Need cheering up? I suspect you do, in which case, read Suicide Squad #4, in which an old ally returns, new comrades are illuminated and Harley Quinn shows she’s the best super-shrink this side of Doc Samson.
The fun starts with George ‘ Digger’ Harkness speaking out of turn in a bar in suburban Australia.
And soon he’s confronted by Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie… OK, it wasn’t the Muppets he shouldn’t have been whining about, but Task Force X, aka his old bunch of muckers, the Suicide Squad. Captain Boomerang won his freedom after a period of long service with the US government’s black ops team, but talking about the project makes him its property once more. In their eyes, at least – Digger disagrees…
Without spoiling a totally earned, marvellously cinematic visual, Let It Be Known that Digger overcomes the gang of soldiers sent to collect him and takes to the road after a wry public service message with a drinking buddy.
Across the Pacific, new Task Force X showrunner Lok orders the non-team to Get Digger. As ever, he’s charm itself when it comes to ensuring everyone is on board.
Deadshot, whose traditional death wish diminishes when he remembers he has a daughter, relents. In Australia, the gang climb into a minibus and take to the lengthy, to say the least, Eyre Road across the Nullarbor Plain. Digger’s been spotted heading for it, and Thylacine’s tracking powers give them a good chance of finding the Flash rogue and bringing him back alive.
When they stop for the night, Harley takes the opportunity to ask questions of her old pal Deadshot and Osita, leader of the Revolutionaries who have been coerced into joining Task Force X.
And answers come. Lots of them, illuminating character and motivation as writer Tom Taylor, working with editor Andrea Shea, continues to give us a Suicide Squad relaunch that captures the magic of the Eighties original. The blend of intrigue and action, the constant surprises, the twists, the turns and the willingness to live up to the book’s title by killing actually rather good characters – it’s all there, along with a wit that’s all Taylor’s own.
Does someone die this time? Maybe, and if so, that’s a shame, but I know Taylor will have someone equally intriguing waiting in the wings.
What really impresses is Taylor’s ability to convince me that Harley Quinn is, while being a little to the left of sanity, a formidably intelligent person. She can read others and won’t shirk at challenging them even though she knows it could get her killed… which could, of course, be part of the whole nutty deal but still, Taylor is the first writer to make a convincing case for Harley as a real asset to Task Force X rather than a showy headliner to pull in the rubes.
Harley’s free therapy session elicits from Osita her story, as well as the whys and wherefores of the Revolutionaries, leaving all the unhappy campers with decisions to make.
As for Digger, he’s on great form, his Aussie cheek to the fore, and we’re reminded that those boomerangs of his don’t need to be thrown to be deadly.
Regular artist Bruno Redondo contributes the cute cover, but the interiors are penciled by the criminally underrated Daniel Sampere and inked by Juan Albarran. Their approach is consistent with Redondo’s, full of fine character and action work and conjuring up the sense of place demanded by Taylor’s narrative. Once again we get a brilliantly graphic title sequence, likely suggested by Taylor but brought to life by the illustrators, letterer Wes Abbott and colour artist Adriano Lucas.
Lucas is an especially important player this time, his gorgeous skies and general lighting reminding us that we’re not in Kansas – or rather, Louisiana – any more. There’s an especially lovely visual as our motley crew take a break at one of Oz’s beauty spots that gives me a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ feeling as I join much of the planet in social distancing.
And while I can’t see my mates right now, I could do a lot worse than hang out with the Suicide Squad; sure, I might not survive long with this bunch of baddies and anti-heroes, but it’d be a fun, fascinating five minutes. Join us?