Lots and lots of good comics these days, right?
As the recommendations roll in my “To Read” pile grows by the week. I’ve got plenty get to, from worthy graphic novels to hidden gems out the bargain bin and of course every Wednesday I’m forking over greenbacks for new floppies. My eyes are bigger than my allotment of reading time.
Despite that queue of comics I’ve carved out a special place for a particular series that seemingly is invisible to the rest of comicdom. Suicide Risk, created by writer Mike Carey with art by Elena Casagrande, snagged my attention from issue one with a wildly fresh story that never relents. Even though I fall behind I make a point to keep tabs on this hidden gem. The status quo of the book are its game-changing mindfucks and world-bending reveals. Even after more than a dozen issues it’s impossible to predict how things will shake out.
A reason this title does not get much press is because its crux is its ability to “pull the lens back” rapidly and smartly. Suicide Risk has rocked my face more than once by totally defining the scope of the characters and the place they inhabit. It hard to critique this comic without spoiling some of the keen elements that make it so great. Nearly every issue has a moment that makes you go “Oooh, that’s what’s going on”, and each time this phenomenon only adds layers of quality. By issue #16 the plot is so caked up it’s hard to crack the plot shell without having the spoiler yoke run all over the place.
The vanilla beginnings of Suicide Risk center on Leo Winters, a regular-guy cop who lives in a world populated by people with abilities that constantly put law enforcement at a disadvantage. Leo not only believes in this job to uphold justice but also wants to secure a world where his family can live free of harm. In an attempt to level the playing field he obtains powers via a “P-Wand”, a mysterious object in the possession of two junkies who run a cash-for-powers scheme to get a fix.
The thing is: the “P-Wand” harbors a twisted secret as it seems that everyone it grants powers to eventually turns villain no matter their previous disposition. When Leo starts to remember a past life, a dark existence very foreign from his own, the plot whirls into a cray-cray story of justice, family, identity and, strangely, the ethics of the death penalty.
In Suicide Risk #16 Leo Winter is pitted against his alter ego in a battle for the right to exist. How we get there is winding and surprising – in part because the series boasts three main characters as the perspective switches for long stretches. The heroine of late has been Leo’s daughter Tracey, a young girl having a similar crisis as her father, and she shows herself to be one of the most capable entities in the comic.
Want more? Too bad. That’s the struggle of reviewing Suicide Risk, I have to be coy because I want you to read it but at the same time I need to relate the reasons I like it to justify the recommendation.
What’s amazing about the series is its patience, a slow burn of a mindbender that makes sure to entertain from issue to issue. Mike Carey has masterfully unfolded the tale and a portion of that praise should also be directed at BOOM! Studios who have let the creators of the comic tell the story at a relaxed pace.
It helps it’s not plot-heavy on the backend. Nearly every issue drops of a reveal or factoid that redefines everything previous. The reader’s viewpoint starts through a modest pinhole, and though we’re presented with a very understandable world it’s also noticeably incomplete. BOOM! deserves credit for allowing Carey’s vision to bloom and blossom into what it has become. In this current age of reboots and relaunches and early cancelations due to unfavorable sales/ratings it’s refreshing to find this one-of-a-kind product growing without industry forces pruning it or shunting its path.
Of course no comic is great without art to buttress it. Elena Casagrande brings an indisputable presence to the title and has claimed Leo and his world as her own. Her style fits in right at home with the superhero element that is purposefully based in a familiar Earth, but she’s also capable of taking the story where I needs to go, which at times can be some pretty wonky places with characters not of an earthly realm. Suicide Risk #16 gives us get a little bit of everything: fiery superpowers, murky futuristic worlds, emotionally wrought scenes between family, deep sea adventure and brutal violence. With the help of colorist Andrew Elder the collision of two worlds is skillfully depicted.
The mix of familiar and very weird works magically for this series. It’s a highly individualistic title lost in a crowd of many other equally unique comic books. Suicide Risk is as good as anything else on the racks, and that’s saying something because there’s a lot of frickin’ good comics right now.