New Suicide Squad Annual #1 “Monsters”
Written by Sean Ryan
Art by Philipe Briones
Colors by Blond

This is it… the final issue of the Monsters arc. You all know I haven’t been a fan of Sean Ryan, but this has definitely been his best arc. I’m still not going to bring myself to say it was good, but it wasn’t bad… and considering his first two arcs were terrible, an “ok” rating isn’t a bad thing.

This arc focuses on a rogue sect of the League of Assassins that have started their own revolution. The Squad is sent in to infiltrate the group, learn where they store their weapons, and find out who is leading the sect. As expected, plans go south, members of the squad are captured, and other members show their true colors. Black Manta becomes a believer in the ideology the terrorists preach, and ends up revealing the truth about the Squad to the League.

This is where we pick-up with the Annual. Black Manta is living the high life as the pet recruit of one of the generals, while Deadshot is remains under the radar, and Harley, Boomerang, and Parasite are all being held captive. As for Reverse Flash, he’s just off running somewhere. I’m sure he’ll pop up and do something rather speedy before the end of the issue though. Back at the base, the League is looking to make an example out of Boomerang and some low level heroes by way of public execution. Considering this rogue sect is based off of ISIS, I’m sure you would expect this display to be pretty gruesome (beheading, setting people on fire, etc), but it’s a little more tame than that. Instead, they are drowning people publicly. Now, I don’t want to infer that this act isn’t gruesome – it is – but I felt no suspense for Boomerang. It felt more like one of those magic tricks with water tanks, where the magician is shackled and has to escape before he drowns… You know he’s going to escape. There is no question… But part of me really wishes he wouldn’t have.

Does this make me sound sadistic? Yes. But there’s more to it than just killing someone. Killing off Boomerang within the first few pages of the issue would’ve completely turned this book on its head. Anything would be possible after that, nobody would be safe, and there would have been some suspense around who would or wouldn’t make it out. But it wouldn’t just live in this issue, it would extend into the book’s run after this arc. It would prove that Ryan is willing to take risks, something that he could desperately use.

But that isn’t what happens. Deadshot and Reverse Flash swoop in to save the day, rescuing Boomerang, and freeing Harley and Parasite. The book then turns into a high energy, action packed battle as the Squad fights to escape the terrorist group. To make things a little more interesting, Manta is forced to face the reality of his decisions, and determine which path actually is best for him. Meanwhile, back at HQ, Vic Sage is scheming away, putting his own plans into motion. It’s an exciting build to the conclusion, and not everyone will make it out alive… But it may not be what you expect.

Warning! There are spoilers below.
The Good: When it comes down to it, this issue is entertaining and I have to give it credit for that. After so many issues of New Suicide Squad have made me want to scream and pull my hair out because they were so dismal, I’m glad to say I’ve enjoyed the last few installments. That’s the thing with Sean Ryan. His ideas and plots aren’t bad, but his execution is mostly terrible. Thankfully, he’s improving his craft, and changing my overall opinion of him.

Ryan has also started adding in some character moments here and there. Last month’s issue was the first glimpse into this, and he continues that trend here. Reverse Flash earns the nod for this issue as we finally get to see some depth and layers to this character. I personally enjoyed this because I know nothing about this character. I don’t read Flash, but I shouldn’t have to, to get a basic understanding of who a character is. Unfortunately, Ryan kills him off the moment he makes the character remotely interesting or relevant… And the crappy part is that it was wasted because I didn’t care. Had Reverse Flash received this treatment and writing from the beginning, this moment would’ve been way more impactful. Regardless, it was touching and managed to carry a slight weight.

Spoiler

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The Bad: There are a couple of things that bother me about this issue. First off, since the book is predominantly action, I want to talk about the “big fight.” While the action is fun and entertaining, I can’t help but wonder how the Squad was successful in beating the League, with only two of their members leading the assault. Two months ago, the Squad couldn’t stop the League with all of their team members and an army of soldiers… I know it’s small, but it doesn’t make sense and really irks me.

The rest of my issues lie with individual character plots. Black Manta has been my biggest issue with this arc. His character has been all over the place, and none of his decisions have felt natural. He’s with the Squad, but is converted by the League and fully believes in their mission. Despite that, he doesn’t reveal the Squad to the League until the mission is coming to an end, then is taken back when the radical terrorist group wants him to reveal Task Force X to the public and sacrifice himself. While I think the sacrifice bit was a little over the top, what in the hell did Manta expect was going to happen? Now he decides he doesn’t want to be with the terrorists, and rejoins the Squad like everything is fine and dandy. I can understand the Squads acceptance of him, since he claims he was getting close to the leader to kill him.

I would also like to point out that the guy that was referenced as the leader of the League by Black Manta, wasn’t the leader. At the beginning of the arc, he referenced taking the Squad to meet their leader – which was part of the Squad’s mission – yet we never actually saw who it was. And yes, there is a reveal of the Pearl Group at the end, but they aren’t associated with the League… And speaking of the Pearl Group, the whole bit with Sage convincing the Government that Waller wants to be in the field? Yep… that made my eyes roll.

The Art: Briones continues to be a really strong aspect of this book! The one thing that still bothers me from time to time is the way he draws eyes. The way he draws a shocked/confused expression looks incredibly cartoony. But that’s my only complaint. Everything else is pretty top notch. The characters look great (even if Harley has a ton of hair). Seriously though, how can you not look at this panel and not give kudos to the art?

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He also does a great job with action! I find myself let down with artists’ action panels more than anything else, but Briones’ scenes have a believable energy to them. I would love to see his work on this book with a stronger writer.
To see some samples of the internal art, check out the spoiler tag below.

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Recommended if:

  • You enjoy some good, mindless action.
  • You’ve been waiting for Reverse Flash to have a moment to shine.

Overall: New Suicide Squad has never been this good. Reverse Flash shines as Sean Ryan raises his own bar with this arc. Now that he’s proven he can do that, I want him to continue to improve so that this book can reach the quality that it deserves

SCORE: 7.0/10