Joint Review – Suiciders #1 (Vertigo Comics)
Publisher: Vertigo Comics
Writer/Artist: Lee Bermejo
Colourist: Matt Hollingsworth
Release Date: 25th February, 2015
Thirty years ago, Los Angeles was left in ruins following the “big one”. Now, with the state split into the affluent “New Angeles” and the impoverished “Lost Angeles”, all eyes turn to the brutal televised bloodsport called Suiciders, where representatives of each ‘faction’ battle to the death inside of a high-tech arena. This brand new creator-owner series from New York Times Best-selling artist Lee Bermejo introduces some fairly broad concepts in its first issue, from the widening gap that exists between the rich and poor to society’s growing obsession with voyeuristic violence, and does so in a dynamic, non-preaching fashion.
This first chapter serves as a broad introduction to the world which Bermejo has created, giving us a fairly detailed understanding of the status quo, but offering no real clues at where this series might be going in the future. The only character that gets much time to develop is The Saint himself, but even he remains shrouded in mystery and intrigue. Some may find this approach frustrating, but for my money, as long as the premise is strong and there seems to be a bigger picture at play, I’m more than willing to play the long game.
In spite of the lack of any real storyline ‘meat’, however – for the time being, at least – the one thing which Suiciders most definitely has going for it is the artwork. Oh lord, the artwork. Bermejo’s stunning style will be familiar to readers of his Joker, Batman: Noel and Luthor graphic novels, but here – enhanced immeasurably by the utterly sublime colour work of Matt Hollingsworth – I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that it has never looked better. Big, bold characters and dynamic, flowing combat scenes make this comic an absolute visual treat, and one gloriously self-aware splash page where The Saint and his opponent “Reaper” lunge at one another as the commentators scream “this is art!” pretty much sums up Bermejo’s jaw-dropping talents to perfection .
As strong as the visual side of the issue is, however, Bermejo’s dialogue is unfortunately a little hit-or-miss, with a flowing, subtext-laden interview between The Saint and reporter Sheila Stutter providing the high point, and a forced, stilted conversation between two security guards providing the low point. A minor niggle, perhaps – and in Bermejo’s defence, the mass of exposition is handled smoothly without ever becoming overwhelming – but one which definitely sticks out in a comic where practically everything else is executed flawlessly.
An engaging opening chapter then, and a bold, jarring introduction to a violent, intriguing world. While the true story has yet to really begin, the groundwork has been laid here in scintillating fashion, and the passion Berjemo has for this project can be felt seeping out of every single panel. Highly recommended.
Rating: 4/5 for the writing, 6/5 for the artwork – so let’s call it a 5/5 overall.
I have been waiting for at least a year for Lee Bermejo’s Suiciders, and it’s finally here. So… where do I begin? I guess we’ll start with the cover. At first, I was planning on getting Jock’s variant cover; it was clean and flashy (i.e. very commercial). But after reading the first few pages of the issue, I realized Bermejo’s original cover perfectly embodied Los Angeles in its run-down state, covered in graffiti and washed out by yellow hazy sunlight (shout out to Matt Hollingsworth.) I still couldn’t decide, so I picked up both.
Suiciders is set in New Angeles in the wake of a devastating earthquake. A wall is erected in order to isolate the “cancerous” population from the privileged. “Suicide Nights” have become a form of entertainment. Think of it as an updated version of the Roman gladiator games — complete with deadly coliseum. This isn’t the LA we’re accustomed to, but Bermejo manages to capture the essence of the city, making it all feel worryingly familiar – particularly the problems plaguing the city such as earthquakes, illegal immigration, and the pursuit of dreams..
I already talked about the covers, but Bermejo’s artwork is not only beautiful but consistent throughout. The level of detail is just staggering. At one point, the Mexican couple is illustrated into the reflection of the masked gunman’s sunglasses, and it’s unbelievable how much it still resembles the respective characters. Everything from Bermejo’s depiction of LA (the size and scope), to the characters themselves has a truly cinematic quantity. Towards the end of the book, there is a moment that cuts back and forth between two events and the movement from panel to panel is so fluid that this sequence would easily lends itself to being adapted for a movie or television series.
As a complete aside – I would love to see a live adaptation of Lee Bermejo’s Suiciders. It’s movielike as is, but I’ll bet those fights during the “Suicide Nights” would be a sight to behold in IMAX. This version of Los Angeles reminds me of Mega City One; a thriving albeit decrepit metropolis with walls meant to separate it from the wasteland beyond its borders. With the level of violence and brutality, Judge Dredd would feel right at home in this version of LA, so if a Dredd sequel isn’t in the cards then I’d gladly take a Suiciders movie instead.
Anyways… my only real complaint is the writing. There were moments that seemed jarring almost disjointed since there wasn’t a whole lot of context. Another problem with the dialogue is when it changes to Spanish. It was a risky move, and unfortunately it was more isolating than anything else, especially for those who aren’t fluent in the language. Other than that, however, it’s great first issue. If nothing else, buy it for the stunning artwork.
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