
OK, maybe not.  However, for whatever reason, DC has finally begun to grant my wish for more trade paperbacks collecting the excellent work that John Ostrander did for the company back in the late 1980's and 1990's.  Since I first lamented the tragic lack of  collections of Ostrander penned comics on this blog some a couple of years ago, DC has seen fit to release a volume collecting the first several issues of Suicide Squad.  More recently, there are, as I reported a week or so ago, plans afoot to reprint the initial year's worth of The Spectre, as well as a forthcoming collection of his Martian Manhunter series.  This very month is scheduled to see the release of Deadshot: Beginnings, collecting, along with a couple of old Deadshot tales from Batman and Detective Comics, the four issue Deadshot mini-series from 1988 written by Ostrander and his wife Kim Yale and penciled and inked by then regular Suicide Squad artist Luke McDonnell.
The Deadshot mini-series built on the work that Ostrander had been doing with the title character ever since the new Suicide Squad's debut in the Legends crossover.  Ostrander had established pretty early on established that Floyd Lawton (Deadshot) was hanging around with the Suicide Squad because he took the name seriously and harbored a pretty serious death wish.  The mini-series places Deadshot in a situation springing from his sordid past, allowing the readers to see the roots of the character's dysfunction.
The story begins when Lawton receives a message from his ex-wife.  Their son has been kidnapped in an attempt to extort Lawton into committing a murder that he'd refused to two decades earlier.  Lawton vows to get the kid back "his way." Meanwhile, Marnie Herrs, Lawton' entires therapist at Belle Reve prison, the headquarters of the Squad, has become too close to Lawton's case and is removed by her superior and takes a leave of absence, going off on her own to look into Lawton's past in an effort to understand and, perhaps, help him. Things start to go south when the kidnappers leave the child in the care of a known child molester, who inadvertently kills the boy.  Deadshot then vows to kill everyone involved in the whole fiasco, leaving a trail of blood that eventually leads back to his old hometown and a confrontation with the person behind the kidnap plot. 
If I make the story sound pretty dark, that's because it is.  Do not, however, make the mistake of dismissing Deadshot as yet another "grim and gritty" pretender to the Frank Miller/ Dark Knight Returns throne.  This, however, is "grim and gritty" done right.  Miller himself could take a few lessons from  the way Ostrander wrote this series. The darkness of the story is no affectation, but instead grows naturally from the nature of the characters.  There are no heroes in this story, only villains and victims.  That includes Deadshot himself, who, we learn, is a little bit of both.  Floyd Lawton is presented as a severely damaged individual, and, through the events of this mini-series, we begin to see how he got that way. The violence is not glamorized, but presented as just as repulsive as the people perpetrating it.
This is a very dark and disturbing story, and while it is one of my favorite mini-series of all time and I heartily recommend it, it may not be for everyone.  However, it does feature some of John Ostrander's best writing, which is more than enough reason to check it out, not to mention that it contains what I personally feel to be Luke McDonnell's finest art.  
Ok, then, DC, now that I seem to have your ear, where the heck are those Hawkworld collections?

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