Suicide Squad #1 review

Rick Flag Jr has been Amanda Waller’s field leader for a long time. He’s also her conscience, ensuring she doesn’t go too far when it comes to running black ops missions involving supervillains. It seems, though, that whatever influence he’s exerted is no more.

She’s ‘tired of losing’. And, it turns out, tired of him.

Meanwhile, at Arkham Asylum, Peacemaker is leading a Task Force X squad in a bid to break out Talon, one of the Court of Owls’ enforcers. Their timing, though, is unfortunate.

Peacemaker, Shrike, Bolt and Film Freak have broken into the facility just as an off-site Joker takes it down, as seen in this week’s Infinite Frontier #0.

Back at Belle Reve, the Task Force X base, Waller has told a frazzled Flag that she doesn’t need him to lead missions, she has someone else in mind.

Having read Future State: Suicide Squad it’s no surprise to see she means Conner Kent. It is a surprise to see him locked up like a dangerous supervillain.

The villain here is Waller. I’m sick of writing about how DC has been removing all nuance from what was once a great character. A woman who dealt in shades of grey has been getting blacker and blacker of heart. Here, writer Robbie Thompson presents a woman not merely using existing prisoners to go on missions for her country. Waller is kidnapping a mental patient and has lifted, imprisoned and tortured a hero. To this Waller, her treatment of Superboy, a clone, is justified.

Does anybody enjoy Amanda Waller, one of the most fascinating characters of the post-Crisis years, as cruel, smirking, murderous madwoman?

It’s also very odd that we’ve seen the end of this story in the aforementioned Future State. We see what Waller’s endgame is, and it doesn’t actually make me any more sympathetic to her – the ends do not justify the means. Perhaps Thompson plans to go in a different direction, but if the tone is similar to that here and in the FS book, it’s not for me.

Given the Superman books are continuing from where Brian Michael Bendis left off, Waller has to have kidnapped Superboy since he’s settled in Smallville with Ma and Pa Kent. Jonathan and Martha know people. If Conner has been in that cell more than a day without some superhero coming to find him, my suspension of disbelief is dead.

Things I liked in Thompson’s script include the tie-in with Infinite Frontier, the choice of Film Freak as a Task Force X member – he’s uniquely useless, but Waller has found a reason for him to be there. The story is well paced, with nice back and forths between Belle Reve and Gotham, and some great dialogue. There’s no problem with what Waller says or does in terms of the story choices Thompson has made for her, but said choices are just horrible; is there really no government oversight? No back-up crew of psychologists, doctors and so on as in the John Ostrander/Kim Yale classic series whose logo this relaunch borrows?

A roll call at the start would have been useful – the villain Shrike isn’t mentioned by name until a few pages from the end, I was thinking it was Peacemaker’s pal Judomaster. And I’ve only ever seen Peacemaker in cameos and the recent, sadly unfinished, Inferior 5 series. How about a proper introduction to him? Does everyone know Talon, Bolt, Film Freak? I can see that a fast-moving first issue is wanted, but a quick rundown at the very start would have been helpful.

I’ve no qualms about the artwork. Together, penciller Eduardo Pansica, inker Julio Ferreira and colourist Marcelo Maiolo produce gorgeous pages. The characters are strong and watchable, the backgrounds detailed and real, the action as exciting as you could wish for. The body language, the attitudes of the characters – especially Flagg and Waller – are always what the script calls for. That page of Superboy suffering is painful to look at, the final splash is an Escher-like treat – this is great work.

And kudos to Wes Abbott, not just for splendid lettering throughout the issue, but for telescopic ellipses… did you notice them back there? That’s above and beyond, and beautifully executed.

The cover by Pansica. Ferreira and Maiolo is unsurprisingly excellent, and I like the new DC trade dress a lot.

All in all, the new Suicide Squad has no shortage of creative talent – a different direction and I’d be raving.

9 thoughts on “Suicide Squad #1 review

  1. Yeah. this is very competently done — although not visually thrilling the way Bruno Redondo’s work was on the previous iteration. But that was staggeringly good, and this here is simply solid, well-done work. Still something to be proud of.

