Suicide Squad #3 review

Amanda Waller is getting to know new Task Force X recruit Superboy better. But is she sitting down with him over a cuppa? Not Waller. Not this version, anyway. #notmywaller

Why be straight with an actual superhero who’s agreed to work with the Suicide Squad – despite being tortured along the way – when you can have a supervillain mess with his head?

With Batman bad gal Nocturna declaring that there’s nothing wrong with Superboy, Waller reckons Conner would make a great leader for Task Force X. Current field leader Peacemaker – technically not a villain, but crazy and vicious all the same – wants the job, and is plotting. And he’s brought detergent.

Away from the Belle Reve prison laundry, Waller is giving cheerful strongwoman Calebra her orders – babysit certified lunatic assassin Talon.

Too late.

Not satisfied with the current power mix, Waller wants to bring someone else in – Australia speedster Bolt, currently a student at the new Teen Titans Academy.

Waller has a plan, one involving two Task Force X recruits we’ve not previously met.

I wasn’t thrilled by the first issue, but gave the second a shot and really liked the new character, Calebra. Now here’s another issue of writer Robbie Thompson’s series and another fresh character with potential, plant person Branch who, being terrified, is apparently sane.

Wouldn’t you be afraid around Waller? She plants bombs in folks’ heads, tortures on a whim, doesn’t bat an eye when her staff get murdered by someone she knows is an insane killer, coerces, abuses… she’s a modern day slaver and her latest target, Bolt, is a disabled teenage girl.

I don’t actually understand why Waller has to kidnap the kid, Alinta, anyway. Waller tells Peacemaker they got her out of Australia, made a deal… so why have her enrol at Titans Academy at all? Why not just take her straight to Belle Reve and, I dunno, start pulling her teeth out or something?

Also confusing is how the attack on Bolt is presented.

On first read, I thought Calebra was stomping in Louisiana, where Belle Reve is based, and the effect was being felt in New York, where Bolt is. But no, inset panels 1-3 and 5 come before the field trip to Manhattan, while inset panel 4 happens in the big city as Bolt goes for her run. It is, as the characters in this book might say, #$#& confusing. I suppose writer Thompson is trying for a cinematic feel, but it doesn’t come off.

And I don’t blame penciller Eduardo Pansica, whose work is excellent throughout – his storytelling is great, he’s obviously drawing what’s in the script. Perhaps someone should have prompted Marcelo Maiolo to colour the background of that fourth panel very differently to the others. Really, though, I think editor Mike Cotton should remind Thompson that there’s nothing wrong with linear storytelling.

Maiolo has been a favourite of mine since he popped up on Green Arrow at DC about a decade ago, and his colourwork here is lovely – there’s less of his signature neon, but his choices suit the grim story. And the bursts of orange and yellow around Bolt remind us of where his artistic inclinations lie.

Pansica, with inker Julio Ferreira, makes Bolt, whose distinctive hair and running blades give her a unique silhouette among speedsters, especially striking. I also really like their Peacemaker, and Branch is someone I definitely want to see more of. What I’d love to see is Nocturna looking more like the original Eighties character, who was eerily sexy – the current model looks generic, with only her pallor reminding us who we’re dealing with. Pansica, Ferreira and Maiolo also combine to give us a properly dramatic cover, it’s a winner.

The letters of Wes Abbott also work to make the issue look good.

Thompson has a knack for giving us new players. There are some decent character dynamics. Superboy shows that he’s not just going to go along with Waller’s crap. And Peacemaker certainly looks ready to usurp her control.

But why are other powerful personalities, with amazing abilities, putting up with her? I know most have bombs in their heads, but they also have brains. Nocturna is a manipulator, even if Waller can counteract her pheromones, she could surely employ her mojo. Calebra could break her neck before she pushes that bomb button.

And how does Waller get away with letting her staff be murdered? Surely their families would be asking questions. Does she exclusively employ orphans with solid funeral plans?

I think I’ve previously asked that Thompson dial down Waller’s viciousness, but with this issue, I reckon it’s too late. She’s toxic and has to go. Perhaps then the nasty, mean vibe this series has will go and it’ll be something I can get behind.

10 thoughts on “Suicide Squad #3 review

  1. I just wish the rest of the Superman family would realize that Connor is missing…or Young Justice..or something.

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    1. Too right, the Supers were so tight under Bendis, someone should notice – last we saw, Conner was living with Ma and Pa Kent, are they not expecting him home for supper?

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  2. I find myself enjoying this, and I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s hard to follow!

    I made a note of bafflement at the time, and even with your explanation I still don’t know when or where Culebra stomped.

    Gotta keep a dictionary handy. Tim Sheridan likes fake-Latin and Aboriginal, and Robbie Thompson likes Spanish. Spanish or not, I do like Culebra’s attitude.

    Apparently this story is a prelude to Teen Titans Academy #2. They failed this first attempt to catch Bolt when she was out for her run, and then they try again in Teen Titans, with Red X involved. (Unclear what side Red X is on. Well, unclear to me. So far he seems to be playing both sides. I think he was defending Alinta in Teen Titans, or pretending to – he threw his shurikens at the kidnappers. Superboy crushed one, and Peacemaker caught the other one. But here, he’s offering his help to them.)

    That said, a scene with Waller and Peacemaker is repeated in both books, so it’s not just that the books came out in the wrong order, but the placement of the repeated scene is downright confusing. I refer to the scene where Peacemaker says “A kid?” And then “Just give me the file.”

    I can’t make sense of it. It looks like:

    1. Teen Titans – flashback to Peacemaker and Waller having this conversation – which must be before the *first* attack. It makes no sense to have it after the first attack.
    2. Teen Titans – shows us the *second attack*, in the lockers with Red X present and Alinta in her wheelchair.
    3. Suicide Squad – shows that same conversation between Peacemaker and Waller.
    4. Suicide Squad – shows the first attack, outside and with Bolt in her Flash costume.

