Task Force X is back. This version isn’t a team seen previously in the DC Universe, but the Class of 2030 is full of familiar faces. Mind, the faces aren’t their real ones, as an unseen narrator reveals.
It’s the old Thunderbolts play. The heroes are mostly actually villains, but they are finding that they wish to be better… unfortunately, handler Amanda Waller doesn’t want that. She wants them to be their worst selves to further some mad plan involving a holographic Hall of Justice.
Bad as any of the villains in this comic are, Waller is worse. Much worse. She murders her soldiers without a second thought. But someone is coming for her…
Amanda Waller used to be one of the most interesting characters in the DC stable – a complex woman who would do difficult things for the greater good. Nowadays, DC writers simply present her as a power-mad monster, mentally torturing and even blowing up her charges as she tries to impose her own will on the world. And while I believe a man can fly, I find it very hard to credit that not one villain Waller has pissed off hasn’t murdered her, painfully.
The final pages promise interesting things next time, but this first chapter of two is nothing we’ve not seen many times. Writer Robbie Thompson and artist Javier Fernandez’ Justice Squad is nicely sketched in for the most part… there’s the grotesque Aquaman, his words indecipherable, while the blurred effect for ‘Wonder Woman’ makes sense, given she’s Golden Age Diana baddie Hypnota and her look is an illusion. Alex Sinclair’s colour work is excellent, there’s an especially clever moment involving Black Manta’s nutty helmet. And Wes Abbott’s Aquaman font is splendid. But it’s a shame this version of Conner Kent has lost his fire, and there are storytelling issues – I’ve read an early action spread several times and I’m still not sure what’s going on.
After Tom Taylor and Bruno Redundo’s recent groundbreaking reimagining of what a Suicide Squad series could be, it’s a shame we’re back to this version of Waller and her slaves.
Fernandez also handles the cover, with colourist Marcelo Maiolo, and it’s a suitably menacing image. I almost like the logo, but that extended serif on the letter ‘D’… just stop!
I’m not a Black Adam fan. Well, I like him as a villain, but once Geoff Johns fell in love with him and started insisting he was actually a complex anti-hero, I lost interest. I wasn’t, therefore, thrilled when he was announced as the back-up star of this issue.
Well, talk about nice surprises. In ‘The Beginning of the End’ we have the best-looking, most entertaining Future State story I’ve read. It helps that it really has nothing to do with Future State. We’re in the future, yep, and it’s in a bit of a state, but really, this is ‘just’ a brilliant revisiting of one of DC’s classic events.
The story is set in the 853rd Century, the future of DC One Million, and this first half is more of a Justice Legion-A adventure than a Black Adam spotlight. The legacy versions of Wonder Woman, Flash, Batman, Aquaman and Superman – and the sun-dwelling Superman Prime – are faced with a rather monumental threat.
The future Amazing Amazon – a marble statue come to life – has an idea as to who might help them. The man who was Black Adam.
This is an imaginative tour-de-force from writer Jeremy Adams, penciller Fernando Pasarin, inker Oclair Albert, colourist Jeromy Cox and the aforementioned Abbott. From the opening shot of Green Lantern planet Mogo to the final page arrival of a surprise hero, this is superhero comics to inspire and delight. The creative team takes concepts set up by Grant Morrison and friends in the DC One Million event and shows that there are great stories still to be told. There’s a sense of wonder, a feeling of desperation and, with the delightfully changed Black Adam, a note of peace, the feeling that somehow everything will be OK.
Of course, Teth Adam isn’t going to be able to hang onto his serenity, but perhaps he’s changed enough that with one magic word, he can once again be the hero the wizard Shazam intended him to be…
The villains are a brilliantly creepy lot, especially that Mr Mxyzptlk on steroids guy, and the fella who looks like a Riddler spider (Spiddler?). The heroes, meanwhile, suffer losses, but I’m sure they could be restored in this wonderfully mad future DCU. And they do meet a former member on arrival in Khandaq. I’d love to see more of Adams and co’s take on DC One Million post-Future State.
I’ll be back next issue to find out what happens next for Black Adam and Justice Legion-A. And perhaps I’ll like the Suicide Squad story a lot more – this is comics, anything can happen!