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Comic Book Review – Suicide Risk Volume 1: Grudge War

Suicide Risk #1–4
Created and written by Mike Carey
Drawn by Elena Casagrande
Colours by Andrew Elder
Letters by Ed Dukeshire
Published by Boom!

Although Mike Carey has written several longboxes of superhero comics for Marvel, including long runs on X-Men and X-Men: Legacy, I don’t think of him as a superhero writer. His 75-issue run on Lucifer, his long run on Hellblazer, his current work on The Unwritten, plus his very enjoyable Felix Castor novels, all mean that I wouldn’t have pegged him for creating a superpower-based comic book series for Boom! However, it does play to his strengths and Suicide Risk is a very interesting comic book that starts as look at super-powered villainy through the eyes of a San Diego police officer but becomes something larger.

The book starts with Leo Winters, a regular cop, recounting the massacre of other police officers and civilians when criminals with superpowers rob a bank, even killing a superhero who tried to stop them and tearing off the arm of his partner in the process. He has heard that the criminals buy their superpowers, so when he finds a phone number in code in evidence, he decides to meet the power supplier himself, despite the fact that he’s got a wife and kids to worry about. When he arrives, he meets two individuals who tell him that they give the powers to all the criminals, so they test him with a ‘P-wand’ – he registers as positive and he forces them to give him the product. And the product works …

After a strange dream where his life as a cop with a wife and kid seems fake, Leo wakes up with powers – water flows away from him, and he can move things – so he makes a decision: he’s a superhero and he’s going to track down the criminals who crippled his partner and bring them to justice. Pretending to go to Los Angeles to see his brother, he tracks down Voiceover, one of the gang, and faces him down. Except things don’t go to plan and Leo can’t control his powers when Voiceover attacks, causing an explosion that leaves Voiceover dead.

Leo goes to stay with his brother, with whom there is complicated history, and uses his brother’s journalist credentials to track down another member of the gang, Memento Mori (her powers can turn people to dust). She seems to need a lot of medication, so the connection links her with the Alchemist, whose superpower is to make ‘prescriptions’ for people, affecting their brain chemistry with his ability. When the Alchemist is visited by Grudge War (who crippled Leo’s partner) and Memento Mori, Leo pays a visit and things go badly wrong. But before Grudge War can kill Leo, Diva arrives and rescues him and calls Leo ‘Requiem’. What happens next changes the direction of the story completely, as Diva requires a sacrifice for her Goddess and Leo seems to have memories of another life …

Carey has created something that combines the superhero/supervillain concept with themes more in common with his Vertigo work, which is a good thing – fusing genres and playing with expectations is always more interesting than playing it straight. He’s created an interesting character in Leo Winters, who is a good man trying to do the right thing in a difficult world and using his brain. Carey is good with characters and dialogue – the intimacy of the family life and the natural conversation style are delightfully portrayed – but he’s also done a good job of setting up his world and portraying a real cop in the real world. He’s also hinted at a much larger story behind the straightforward plot that the book starts with, which seems intriguing and makes you want to read more. The artwork provides the groundwork for this reality – I’ve never seen Casagrande’s work before, but her style is clear, sharp, stylish and has a great sense of storytelling, with a pace and atmosphere of a quality television cop show but with panels that breathe and allow the characters room to inhabit the page. The combination of writer and artist make for a very strong start to a new series, and I’m eager to read more.

Disclosure: this book was provided for review purposes.

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