Review: Suiciders #1
“Suiciders is an example of social satire done in such a way that makes you forget that you’re reading satire. In the spirit of such far-flung creators as Jonathan Swift and RoboCop director Paul Verhoeven, Lee Bermejo presents an entertaining tale that can be appreciated for both its on-the-surface fun and for a deep reading as well.”
Publisher: DC Comics/Vertigo
Writer & Artist: Lee Bermejo
Release Date: Wed, February 25, 2015
Satire is at its best when it doesn’t beat the reader over the head with a message and lets any commentary intended by the creator to come through the course of the story. The creators of RoboCop, Starship Troopers, and Battle Royale built tales that are steeped in nuance about the world around them and its potential future trajectory, but they were related in such a way that was both subversive and covert. Writer and artist Lee Bermejo seems to recognize this, which is why his new series Suiciders from DC Comics/Vertigo works so well: The story he’s crafted is so engaging that the reader barely recognizes the social commentary embedded in the tale until hours later while rambling down the road or scrolling the Internet for the daily news.
A big reason that the story lingers is because of the ideas of reinvention and rebirth that Bermejo explores throughout the first issue. Sometime in the near future, Los Angeles was ravaged by an earthquake 30 years prior, decimating the city and prompting the city to secede from—or be cut off by—the rest of the United States. Out of the ashes of the broken city arose New Angeles, a city of new beginnings where citizens can reinvent themselves in whatever image they choose to take. As part of that celebration of renewal, citizens watch gladiatorial fights between body-modified warriors known as Suiciders, their battles televised for the entire city to see. And the greatest of the Suiciders known as the Saint feeds on the adulation of the crowds, despite his virtuous demeanor. However, the questioning of a reporter into the Saint’s past and unrest among the people inside and outside the wall alludes to the fact that New Angeles may not be the beacon of stability it wants to paint itself as.
Why Bermejo pulls off this first issue in a big way is how he marries the brutality and action sequences that are plenty in Suiciders with the social commentary of our image-obsessed culture and class warfare. The sentries patrolling the wall surrounding New Angeles are vigilant against possible interlopers piercing the barrier’s defenses. This might sound a bit familiar to anyone reading the news in the past few years. At the same time, the people of New Angeles have become so instilled with city pride and transformation of self that their celebration of themselves shows that they can be at the same time inspirational and shallow.
A note should be made about the televised battles themselves. Many future tales depict reluctant participants forced to battle one another in the name of sport: The Running Man, Battle Royale, and The Hunger Games to name a few. What was very smart on Bermejo’s part is to flip that idea on its head, showing willing participants in the gladiatorial fights. Not only is this a fresh spin on the concept of watching brutality for sport, but also mirrors the unrest just beneath the surface of the people of New Angeles.
Bermejo, known for his beautiful pencils on such books as Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, pulled off a tough trick to manage in making the world of a future Los Angeles look lived-in and full of deep rasps of breath. While the drawings of the gladiators are magnificent and pretty pieces of art, I appreciate that Bermejo took the time to give the reader a city filled with different body types and features, not just the enhanced, muscular juggernauts who battle it out in the arena. From the immigrants trying to sneak into the walled city of New Angeles to the border patrol to the fight commentators, there is a diversity of body forms at play that I often don’t seen in a comic book, superhero-centered or not. Not that he can’t draw action, as the bouts between the gladiators have a natural choreography about them, while retaining the larger-than-life essence the scenes scream for. However, that juxtaposition of slug-fests with the views of “normal” people inhabiting Suiciders serve to provide subtle commentary on the themes of reinvention underlying the entire story.
Suiciders is an example of social satire done in such a way that makes you forget that you’re reading satire. In the spirit of such far-flung creators as Jonathan Swift and RoboCop director Paul Verhoeven, Lee Bermejo presents an entertaining tale that can be appreciated for both its on-the-surface fun and for a deep reading as well.
Be sure to check out our exclusive interview with Lee Bermejo as we talk about the first issue.