Monday, 25 January 2016
Suiciders, Volume 1 Review (Lee Bermejo, Matt Hollingsworth)
“The Big One” has finally happened - a massive earthquake that has destroyed Los Angeles. Thirty years later, the city has become a nation unto itself, divided between New Angeles (the haves) and Lost Angeles (the have nots) after seceding from the union. In this brutal new landscape, a bloodsport called Suiciders has become enormously popular. Two heavily biologically and technically modified fighters battle to the death in an arena filled with lethal traps. One man is the people’s champion - the Saint of Suicides - but a new challenger rises from the huddled masses: Straniero. Which man will win? Let’s get rrready to ruuummmmmbbblle!!
Lee Bermejo’s Batman: Noel was great and I’ve loved his collaborations with Brian Azzarello - Joker, Lex Luthor: Man of Steel, Before Watchmen: Rorschach - and while his art on Suiciders is his usual high standard, the writing and story are both disappointingly poor.
The world he’s created is very underwritten. So, an earthquake led to Los Angeles society dividing itself in two - how’s that? And the poor are kept apart from the rich by a wall? Never seen that before in a dystopian future! I didn’t get this from the book, I found it accidentally while looking at a single issue’s blurb, that’s how poorly set up this is, but apparently the city was cut from the union after the earthquake by the government because they didn’t want to pay to rebuild it? So it’s the same idiotic premise as Batman: No Man’s Land!
And the most important thing to New Angelians is this fatalistic version of Gladiators? Really - nothing else? I loved Breaking Bad but it’s not my whole world. Hmm. One of the storylines is about people risking their lives to leave Lost Angeles and enter New Angeles, but things don’t look so great in New Angeles, especially if the people there are mono-mindedly obsessed with this tedious bloodsport. The action is so dreary - punch, stab, whatever. I think it’s meant to be “exciting” watching these one-dimensional characters fight and it’s not. Looks great, but it’s utterly uninvolving. And why is it called Suiciders anyway? They don’t commit suicide, the loser is killed by the winner - how is that “suicide”?
The main storyline is concerned with who the Saint of Suicides is though why this is important is never explained. I guess if he’s not really caucasian and been surgically altered to look that way, there’d be a ruckus because New Angelians are white supremacists? What a great society!
A journalist sees that things are corrupt behind the scenes of this deathsport (gasp - non-surprise!) and his storyline becomes about escaping the villains who run the show - which goes nowhere. Another storyline is about this character, Straniero, and his journey from penniless immigrant to mob enforcer to Suicider.
While I read most of this book in a numb haze of boredom, I’ll give Bermejo this: that ending is fucking genius. It’s the same effect as watching The Usual Suspects/The Sixth Sense/Fight Club for the first time and no-one’s told you the twist. I totally didn’t see it coming. The last three pages changes everything that preceded it - it doesn’t improve it but it gives you a fresh perspective of what you might’ve thought the book was and what it actually turned out to be instead. There’s a reason for the differing colour schemes of the Saint and Straniero’s storylines as well as the lack of framing captions. I’ll mention the big reveal at the bottom of the review in case there are some who want to know what it is and aren’t going to be picking up this book to find out for themselves.
Little details like seeing parts of the city underwater when Straniero comes in off the boat, and seeing the Saint being outfitted in his battle armour by an F1-type pit crew, were cool. And Bermejo’s art - with Matt Hollingsworth’s amazing colours - is absolutely incredible. The comic is a stunner visually.
But those small aspects along with the art and the ending don’t make up for the boring slog that was reading the majority of this book. Suiciders is an uninspired and unengaging read where bruisers thump each other and little else happens besides. It’s too shallow, stupid and underdeveloped to recommend.
Straniero IS the Saint of Suicides! The two storylines play out at the same time but you don’t realise Straniero’s is all flashbacks to the past leading up to his transformation as the Saint. Straniero’s storyline is coloured in a bright, golden light, when he was happy and fell in love with a single mother and her kid; the Saint’s storyline is monochrome, dull and lifeless after he was separated from his new family and forced into a life of fighting by his new boss.
Suiciders, Volume 1