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.
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.