On the eve of the film releasing, Suicide Squad has officially “Rebirthed.” As I did with most of the Rebirth titles, I came into this book anxious to see what direction the new creative team was going to take the narrative. What changes will we see? Will they be good? Bad? Weird? How well will the new writer convey his characters? They were all questions I kept asking myself, and they all have answers that are fairly positive in my opinion.
This issue kicks off with Amanda Waller – the real Amanda Waller – verbally going toe-to-toe with the President himself. As I stated in my review for Harley Quinn & the Suicide Squad April Fool’s Special, I’m glad to see Waller back to how I always viewed her. Most of you will probably think I’m referring to her weight (and to a small degree, I am), but what I’m really referring to is her character. Long gone are the snarky, perhaps even bitchy, comebacks as “skinny” Waller constantly tries to prove that she’s tough and can hang with the boys in the field. No, this Waller doesn’t need to try and prove anything. This is the Waller that knows everything about you, what you’re bringing to the table, and is a force to be reckoned with.
In the opening scene, the President calls Waller out for secretly operating her Task Force X initiative without his, or apparently Congress’, consent. If you’re familiar with my reviews of the various Suicide Squad titles, then you know that this tiny little moment is HUGE for me! I’ve been waiting for something like this to pop up, because the actions that Amanda Waller and the Squad are taking could technically be viewed as an act of war. And considering the disastrous missions that occurred in New Suicide Squad (let alone the fact that the book itself was a disaster), this is a valid qualm for the President to have. But for every dig the President throws, Waller has a comeback that’s just as strong. Whether it’s a dose of cold, harsh truth, or incriminating information, she’s prepared to take the commander-in-chief on.
Now, if you’re thinking, “Dude, these themes have popped up dozens of times with Suicide Squad! What are you talking about?” Yes, you’re right, and I’m well aware that the topic of legality and consequences has occurred before, a number of times even, but it hasn’t really popped up since the launch of the New 52. Not completely anyway. So I find it promising that Williams is using this theme to launch his run. It serves as the perfect introduction… which is exactly what this issue is, an introduction (and re-introduction for some).
Rather than deliver a quick jump-start to throw readers into a crazy mission, Williams takes his time to describe the Squad’s purpose, and properly lay out their rank and order. As I mentioned, this issue is an introduction, and the catalyst of this introduction is Colonel Rick Flagg. Not only is his set-up and role within the Squad an interesting notion on its own, but he’s also bringing a rich history and backstory that can be explored. With so many dynamic characters involved with the title, it’s a shame that more time hasn’t been spent focusing on who these people really are! Too often, Suicide Squad goes for high action and cheap thrills, leaving a rather hollow foundation to help carry the title.
While this issue does spend most of the twenty pages introducing and setting up Flagg, and while I’m glad to see that they’re putting the characters at the top of the priority list, that doesn’t mean this issue lacks action. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. There are some well-played action sequences here, and much to my pleasure, the creative team didn’t shy away from making the Squad’s actions violent, dark, and morally questionable… which is EXACTLY the type of action that should be in this title.
The only active members featured here are Deadshot, Harley Quinn, and Captain Boomerang, and it’s worth remembering that these guys are criminals first and foremost. Yes, Waller is turning them into “heroes,” but in reality, they’re so far from that, that it’s almost a disservice to the title to call them that. These guys aren’t Batman or Superman. They’re not here to do the “right” thing, they’re here to do the “best” thing according to Waller’s/ the military’s judgement. I think we can all agree that we face situations where the end result of a specific situation could be considered a “good thing,” but the path we would be forced to take to get to that result rests on the opposite end of the spectrum of “good.” That’s what makes the Squad so successful. They’re not afraid to take whatever means are necessary to finish their mission, even if it requires horrific actions. And as farfetched as this concept might seem to readers that are new to comics or this team, it really isn’t too far off from aspects of the CIA – a clandestine, government organization with little to no government oversight that is technically committing illegal acts for the sake of the safety of our country. There’s a very fine line separating right from wrong here, and this book looks like it’s going to cover that idea head on.
