George Foster Carmody is a man with many enemies. A former Secretary of Defense for the United States of America, his actions during a Middle Eastern conflict made him responsible for the deaths of millions – both innocent civilians and the soldiers of several nations, including his own. And while nothing was ever proven he was also suspected of taking bribes from defense contractors, offering up trillions of dollars in federal contract work in exchange.

Yes, there’s a lot of people who would love to see George Foster Carmody dead or behind bars. Unfortunately, Carmody was no fool and he proved ready, willing and able to make sure that if he was ever taken down he would not go alone. So Carmody was able to enjoy a life of leisure despite his war crimes, until he was mysteriously kidnapped off the streets of New York.

Now, with the security of the United States at risk – and possibly the entire world in danger – there is only one team capable of containing this situation. They are a secret group made up of loyal soldiers and convicted criminals who were offered a chance at a pardon in exchange for their service. Officially, they are known to the few who know about their existence as Task Force X.

Unofficially, they are known as The Suicide Squad.

While opinions regarding the Suicide Squad movie may be intensely divided, there is one benefit to the film’s existence that few would deny – the works of John Ostrander are finally getting the recognition they deserve. Indeed, Ostrander’s classic run on Suicide Squad from the 1980s saw its first trade-paperback collection released in anticipation of the movie. The Powers That Be also saw fit to give Ostrander a chance to get back in the saddle and play with his favorite toys once again.

The plot of this special is vintage Ostrander, despite the Suicide Squad in question being the modern incarnation of the team.  The action is based on modern real-world political issues and all of the characters are true to form. I was pleasantly surprised by the cameo of one unexpected assassin who shows up to thwart The Squad, who is far better handled here than in their previous DC Rebirth appearances.

Despite Ostrander’s expert handling of the cast as a whole, Harley Quinn can’t help but stick out. Ostrander writes a wonderful Harley but one has to wonder if Waller is the insane one, sending someone who is not famed for her sense of subtlety on a mission of this nature. Ostrander hangs a lampshade on this point, however, with Harley herself pointing out the insanity of it all.

The artwork is similarly inappropriate. Gus Vasquez and Carlos Rodriguez are fine artists, but their sketchy, thin-inked style lacks the power that Ostrander’s script requires. The color art by the usually excellent Gabe Eltaeb doesn’t help matters – everything looks too bright and cheerful in what is meant to be a dark espionage story! That being said, they capture the look of the various characters perfectly. And it’s a welcome relief to see Amanda Waller once again portrayed as a robust woman of middle-years and Deadshot sporting his signature mustache.

Suicide Squad; War Crimes Special #1 is not a revolutionary story. Yet it is more than a welcome slice of nostalgia. More than anything else it is proof positive that John Ostrander can still craft a good, topical political thriller nearly three decades after he first revived Task Force X as a new kind of team at the height of The Cold War.

Rating 4

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