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The Doom Patrol Review


This was, unfortunately, just a one-shot issue from the creators of Doom Patrol and Suicide Squad.

Doom Patrol and Suicide Squad #1 Doom Patrol and Suicide Squad #1

"Red Pawn"
Script by John Ostrander and Paul Kupperberg
Art by Erik Larsen and Bob Lewis
Cover by Erik Larsen and Bob Lewis

SYNOPSIS: The Hawk (of The Hawk and the Dove fame) was on a plane supplying arms to the Nicaraguan Contras that was shot down. He was captured by the Sandinistas forces, threatening to incite an international incident. President Ronald Reagan ordered Amanda Waller to send a "Suicide Squad" into Nicaragua to rescue Hawk, or to terminate him with extreme prejudice before he could be put on "trial" by the Sandinistas. A rival intelligence agency, irate that Task Force X had been getting "all the glory" as of late, had a plan to convince Valentina Vostok and the Doom Patrol to go in as well.

Meanwhile in Moscow, the Soviet Rocket Red troops had been deployed to Nicaragua to take Hawk from the Sandinistas and escort him back to the Soviet Union. This ired the head of the KGB, who in turn planned to send one of his special operatives in to capture the American hero.

The next day, Cliff Steele, Joshua Clay, Arani Desai and Valentina Vostok (a.k.a. The Doom Patrol) were in Nicaragua in disguise to rescue Hawk. They were shocked at the poverty of the country and decided to search out the hero's location quickly so they could return to Kansas City. They were unaware that they were being watched by Psi of Task Force X. She was there with Rick Flagg, the Thinker, the Weasel, and Mr. 104. Mr. 104 in particular was very happy to know the Doom Patrol was on hand, as he wanted to extract his revenge against them for his last incarceration. Rick Flagg warned him that he was there with them to rescue Hawk and reminded him of the explosive charge that was attached to his wrist. Mr. 104 calmly transmuted his and the Weasel's explosive bracelets, while the Thinker and Psi used their mental powers to deactivate them. Mr. 104 leapt at Flagg, but was stopped by the Thinker's telekinesis. He said that the offer of a full pardon was the reason that he was there, and he was growing old and wanted to live the rest of his life in peace. The Thinker said he would fry Mr. 104's brain if he tried to disrupt the mission. He was also going to help Psi discover her past and help control her powers. The Thinker and Psi continued to search for Hawk's mental pattern, and finally located him in an old Spanish fortress.

Late that night, the Doom Patrol was attacking the fortress under the cover of darkness from one direction, while the Suicide Squad came in from another. After moving through the many winding corridors of the fortress, the two teams found themselves face-to-face, much to the delight of Mr. 104. The Thinker stopped Mr. 104 in mid-air as he was attacking Cliff, but the Weasel jumped the old villain and ripped his throat out. The Weasel went after Josh, while Arani confronted Flagg, who was screaming at the Squad to stop their attack. When it seemed to her that Flagg was ignoring her, Arani decked him. Psi was also attacking Valentina with her psionic powers, but Valentina was able to release Negative Woman to divert her attack. Cliff and Mr. 104 battled, with the villain transmuting himself readily between elements. Josh was blasting at the Weasel and accidentally knocked over one of the fortress's towers, which fell amid the combatants, though it didn't injure any of them.

Negative Woman flew through Psi, which caused her to be wracked with pain instead of Psi. The Weasel managed to slice Josh a little, and Cliff and Mr. 104 continued their battle, while Arani confronted Flagg, who had picked up the Thinker's helmet. A lucky punch through Cliff into a wall that fell between Arani and Flagg, giving him time to put on the helmet. Both teams suddenly found themselves surrounded by the Rocket Red Brigade as well, who ordered them all to cease hostilities.

Meanwhile back in Moscow, the head of the KGB was getting lambasted by the Party Chairman because one of his operatives, Zastrow, was also inside Nicaragua, taking with him Stalnoivolk to eliminate Hawk.

As the Rocket Reds waited for the Doom Patrol and the Suicide Squad to surrender, Rick Flagg used the power of the Thinker's helmet to disrupt their systems with a mental blast and ordered the teams to attack, much to Arani's chagrin. After a brief and chaotic battle, the two teams were able to escape into the jungle. As the Rocket Reds went in pursuit, Stalniovolk began making his way into the fortress.

