The Pull List: The Pit-fighting Dystopic LA of ‘Suiciders’

On this week’s Pull List, where we check out first issues of new comic series, we’re reading Vertigo‘s new post-apoc series Suiciders, where the ultra-violent Suicider games are at the heart of an earthquake-torn, segregated Los Angeles, brutally reborn as ‘New Angeles’.

It might be me, it might be coincidence, but I’ve been sensing a renewed interest in the bizarre, sorta-city, sorta-urban-wasteland that is Los Angeles. Whatever it is I’m picking up, Suiciders has caught onto the zeitgeist as a new, Running Man-esque series that explores the tensions at the heart of the City of Angels, and perhaps of every other modern city also.

The first issue’s plot references a catastrophic quake, the aftermath of which saw some kind of social/ethnic/economic cleansing that split the city even further than it is today. On one side of the wall are those that lay claim to what New Angeles ‘really is,’ and on the other side are the perceived dregs of society. Vertigo’s new series delves deeply into that attitude of ethnic/regional pride, and uses the Suiciders sport as a perverse metaphor for the xenophobic attitude that arises.

What are the Suicider games, exactly? Think BattleBots, that old show where home-made RC robots dueled to the death with pneumatic drills and flamethrowers, on an arena with built-in spike pits and other such traps. Now imagine it with cybernetically enhanced human competitors, and that’s the Suicide games.

Issue #1 introduces us to the reigning New Angelian champion known as the Saint, who symbolizes basically everything that the people of New Angeles are about: a vision of supremacy through superiority, and above all else, purity. And as the Saint is going about his blood-letting business, the other side of the issue focuses on a couple in harrowing flight from one side of the wall to the other.

This debut is big on presentation and mood, though slightly thin on raw narrative material. Writer/artist Lee Bermejo bends most of the panels towards hammering in what the Suiciders represent to this ruthlessly self-cleansing, self-effacing vision of Los Angeles, and the blood-anxious impulses at the beating heart of the dystopia’s cultural center. His art style is gorgeous, filled-out, and grittily over-the-top enough to communicate his book’s themes, while making sure his ruined LA doesn’t stray too far from the city’s current state. There isn’t too much to indicate what direction the plot might move in next, aside from the Saint’s backstory, which is a bit frustrating; instead of a first bite, we’re given just a whiff of what Suiciders is all about, but those interested in the book’s topics, and of old-fashioned gladiatorial sci-fi, will find a ton to love.

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