"Suiciders" #1 – 8 out of 10 – Vertigo; Written and Drawn by Lee Bermejo ("Lex Luthor: Man of Steel"); Colors by Matt Hollingsworth ("Daredevil: End of Days"); Lettering by Jared K. Fletcher ("Hellblazer"); In Stores 2/26/2015.
Be it "Spartacus," "Mad Max Beyond Thunder Dome," "The Hunger Games," or "The Running Man," gladiator-themed stories have a substantial influence on our popular culture. Despite the concept being older than the Roman Empire, it's a theme storytellers continually try to spin in a new fashion. Lee Bermejo ("Joker," "Batman: Noël") takes his turn in the genre's ring with his new Vertigo series "Suiciders."
In the devastation left by the earth quake known as "The Big One," a wall has kept undesirables out of New Angeles – a city that revels in its own vanity and narcissism. On one side of the wall is a society dressed in perfect veneer. On the other side, a city left to rot in the anarchy that followed the quake, and inhabitants who will risk their lives at a chance of a life on the New Angelean side. Keeping the sides separate is left to the border patrol, empowered with high-powered automatic weapons and the right to shoot first and to not ask questions later. Bermejo introduces the world of "Suiciders" by focusing on the brutality that exists on both sides of the divide.
New Angeles is obsessed with suiciding, a high-tech form of gladiator combat complete with bio-mechanical enhancements, machine gunning and flame throwing obstacles, and play-by-play commentators. The fan-favorite inside the coliseum is The Saint, a gladiator who personifies everything about New Angeles. He is beautiful, strong, and lethal.
The city is so wrapped up in suiciding that there is no better time to cross the wall than on a suicide night. The mirrored story to The Saint is that of a poor, disease-infected couple being coyoted through a series of tunnels in an attempt at safe passage to New Angeles. Bermejo uses this first issue to jump back and forth between the emigrants and the gladiators to set the tone and mise en scène of the series.
Bermejo succeeds in setting the stage for this post-catastrophe/gladiator-story mashup. I always applaud comic book creators who can tell a story without using a character's internal monologue or an omniscient narrator, which Bermejo succeeds in doing. However, he does employ a Greek chorus with the suicide play-by-play announcers who do a large amount of explicating.
Not only writing and scripting, Bermejo is also drawing "Suiciders." His is a style that is beautifully detailed without being line heavy. The backgrounds and landscapes in the panels are photo realistic and reminiscent of Alex Maleev's work in the "Empire of the Dead" series.
Assisting in the art work is Eisner Award winning colorist Matt Hollingsworth ("Hawkeye," "The Wake"). Fans of Hollingsworth will not be disappointed with "Suiciders" #1. His use of color and shading, in seemingly simple-vectored shapes, is what allows the art to be detailed yet simplistic.
This first issue of "Suiciders" earns an 8 out of 10. The coloring and art are perfect for the bleak world being put on stage. While there is no use of a traditional narrator, the use of the explicating play-by-play commentators felt heavy handed. This first issue succeeds in putting a new spin on a somewhat tired genre.
Pick up this comic if you like "Escape From New York," "Planet Hulk," and/or "The Running Man."
Trent Hunsaker is a podcaster and popculturalist. Podcasting for Kevin Smith's SModcast Internet Radio and the A Part of Him Podcast Network, he also operates Death Ray Comics, sweats, and reads comics – but mostly just sweats.