    But yeah, Waller. She’s just gotten worse and worse over the years, and it’s really a shame –a waste of a wonderful moral grayness in favor of a bleak ruthlessness that doesn’t even seem concerned with protecting America anymore — just power for its own sake. (In fairness to Waller’s path: It’s certainly believable, given the morally bankrupt state and fascist leanings of a lot of US politicians these days. I’d just hoped that Waller was made of sterner stuff.)

    I reread this book earlier today, and liked it more the second time around. A few things that confused me on my first read cleared up (for instance, somehow I’d conflated Film Freak and the unmasked Talon for a while, so the action seemed a LOT less clear to me at first). I liked how well it dovetails into A-Day: It’s rare to see one superhero event intersect with another one without an official crossover. Superboy’s presence is a good hook; I’m less thrilled with Waller actually imprisoning Flagg. But the Squad at its best gave Waller a comeuppance whenever she overreached. Maybe she’s heading for one.

    In short: It’s good enough for me to look forward to reading it when it arrives on DC Infinite down the line. As for paying $4 a month, I’ll pass.

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    1. I am so looking forward to DC Infinite or whatever it’s called being available to non-US people, I will save so much money!

      I’ll likely buy next issue to see if there’s anything more in terms of intriguing set-up, but that could be it.

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  2. What makes it worse is that the writers who have gotten Waller wrong these last few runs heap praise on the Ostrander Squad. How can they be fans yet write her this way, with no nuance? I’ve given up on DC getting the Squad right. Rob William’s Rebirth version was a dumbed down echo of Ostrander’s. Even Tom Taylor’s run which got a lot of praise I feel was a let down because rather than mining all the great B,C, and D characters he went and created new ones. This new series seems to have unearthed some fun villains, but totally botched it w Waller. Oh well.

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    1. I loved Taylor”s version because for once someone wasn’t doing a bad impersonation of the classic run. I think the closest anyone got to capturing his magic was Sean Ryan in New Suicide Squad, around 2015. Worth seeking out!

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  3. Taylor did include a bunch of existing characters at the start – besides Harley and Deadshot, he included Magpie and Cavalier, who were dispatched immediately, and The Shark and Zebra-Man. (I think The Shark got killed too.) But then it’s true that the title carried on with almost entirely new character creations. He bumped off a number of them, too.

    I’m on the fence about following this version of Suicide Squad, partially because I think I’m going to read the Crime Syndicate limited series that just started, and don’t these stories all converge in Future State: Suicide Squad? I’m not entirely sure of what happens (will happen) there, but guess it turns out Waller has moved to Earth-3 to protect Earth-0 from it, has captured the Crime Syndicate, and asks Conner (after tricking him into sealing off Earth-3) to be that earth’s Superman, before dying.

    Also, in addition to Conner, some (or all?) of her Earth-3 suicide squad version may have come with her from Earth-0. I’m fuzzy about that. Like, is that the Earth-0 Talon? (She blows him up on Earth-3.) The Bolt is from Earth-0? (She may be a brand-new character, but I don’t know where she’s from.) Clayface? If that’s the case, we may see some of those characters in this run of Suicide Squad. But there are problems with “when,” if ever, the Future State story could happen; and, if that’s the Earth-0 Talon, then we’d know she isn’t going to kill him until then; same is true for Clayface. So I think Future State: Suicide Squad is one of the FS stories that needs to be considered as a pure Imaginary Tale, or one that, if thought about, basically ruins the current run.

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    1. That Future State issue really was, let’s try to put it kindly, opaque. Too many characters, less than great storytelling. I certainly couldn’t work out which Earth everyone was from. The best thing Thompson could do would be do subvert expectations by dumping the whole Superboy/Earth 3 direction as speedily as possibly.

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  4. The problem is that Ostrander’s Squad really is THE PERFECT way to write this type of comic. Take a bunch of relatively unknown villains from DC’s vast catalogue, give them all some personality so that we start to care for them, send them off on a variety of different missions with interesting twists/turns/shocks, and give depth to their “civilian” leaders/staff. Too often the reboots are all flash, little substance. There’s no “heart”. And the Squad has to have some wins, too, so that we see them as competent. I just think it takes an above average writer to do a quality Squad book. If DC just wants to sell a comic about a bunch of villains fighting and getting violently killed, then, yeah, they can always find a way to keep a Squad book on the shelves. But it will never again reach classic status.

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