As happy as I am with this issue overall, that doesn’t mean it’s perfect. First, and foremost, consistency will be key. Williams is creating a spider web of themes and conflicts already, and if he can continue the characterization, humanity, and questioning morality while also supplying engaging missions, this book will be extremely popular. Speaking of characterization, one of my least favorite experiences with this title was the way one of the characters was written… Harley Quinn. Something about her representation just felt off. Rather than coming across as a psychotic, it seemed like she was a soldier that Williams was trying to write as psychotic. It’s a difficult feat to try and write a book with a darker tone while keeping Harley’s whimsy, but it is possible, and is something that Williams will need to work on for this book to truly work. Aside from that, the only other issue I had with this debut was Deadshot’s new mask design. I don’t know why, but something about it bugs the hell out of me! I hope they revert it back to what it was, because I hate looking at that mask with its new fin/nose feature… It’s bad.
The Art: Forgetting Deadshot’s new mask, I’m not that impressed with Philip Tan’s art. There are just too many instances where his work is inconsistent or looks incredibly messy. I like the effect that the heavy pencils create considering it give the book a grittiness and edge… but when your characters look drastically different from page to page, it’s going to result in a negative opinion on my end. That being said, when Tan nails it, his work is outstanding! Perhaps it was due to timelines, but the look of this book was just too messy for me… We’ll see how I feel if we start to see numerous, extended delays from this title once Lee takes over though… I might whole-heartedly opt to have the messy pencils back…
Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.
The Good: There were a lot of positive elements found in this issue for me! If anything, I feel like this debut shows the broad opportunity this title has to tell a range of narratives with varying tones and shades considering my enjoyment of this issue, as well as the run that came before it by Seeley and Ferreyra. Both stories were highly entertaining and well done, and though they’re vastly different, it’s easy to believe these are the same characters living within the same universe and title.
Flagg. Waller’s cohersion of Rick Flagg, as well as his discovering the reason he’s imprisoned, was really enjoyable for me. There are endless possibilities for narratives based off of this foundation alone, and I’m excited to see the journey it takes us on. The concept of corruption, and the potential good that could come from it, should be a focus early on, and that too has endless potential.
Morals… Or Lack Thereof. This is the Squad I want to see! The team is on a mission to retrieve a bomb that can be used to turn ordinary humans into metahumans, and stop existing metahumans in their tracks by cancelling out their abilities. Consequently, they’re also on a mission to extract the guy who created the bomb so that the device can’t be recreated… So what means will the Squad take to complete their mission?
Well, naturally they’re open to the prospect of severing the creator’s hands so they can get the device, and aren’t afraid to put a bullet in his head to ensure he doesn’t create any more devices of this nature… ever.
Yep, it’s dark, twisted, and perfect!
The Bad: I mentioned Harley’s characterization already, as well as Deadshot’s mask, but one of the other things that really bothered me was the fact that we didn’t get to see Katana. Now, I will admit this is completely selfish on my end, but I’m really curious to see the context of her character in this title. I hope it matches the film’s plot for having her, and doesn’t turn her into a villain because she’s such a great character and hero that hasn’t been utilized properly for some time now.
- You’re a fan of Ostrander’s Suicide Squad.
- You’re into the crossing worlds or military and politics.
- You’ve been waiting for a darker, morally ambiguous Suicide Squad.
Overall: Does Suicide Squad Rebirth blow me away? No, but I’m ok with that because the book takes its time to develop characters, the immediate narrative, as well as dozens of other conflicts and plots that can come into play down the road. While this issue doesn’t take readers from zero to sixty, it clearly identifies itself, unapologetically sets the tone for future issues, and let readers know, “This is where we’re going, and we’re not going to shy away from controversial concepts.” So no, Suicide Squad isn’t perfect, but who wants “perfect” when you have something this damn good?