A Tribute to the of






Awhile back (okay, it's been over a year) I got an inquiry from one of our regular readers (Hi, Bob!) asking about the old poll we used to have on the site.  It ran for quite awhile and we were essentially asking what your favorite Silver Age group was.  Among the list was the Suicide Squad and Bob said he was unfamiliar with them.  Frankly, so was I.  Well, my friend the webmaster has ridden to the rescue yet again and loaned me his copy of Brave and the Bold #25 from September of 1959 which contains the debut of the Suicide Squad in "The Three Waves of Doom!" The story was written and edited by Robert Kanigher.  The cover and interior art is by Ross Andru and Mike Esposito.  Let's see what this group of adventurers is all about. 

The splash page gives us a pretty good indication as a massive lizard with claws and a rhinoceros-like horn is tearing its way through a rollercoaster while being fired on by a pistol-wielding man in uniform.    

Things begin in a laboratory in the Eastern United States where a seismograph has just recorded a violent underwater earthquake.  We then segue to the point in the ocean where the recording originated and see a red wave forming.  The next thing you know, the red wave is coming to the surface near a beach where a polar bear swimming club is just coming in from a chilly dip.  They note not only the color, but the heat from the wave and beat feet up to the nearby boardwalk steps.  As the red wave advances the terrific heat fuses the sand on the beach into glass and sets fire to the wooden steps.  Moments later the fire department arrives and attempts to extinguish the heat with the combined force of their water hoses, only to watch the heat turn the liquid into steam.  They also note an indistinct shape within the wave that looks like a large, sleeping figure.  The firefighters soon must retreat in the face of the relentless heat that is even melting their hoses.  Next up to bat are some bombers who have responded to a summons.  The aircraft are armed with chemical foam bombs and they deploy them into the fiery wave, but to no effect.  To add insult to injury a large tendril of flame leaps up and causes one of the Air Force craft to lose control and crash. 

Meanwhile, back at an unnamed field headquarters, a gathering of uniformed men decide it's time to call in the Suicide Squad, also known as Task Force X.  Soon a message is being received by Colonel Rick Flag, who is in the cockpit of a unique plane containing what amounts to a flying laboratory of all the latest scientific equipment.  The radio signal begins to brief Flag on the situation and at the mention of the red center of the wave; he does a fade down memory lane to another red-centered objective years ago as a young bomber pilot.  In this case, it's the rising sun of Imperial Japan on top of an aircraft carrier.  Rick was the last in line for his bombing run and watched as each of his wing mates were destroyed in their dives.  He hears one final, fading voice in his intercom, urging him to carry on for them.  Determined to succeed for his fallen comrades, he dropped his payload successfully.  It helped shape him and he vowed to carry on for them and does so now as a member of the Suicide Squad. 

As he comes back to the present, another member of the squad, the lovely Karin enters the cockpit.  Rick says he wishes she weren't there, but she replies that she's earned the right, as have the other two members, also on board, Jess Bright and Dr. Evans, a physicist and an astronomer, respectively.  They observe the red wave from a window in the fuselage, but in the next harrowing moment, the heat waves from below cause the aircraft to spin out of control, closing out Part I.

Part II still has the plane in a death dive as Karin (who we learn is a space medicine nurse) refuses to leave Rick's side.  Now it's her turn for a flashback as she recalls a similar fix she'd bee in while on an ambulance plane that was going down in the theater of operations in the Pacific.  After splashdown, she manages to get onto a sheared off wing and grabs hold of a wounded soldier but after a time he pushes away, determined not to drag him down with her.  Once again, like Flag, a fading plea reaches the nurse:  "Fight…them…for…me…"  Upon her rescue as the sole survivor of the crash, she, too, vows to carry on in memory of fallen comrades and becomes a specialist in flight medicine before becoming the second member of the Suicide Squad.  We also learn (surprise, surprise) that a love interest has bloomed between Karin and Rick, but of course duty comes first. 

Back in the plummeting plane, Flag is finally able to stop the spinning, but not the rapid descent.  On a hunch, he drops some bombs in hopes that the turbulence will help them break free.  The plan is successful and the Colonel asks how the two scientists are doing.  With cool detachment they report all is well and they have a proposal to contain the red wave, but it will require going down to "hedgehop" over it.  Once the craft is properly positioned, the scientists announce they're about to bomb it with absolute zero cold, adjusting the pressure to minus 459.72 degrees Fahrenheit.  Soon the stream of absolute zero is released from the rear of the plane and the red wave is frozen solid.  An overjoyed Task Force X reports success to HQ and proceeds with their original mission of checking on a satellite launch.