    So – huh? Maybe as usual something is confusing me, or maybe Mike Cotton (who edits both books) couldn’t decide where that scene should go. Or forgot he told both writers to include it. Maybe it was designed so that the scene would help people reading one book who were unaware of the proceedings in the other book? But then what of people who read both? It gives the feeling “Oh, this is the same scene from a different perspective,” but as too often happens, it’s not quite right. Sometimes the dialog or action is just plain different; or in this case, the scene seems dropped in to the wrong time frame.

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    1. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. I did notice the repeated dialogue, and kicked myself for not working out that was Waller and Peacemaker…who can remember that he’s called Smith? Even AW on Alinta’s phone didn’t clue me up. I suppose I was expecting it not to be them because I knew a Task Force X run-in was coming, so that wouldn’t be a surprise. I also did mental gymnastics, having at first assumed the writers of the two books – I reviewed Teen Titans Academy #2, by the way – had bungled, giving us entirely different versions of a single attempt to capture Bolt (presumably Waller has bugs at the academy, so knows Alinta wants to be called Bolt). I suppose if you read the caption ‘Soon’ on the penultimate page of Titans Academy as meaning ‘Not actually that soon’ we can excuse the muddiness of it all – heck, how has the Academy even been open long enough for the kids to have a regular weekly movie night? Anyway, with luck Alinta is working with a third party to stop Waller when she goes on that run… it may tie in with her telling Matt she’s been off playing hero. Have I mentioned that I hate this version of Waller?

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  3. I have enjoyed each issue a bit more than the last and most of that is due to the characterization Thompson is dishing out.

    Based on the first issue I thought Superboy was going to be addled, angsty, or simply tortured into being part of the team. But over the first three issues we see he actually has some agency here, and maybe an agenda. He lets Bolt go free and he confronts Peacemaker.

    I thought Peacemaker was going to be a typical right-wing rah-rah guy, gladly under the thumb of Waller. But he also seems to have some machinations of his own.

    And as you say, Calebra is a nice palate cleanser from all the brooding mysterious stuff happening.

    I also think the side joke that any teleporter who joins the team is doomed is humorous. At least for a few more issues before it gets played out.

    Now as you say, Waller’s character is the one I have the most issue with as she is too ruthless for my taste. Classic Waller sometimes did unsavory things but with a greater good in mind. This one seems straight out of villain school. But maybe her character turn is coming?

    The art here helps a ton.

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    1. Thanks Anj, it’s great to hear your perspective, and knowing you and TN are all in helps me believe it’s not all going to be bad. Boston Dreams is so right, though, we need to know what the rest of the Super Family know about Conner… maybe he is indeed treating this as an undercover mission and has altered them to keep an eye on him from a distance. But I can’t forget the awfulness of that Future State story, a point this series seems determined to hit.

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  4. I’m with Anj. I was set to drop this with issue 1, but I’m enjoying it despite myself. I loved when Superboy told Bolt to run (at superspeed, it looks like to me, so no one else could hear. The art is terrific, and the characterization and the secret agendas are really working for me.

    Aside from Waller, of course. DC never seems to realize what they have in her when she’s at her best — an anti-hero, rather than a cruel villain. In retrospect, I feel like the turn happened pretty early. I think it was their guest appearance in D. Curtis Johnson and J. H. Williams III’s 1998 series Chase where the bombs around the villains arms became bombs around their necks. That essentially turned Waller into someone who would harm to keep people in line to someone who’d kill to do it.

    Granted, it’s been years since I’ve read the later issues of the Ostrander/Yale Squad. I’d be interested in seeing how the way she was portrayed back then squares with my memories of her. Perhaps I’d look at her in a different light these days. But it definitely seems like she’s gotten a lot less subtle, and a lot more villainous. Which is a shame; she’s one of DC’s greatest characters, but one that’s so often mishandled.

    And speaking of DC’s greatest characters, Culebra is a joy. (Interestingly, her name means Snake in Spanish. I haven’t noticed anything snakelike about her, so… do we have a twist coming?)

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    1. Ah Rob, you remind me that I really must reread Chase; I’ve not read the issues since they came out and bought the trade a few years back… why oh why have I not been put on furlough? I’d forgotten the neck bombs came in so early. Crikey!

      And now you have me even more interested in Culebra!

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  5. I’ve said here before I don’t think any writers have gotten Waller right since Ostrander. They miss the nuance. They turn her into this vicious, power-hungry control freak. She was more complicated under Ostrander. Not nice, but complicated. But here’s a thought – Is this a Waller that has, literally, had enough? She’s been doing this so long that she has lost any last bits of humanity? Clearly based on issue 1 “it all matters” and this Waller is THE SAME Waller who started with the Squad under Ostrander. No reboots, rebirths, new 52s, etc. Taken in that context I could maybe see why she is being written the way she is. A more “grizzled” Amanda Waller. And if her endgame — as it appeared in Future State — is to somehow “liberate” Earth 3 with her own Justice League then it kinda makes sense how she would just be that much harder/colder of a person. But I’d suggest if that is the case the writer needs to make this clearer in the book. There needs to be some sort of scene where Waller is called out for having changed/acknowledges she’s changed.
    Or maybe there’s a huge twist coming and this ISN’T the real Waller. Maybe an Earth 3 duplicate or something?

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    1. >Applause< Brian, that’s Brilliant. The Amanda Waller of Earth 3, that would be perfect. And that begs the question, where’s the regular Waller, and what will she do when she meets her doppelgänger. Punch her, or admire her savvy and team up?

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