Bearing little to no resemblance to the softcore pornography associated with the Suicide Girls brand name, the comic counterparts are Suicide Girls because of their tattoos, their piercings, and their continued penchant for nudity. The question, however, is whether the sensual illustrations overshadow a lackluster, recycled plot of the us-versus-them variety or if Suicide Girls is the real deal.
As a product of advertisement and titillation, the packaging of the single issue miniseries deserves scrutiny. Although Cameron Stewart's beautiful artwork adorned the covers and he provided nude photo-realistic pinups for each issue, the series also included a single page featuring a real, nude Suicide Girl. Illustrated cheesecake imagery of naked or thong-clad women wielding samurai swords and mastering firearms is really nothing new for comics; however, the authenticity lent to the narrative by the presence of this page reveals the brilliant marketing and promotional scheme by IDW. Is it art? Yes. Is it pornography? Yes, but disguised as comics. Store owners couldn't keep copies in stock as they sold out immediately and one need not look much further than the pages themselves to know the reasons why.
While nudity abounds, the first installment is rather tame compared to what follows. The guiding hand of a Steve Niles-driven plot is immediately apparent as he takes a page from his Mystery Society series (also published by IDW) and jettisons a classic first-issue-as-origin-story approach. At times, Suicide Girls reads quite a bit like Mystery Society as the narrative unfolds to reveal a long history of various Suicide Girl missions that in many aspects may be more entertaining than the one provided here. As far as story development goes, the villainous "them" are generic throwaways who control everything, censor dissident voices, imprison those who rebel, and the list goes on and on. And, like Mystery Society, the story succeeds largely due to the visual storytelling abilities of David Hahn on layouts and Stewart on finishes. Not that the blending of text and visual is without hiccups, as evidenced in the first few pages as a prisoner seemingly grabs Cassius out of nowhere when another character, Porter, blocked the only entrance into the room in the preceding panel.
To give the veneer of narrative substance, it is revealed that the Suicide Girls have a long history throughout the centuries of freedom fighting. Perhaps in a decisive move away from Mystery Society, Niles and Stewart (at times other teams) provide two-page mini-stories hinting at some of these past adventures. While interesting vignettes and yet another stage for Stewart's brilliant illustrations (his ode to Diana Rigg's Emma Peel is quite memorable), they also add a much needed depth to the flash and glamour of graphic violence and sexuality presented in the stories. In fact, Stewart's art, as he pushes himself and refines his "cartoony" style in newer facial designs and body types, is one of the title's greatest asset.
The other strength of Suicide Girls is in its sheer absurdity. It's completely unbelievable and ridiculous in parts, but it's also a lot of fun to sneer in the face of serious, "high art" comics with a message. Comics written for fun are an unfortunate victim of the 1980s and 1990s push toward realism, and the mounting criticism of the superhero genre's dominance by defenders of literary comics. Suicide Girls brings an element of that fun back to the mainstream....and it's a fun found in the flesh parade, warrior nature of the paramilitary Suicide Girls.
Reviewed by Nathan Wilson on July 24, 2012