Jess and Evans remain behind to further analyze the transformed wave while Rick and Karin go on to the launch site to check out the rocket, manned only with dummies.  Returning to the other team members, Karin tells Rick he can't keep their love a secret forever.  He responds that both Jess and Dr. Evans have it bad for her, too and he won't jeopardize their working relationship.  Whatta guy!  Once they reach their destination the mysterious shape within the massive ice that used to be the red wave breaks free to reveal the prehistoric monster we saw on the splash page.  The creature is actually giving off waves of cold in addition to the physical threat and Colonel Flag orders the team to retreat to the aircraft while he tries to hold it off with a pretty ineffectual pistol.  Soon all four are again on board and take off with the creature in pursuit.  Their goal is to try and lure it to a warmer climate where the heat may put it back into a dormant state.  The eggheads in back fear that it may continue to mutate, but they've got to try and find a way to defeat it.  Part II closes with the creature following the plane.

Part III shows the monstrous beast plucking a submarine from the waves and freezing it instantly in its grip prior to launching it toward the aircraft.  Realizing the monster isn't following them as they had hoped; Task Force X tries a desperate measure by firing an atom warhead.  The creature merely catches it and freezes it in its claws, disabling the mechanism.  The scientists continue to try and devise a way to stop the beast and decide to try spraying it with manganese dioxide and sodium carbonate to lower the freezing point and melt it.  The daring skipper flies as close as possible to the menace and the deployment of the chemicals begins.  Soon the instruments show that the chill from the beast is reduced and it has turned from a purple to a green color.  It is only then they realize that the creature is absorbing chlorophyll from living matter, literally removing the green from the foliage around it.  Now we learn the background of Jess and Evans as the weird, negative-like scene below sends them down memory lane.  They were about to join some fellow scientists in a lookout station when a nuclear device detonated, destroying the station.  The men had been spared only because they'd had a breakdown.  Using their handy Geiger counter, they could tell where the hot zone was and like Karin and Rick they heard the fading voices of their friends warning them away and urging them to carry on for them.  They vow to do so and fulfill that vow the same way as Karin and Rick, by serving in the Suicide Squad.

The team now discusses their next move.  Each attempt to neutralize the threat has only changed it to a new shape of doom (at last, an explanation for the story title) and they conclude they can't destroy it.  Colonel Flag has an idea and calls for a vote, which is unanimous.  With that he makes an emergency landing at the secret launch site they'd visited earlier.  Task Force X quickly boards the rocket and readies for blast off.  As the countdown reaches zero, the monster catches up to them and grasps the rocket as it achieves lift-off.  The destination is the moon, but Flag changes course and heads directly for the sun instead.  Once within the gravitational pull of Sol, the beast loses its grip on the ship and remains in an orbit around the heavenly body, no longer a threat to the Earth.  In the final panels, the team lays in a course for Earth and the Colonel instructs them to gather and transmit data on the effects of solar flight.  "Will the perilous journey of the Suicide Squad end in silence—or triumph?  Further adventures of this gallant band will be found in the next issue of the Suicide Squad!"  That next issue, though it was still in the covers of Brave and the Bold, did indeed carry the continuing adventures of the Suicide Squad as did the next. Ten issues later, following the multiple issue introductions of the Justice League of America, Cave Carson and Hawkman, Kanigher, Andru and Esposito brought Task Force X back to the Brave and the Bold for another, and as it turned out, final three issue run: #37, 38 and 39.  

The Suicide Squad was in good company as yet another group of normal, yet heroic human beings, endowed with nerves of steel and thrust into situations that are supernatural.  They share the stage with several other groups who have been in similar circumstances but different settings, at least most of the time, such as the Challengers of the Unknown, Cave Carson, Rip Hunter, the Blackhawks and the Sea Devils.  They particularly remind me of the Challs due to the similar motivation for being on the team and taking the risks they do.  A sort of self-imposed mission statement.  Taking on the giant lizard isn't exactly new territory, but properly handled it is an enduring and engaging story line.  Just look at the Jurassic Park franchise or maybe Godzilla.  The Squad arrived during a particularly productive year in the Silver Age (1959) as well.  Take a gander here.  Also, I noticed one minor little oddity, for what it's worth.  The cover of this issue doesn't carry a price.  That's the first time I'd ever seen that.

Personally, I still prefer the super hero genre, so I'm going to have to give this one a 6 on my 10-point rating scale.  It wasn't a bad story or concept, just not my particular cup of tea.                 

You are cordially invited to swing by this way again in approximately two weeks for another review of this terrific era in comics.  While you're waiting, take a moment to let me know what's on your mind at professor_the@hotmail.com.  See you next time and…

Long live the Silver Age!



© 2000-2004 by B.D.S.


This feature was created on 05/01/00 and is maintained by

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