As Arani roamed the streets of the town and considered her options, Flagg read her mind and began mentally torturing her with the Helmet to convince her to follow his orders. The Weasel happened upon Cliff, and attacked but was disappointed to find that he had no flesh to rend. They were discovered by a pair of Rocket Red troops as Cliff threw the beast to the ground. Psi was blasted and wounded by a Rocket Red, which was quickly disrupted by Negative Woman, who rejoined her body and hurried to the girl, helping her limp away from the battlefield. Josh ended up being paired up with Mr. 104, who was looking for the best way to get out of the situation, even if it meant helping his old enemies.

Valentina could do nothing for Psi as the stress of the situationa and her wounds took its toll and she died (though she did finally remember her name, Gayle Marsh, and her parents). As Valentina sat over Psi's body, a Rocket Red crept up behind her, but Cliff was able to jump in and crack his armor open. Seeing bare flesh got the Weasel's bloodlust up again and he went to town on the Rocket Red, ripping him apart. Josh and Mr. 104 holed themselves up in a building, hoping to avoid their pursuers and double back, but the structure they were in was set on fire from the other direction, forcing them out into the streets and into the midst of the Brigade. Mr. 104 transformed himself into Uranium and started blasting, but a Rocket Red power blast hit him and he exploded, enraging Josh who laid into the Rocket Reds with a vengeance.

Flagg and Arani were watching the battle, with Flagg still in control of Arani. He had made her set Josh and Mr. 104's shelter on fire as a diversion to allow them to get into the fortress to free Hawk. At that same moment, the door to Hawk's cell burst inward as Stalniovolk arrived. The giant man broke a hole in the outer wall and grabbed Hawk. Leaping through it, he then tossed Hawk almost casual over the outer wall, as the Sandinistas bullets ricocheted off him.

Flagg and Arani met up with Cliff, Valentina and the Weasel. Flagg suddenly lost all control of the Helmet and using a mental blast to kill the Weasel, acting on the last wish of the Thinker. He finally managed to take the helmet off and passed out on the ground. The three Doom Patroler's headed off to help Josh. Soon the remaining Rocket Reds arrived as well, and the four fled into the shadowy streets. Rounding a corner, they met up with Flagg and Hawk. Flagg expressed his sorrow over his actions to Arani, saying that he hadn't been able to control the Helmet. Cliff told him that the same thing had happened to his friend Steve Dayton (a.k.a. Mento). Flagg also told them that a chopped would meet them at dawn to take them back to the States.

Stalniovolk confirmed that his mission was successful to Zastrow, who had planned this to tarnish the reputation of the Rocket Red Brigade. Later, Zastrow confronted and killed the head of the KGB, whose machinations had started the entire debacle in his own efforts to seize more power.

COMMENTS: This is an excellent story, combining two of my favorite comic book teams in one issue. The political intrigue was on the same level as some of the best Suicide Squad missions, though it was a little confusing as to what was really happening on the Russian end of the story most of the time. The tale does seem a bit dated, probably because of the Cold War sentimentality.

Unfortunately, this issue also features the worst art I've ever seen on a mainstream comic (and I've followed Carmine Infantino and Sal Buscema through every stage of their careers). I'm assuming that it is mostly Erik Larsen's fault that the art is so bad ... I mean his Ronald Reagan has a lopsided pompadour that's so big I think could affect the course of satellites. Another good sign that your artwork is seriously sucking is when they eliminate every close-up you do for a character and replace it with a photostat of someone else's drawing of the character, which was the case for Zastrow ... every close-up of the character used the same photostat of a Tom Grindberg (if I recall correctly) drawing from an issue of Firestorm. DC has always had a habit of redrawing artwork (such as having Kurt Schaffenberger redraw Jack Kirby's Superman in New Gods and Jimmy Olsen, but I've never seen them just take a picture out of another story to replace it for no thematic reason.

This definitely wasn't the most successful Suicide Squad mission in their annals ... an 80% casualty rate was high even for them (at least before Keith Giffen took over the reins of the second series). At least there's a possibility that Mr. 104 could come back, given his general resilience, and the Thinker's appearance here seems to have been completely forgotten by most everyone, since he showed up over in The Flash and managed to die there as well (and has since become a computer entity with the Injustice Society in the pages of JSA). I have to admit that his death over in The Flash was considerably cooler than this one. As for Psi and the Weasel, its doubtful there are all that many people that care about either anymore, since their archenemies either don't exist or are relegated to infrequent guest spots now.

For some reason, this issue does not have the standard indicia on the first page with all of the DC Comics' legalese.

All images and logos ©2003 DC Comics. All text and html ©2003 Richard Meyer
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