by Libbylawrence and Doc Quantum
Colonel Rick Flag rubbed his eyes, tired of looking at computer files and dusty paper records. He had been scanning both for a long time with what he considered to be little success. After appointing the veteran soldier as the director of the new Meta-Human Rehabilitation Agency four months earlier in August, the President of the United States had personally asked Flag to form a new Task Force X/Suicide Squad team under the auspices of the MHRA composed of super-villains and low-profile super-heroes.
Such a team was more important than ever, since the Justice League of America had virtually disappeared after the Crisis on Infinite Earths and had been in decline even before that time. Most of the original members had already left the team after last year’s Martian invasion, replaced by a group of novices from Detroit, a couple of which were still minors. The JLA’s effectiveness, at least in the eyes of the U.S. government, had been severely compromised because of this change and the Crisis itself. It was time for a new team to pick up where the old JLA had left off, and the President had asked Rick Flag to form it, and for good reason. He had protected the interests of the United States of America for years before the Justice League of America even existed.
In 1945, the eighteen-year-old Rick Flag had been the youngest fighter pilot in a squadron that died fighting the Japanese during World War II. He had vowed to carry on for that squadron and had made it his mission in life to battle injustice wherever and whenever he could. Having the heart of a true hero, he worked his way up the military to reach the rank of colonel in order to make good on his vow. During those years he also watched as a new breed of costumed super-heroes began to appear. The earliest of these was the famed Captain Comet, a mutant born a hundred thousand years ahead of his time.
Operating from 1951 to 1954, Comet left an impressive record battling such menaces as monsters, extraterrestrials, and super-criminals, until he left Earth to explore outer space. (*) When he did so, he also left a vacuum — there were few others around capable of combating these menaces, which just kept on appearing steadily since the late 1940s as if the floodgates had been opened. The Blackhawks, operating continuously since World War II, had taken on most of these threats throughout the 1950s, but there were often too many threats for even that valiant team to handle. Even the powerful Superboy of Smallville, who debuted in 1958, was not enough to meet all the threats to the public welfare, especially since — despite his super-powers — he was still a young boy at the time and had yet to earn the international and even interplanetary respect he would gain in later years.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Origin of Captain Comet,” Strange Adventures #9 (June, 1951) and “No Man Shall I Call Master,” Secret Society of Super-Villains #2 (August, 1976).]
Thus, in 1959, Colonel Rick Flag, nurse Karin Grace, astronomer Dr. Hugh Evans, and physicist Jess Bright formed Task Force X in order to combat the increasing number of strange and dangerous menaces all over the world. This original four-man team, known popularly as the Suicide Squad, served the public good for nearly twenty-four years. (*) While the Blackhawks retired in 1968, the Suicide Squad continued on, even though the team’s cases grew increasingly infrequent by the early 1970s as more and more super-heroes began to appear, making non-powered teams of adventurers largely irrelevant.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Three Waves of Doom,” The Brave and the Bold #25 (August-September, 1959).]
Finally, in 1983, the U.S. government disbanded the aging team after its last case in Cambodia. While Bright and Dr. Evans had since moved on to other projects, Colonel Flag joined a team of adventurers called the Forgotten Heroes for two missions. (*) But in the back of his mind he had always wanted to re-form Task Force X to meet the current challenges of this world that super-heroes could not or would not deal with.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Another Time, Another Death,” Action Comics #552 (February, 1984) and “Triad of Terror,” DC Comics Presents #77 (January, 1985).]
“Mr. Blake is here to see you,” chimed in his loyal assistant, Dr. Karin Grace. She had been a nurse during the Korean War and had since become a medical doctor. Remaining by Colonel Flag’s side, she now acted as the MHRA’s medic as well as chief administrator.
“Thanks. Send him in,” he replied.
Adam Blake, also known as Captain Comet, had been a hero’s hero for decades, though his youthful features did not reflect this fact. Perhaps his mutated metabolism aged far slower than that of normal humans like Flag, who was nearing sixty years of age and felt it. Comet had been Colonel Flag’s first and only choice as the team’s field leader.
Captain Comet smiled as he entered, his colorful red and blue costume attracting even more attention than his handsome features. It was obvious that Karin admired both. “Rick, I’m a little early, but I couldn’t wait to get started,” he began. “I hope you don’t mind my eagerness. After years battling various Secret Societies of Super-Villains, I can’t wait to try to help rehabilitate a few. I’ve found a good possibility… ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself. What does the director of the Meta-Human Rehabilitation Agency have to offer me?”
Colonel Flag laughed, thinking how Comet’s determination to do good was just one of the many traits that set him apart from most people. “I have a few names to toss at you, too,” said Flag. “I know you know the basics, but to reiterate, the policy of the MHRA is to allow certain empowered criminals to work off their jail time along with non-criminals by participating in crime-fighting-style missions as a team — a new version of Task Force X, or the Suicide Squad — administered by me and led by you on the field.
“MHRA has an office at the new Belle Reve Penitentiary in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana, a special high-security prison built specifically for meta-human criminals, and most of our potential recruits will come from there. All team members will be equipped with subdermal tracking devices, which will act as a safety measure for the non-criminal members as well as a precautionary measure for those still working off their prison sentences.”
“Sounds as good as it did when you first approached me after the Crisis,” said Comet, smiling. “That worldwide calamity made the potential for good by super-powered felons all too clear. Seeing some of them fight the shadow demons side by side with heroes made that point for us.”
“Of course, many did just the opposite,” muttered Flag. “They tried to use it to their own gain as always. We can’t forget the way Brainiac’s army of super-villains conquered Earths Four, S, and X during the so-called Villain War.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Crisis on Infinite Earths: The Villain War.]
“True, but I hope we can turn a few of those villains around,” replied Comet. “And as far as the name Suicide Squad goes — well, I was really hoping to use something else.”
“Such as?” asked Flag, looking concerned.
Captain Comet looked somewhat sheepish, feeling the need to justify his reasoning very quickly to avoid offending his friend, who would now also be his employer. “I want this new team to work openly in the public with a more heroic name. I want people to know that super-villains can reform, given a chance to use their powers for good. The Suicide Squad name worked better when it was a small team of low-key adventurers, but I’m afraid using it for this new team would sound like our members — criminal or not — are expendable. That’s the last thing I want.”
Flag leaned back on his chair in a relaxed pose, convinced now more than ever that he had chosen the right man for the job, though he knew he would end up fighting the hawks in the U.S. government who had hoped to use a new Suicide Squad for low-profile, black ops-type missions. “I assume you have an idea for the team’s name. Let’s hear it.”
“How about the Rehab Squad?” said Comet. “It brings to mind the old Suicide Squad name while eliminating any hint of fatalism, and it suggests that the team offers redemption for ex-criminals who genuinely seek rehabilitation.”
“Captain Comet’s Rehab Squad,” said Rick Flag, smiling thoughtfully. “Not bad. Not bad at all.”