I knew from the moment I caught of glimpse of Lee Bermejo’s “Suiciders” #1 cover that I was in for something special. And as The Running Man is easily one of my favorite movies, I couldn’t help but love the idea of a dystopia Los Angeles who celebrates death in the media, but what I found on these pages was so much more. This book is a dissection of consumer culture articulated beautifully by the incomparable art of Bermejo.
The general conceit of “Suiciders” isn’t anything we haven’t seen before, but thanks to Bremejo’s smart storytelling, the first issue isn’t really wrapped around the televised death of gladiators, but one warrior in particular The Saint. As a hero, we hardly get to see his face, and he’s often quite coy about revealing too much of his character. But, he’s an incredible fighter and speaks with a distinct charm that is difficult to resist. The Saint keeps the main narrative moving and as the most prized fighter in New Angeles, one wonders how he’ll come to change his mind about being the people’s champ.
Elsewhere we’re treated to the core defining characteristics of this new world. Bremejo keeps things vague, only speaking about “The big one” in passing, but its clear it was a devastating earthquake. It seems most of Los Angeles was ceded to capitalistic pursuits shortly thereafter with plastic surgery defining the people and the business of the new ruling class. Outside of the metropolis of New Angeles we have the devastated Lost Angeles. This is a graveyard of our society with imperfect people lurking in the devastation and dreaming of a ticket to utopia.
It was this divide that I never quite expected of “Suiciders.” This title could have easily devolved into a gladiatorial combat showcase that would have been digestible and palatable for those still loving superhero comics. But Bremejo gives the comic some real weight by adding in a social conscious, and a huge divide between the have and the have nots. The debut is heavy on exposition, but thanks to serving as both the artist and the writer on the book the exposition flows with a natural perfection. The script and the art compliment each other in a way that allows both to breath.
There is a beautiful example of this late in the issue with how Bremejo tackles the idea of physical perfection in New Angeles. It’s a visual subtlety that builds into a near perfection explanation with each never overshadowing the other. The social issues within these pages are something any self aware consumer should be concerned with, and are ripe for discourse. They do feel a little imbued in the culture of the 80’s, but that’s to the book’s credit.
I can’t tell where this book is headed and I love that. I don’t really know where The Saint will fit into all of this class distinction or if he will simply remain the saint of excess. Part of me wants to see him as the catalyst for change but by the end of this first issue I’m not sure if the character’s capable of it, which is why I can’t wait for #2.