The boys are back, and the heat is on (you’ll get it once you read it). Unfortunately things get off to a rocky start when a cliched opening attempts to get the ball rolling, but runs in to a whole lane of problems. Dead Squad has embraced cliches in it’s past volumes, but I think the thing that makes it so noticeable in #3 is how seriously the characters themselves handle it. Every time a cliché would drop previously, it was immediately dismissed with a self aware or metaphysical joke. It gave the sense that the overdone approach in Dead Squad was an asset that it was leveraging to give the series a sense of self-awareness without breaking the fourth wall. This time though, the “old flame” bit is played far to seriously for too long, and due to an overall lack of whimsy relating to her emergence, any potential to add Vargas to the boys club is flattened in to oblivion. She’s immediately hit with the “Tough As Nails to a Fault Which Ends Up Being a Guy That She Still Probably Has Feelings for and Harbors Resentment Toward” stamp, which pretty much proves that the inclusion of a contemporary female character is pretty unlikely (Let’s see…we have the beautiful foreign assassin and the hot scientist; enter Vargas and we hit the hat trick with an ex-girlfriend with a grudge and a government job). Now these are cliched characters, and we’ve already established that Dead Squad uses cliches as tools to create tongue-in-cheek humor; but having three out of three stereotypical (and frankly kind of sexist) female characters in your volume is exactly the kind of thing that makes people point to comics when the question of sexism in the media comes up. Do I think that Matthew Federman and Steve Scaia are sexist? No, I don’t. It’s just proof that these aren’t the things that comic writers are considering when they put these stories out, and it’s that negligence that puts comics like Dead Squad under politically correct fire, in the first place.
Alright, let’s put that aside for now and focus on what Dead Squad does best and that’s the military and combat aspects. In this it doesn’t just shine, it practically glows. Beyond the typical action, Cooper’s hallucinations are incredibly vivid and involved. They seem incredibly separate from the rest of the story, insuring that the proper attention is being paid to it. It’s appropriately distracting, especially while the Squad attempts to find their old commander, Fisher. The squad jumps head first in to the covert mission with all the trappings of military operation on a cinematic level; complete with all the comm chatter, lingo, and choke holds that come with it. Due to the inclusion of a “Communications team (The man in the Van)” the exposition comes across naturally in a believable setting. The story does a great job of establishing Fisher as a very dangerous enemy, by occasionally revealing his own tactics to counter the Squad’s efforts. The ninites that power the squad have proven to be cripplingly debilitating, and yet incredibly useful. Their capabilities haven’t been laid out beforehand, so they can provide a multitude of future plot devices without seeming like Deus ex Machina. I’m interested to see what else they can do.
Dramatic, action packed, vivid and exciting; Dead Squad #3 starts slow with yet another stereotypical action movie female character (hint: if you’re primary basis for a woman in your story is based a James Bond character that isn’t M, it might be a good idea to revisit your values), but promptly launches in to a full on covert military operation with a simple premise that is bolstered by impressive visuals and intense situations that are enhanced by their sci-fi plot devices, rather than hindered by them. The nanobots along with the ticking clock mentality have created a stressful environment in Dead Squad, but #3 proves that the little buggers might just have a few tricks up their sleeves.