Oh my squad, now this is a suicide mission! It’s the Suicide Squad vs Zod… or as I’m referring to it, Suicide Squad #3: the issue where people fall in love with Katana. After last month’s cliffhanger, I was eager to get my hands on this book! Did it deliver? In some ways, yes. In some ways, no. There were moments that took me back to issue 1 and made me question Williams’ direction, and then there were moments of epic proportion that made me want to stand up and yell obscenities out of sheer joy.
“The Black Vault”
If you haven’t read Suicide Squad #2, then stop reading now because it’s about to be spoiled for you. The moment Zod appeared and killed Boomerang, all I kept thinking was, “There’s no way anyone on the Squad can stop him!” It’s a very similar reaction to the one I had when I first heard about Justice League vs Suicide Squad. I mean, you’ve got a freaking kryptonian, and a team that’s been stopped by Batman singled handedly! How in the hell will they ever stand a chance? That answer is easy: magic. But the successor here may not be who you think it is.
Nearly the entire chapter of “The Black Vault” is action, so you should be prepared for that. It’s an incredibly fast read, and never really slows to let you catch your breath. If action is your thing, then you’re in for a real treat here! Most of the action is entertaining, but there were a few moments where I questioned the creative team on their decisions for the sequence (more on this in the breakdowns).
If you’re coming into this issue hoping for more plot progression, then I hate to disappoint you, but it’s not here. There’s not a whole lot of character development either, aside from Hack – the Harley fanatic they found in the cell. Other than that, Harley is the only other character that really gets to show off a bit of her personality here, that isn’t expressed through her fighting style. I’m not too upset about the lack of plot progression or character development though. Williams and Lee came in intending to deliver a big fight, and they did quite successfully. They also tried to follow their formula from last week – something I’ve endearingly referred to as the “Lost formula” – by ending the issue with a reveal/ cliff hanger. Last week, they knocked out of the park. This week’s attempt, however, was more like a bunt…
The Art: Let’s be honest, I don’t think any of us ever expected to see the Suicide Squad fighting Zod, so it’s pretty spectacular to watch it unfold. Lee is on his game here as well – not that we expect anything less from him. His art style is a little over the top and detailed at times, but it works perfectly for an action heavy issue like this. Lee is a legend for a reason, so sometimes it’s best to just let his work speak for itself.
Breakdowns for “The Black Vault” can be found in the spoiler tag.
Harley. I’m still enjoying Harley, which is a nice surprise since my original concern going into this was that Williams didn’t have a grasp on her as a character. She’s not necessarily as psychotic under his pen as she is with other writers, but Williams has managed to create a nice balance of sane/crazy that’s fun to read. I got a good laugh when Harley was the smart one who decided to run from the fight with Zod, only to encounter a team of soldiers, and turn tail back to the Squad. It felt like a classic Harley move, and made for a nice moment.
Hack. Hack is another character that I’m enjoying. We don’t know much about her, but I’m interested to learn. I didn’t respond to well when she mentioned being the “most dangerous supervillain” because it felt out of character from what we’ve seen (and a little too “Evil League of Evil”), but anyone who would cover themselves in Harley Quinn tattoos is worth learning about. I hope Williams and Lee keep her around for a while rather than make her cannon fodder. I could see Hack’s fate going either way at this point.
Katana. The MVP for this issue is easily Katana! I was beginning to grow anxious that this issue was beginning to slide down a slippery slope back to poor quality (see my review for Suicide Squad #1) until Katana stepped in. I mean, she held off Zod on her own! That’s freaking awesome! I’m sure some people will scoff about this moment, complain that it could never happen, etc, but I disagree. There’s so much about the soultaker that we don’t fully understand. Let’s not forget, Waller originally selected Katana for the Justice League of America to take on Wonder Woman, and in a previous continuity, Katana was able to stand toe-to-toe with mystical powerhouses that rivals Shazam… You might think she’s an ordinary human with an expertise in martial arts and swordsmanship, but she’s WAY more than that!
Killer Croc Puking. Ok, so he didn’t puke in this issue, but it was referenced! That still counts in my book!
Enchantress. I’m going to put this lightly… Enchantress is turning out to be a waste of space. She’s such a powerhouse, but there’s only a two percent chance you’re going to actually get the almighty witch. I thought Williams was going to play this, in a way that June Moon was helpless, and you weren’t guaranteed to get the Enchantress, but when you did, she was going to kick ass. So there’s this build up to the Enchantress here, and I’m getting all kinds of excited because I’m expecting her to let loose on Zod, then all we get is a ridiculous monologue. Seriously? Someone kill her so we can get a more valuable team member.
Uneven Powers. Earlier I mentioned aspects of the fight not sitting well with me, and it comes from how unevenly Zod’s powers are represented. In the previous issue, Zod’s eye beams disintegrated Boomerang. In this issue, he lays a full blast into Croc and also delivers a blast to Deadshot… and both of them get back into the fight without any mortal damage. It’s not a major issue, but it did bother me a little.
The reveal. I’m going to be honest with you guys… I have no clue who these characters are that show up at the end. I am sick today, and my mind if a complete fog, but none of this registered and I felt like it should have considered their reveal was a spread for the final page… Or perhaps they aren’t established characters, and the “big reveal” is that there are even more powered challenges awaiting the Suicide Squad. Either way, I didn’t feel like the punch landed.
“The Black Vault” Overall: Williams and Lee continue to win my favor with “The Black Vault.” The story is highly entertaining, and the heavy action allows the pace to fly at the speed of light. Every time I become concerned about a direction the story is taking, Williams surprises me a nice shake-up, and regains my full attention. I have NO CLUE what’s in store for the Squad, and I like that feeling. It’s difficult to create a sense of “anything can happen” when you feature a team of established characters such as this roster, but somehow Williams and Lee are keeping me on the edge of my seat.
“The Black Vault” Score: 7.5/10
This week’s short features Katana. You all know that I’ve had some pretty unkind words towards Katana’s treatment lately, mainly because writers can’t seem to provide a good depiction of her. Ann Nocenti’s Katana was an odd snooze fest, and Mike Barr’s Suicide Squad’s Most Wanted: Katana was somehow even worse… But “Choose” is a completely different story. From the first panel, I knew I was going to be happy with this short. I’ve spent months praising Katana as a character, while crossing my fingers and hoping for the best. I’m certain a number of readers that aren’t familiar with Katana are skimming my reviews and thinking, “What in the hell is this guy talking about? She’s a cool sword fighter… Big woop. I don’t see what’s so special.” Well, if you thought that, “Choose” is the tip of the iceberg of what makes Katana special.
The format for this spotlight matches that of Deadshot and Boomerang’s prior to this issue. Waller is conducting an evaluation of sorts to check on her asset. In this case, it’s a little different though. We learn that Katana is here voluntarily, and in an interesting change of pace, Waller doesn’t have the answers. She doesn’t know why Katana is here, and that bothers her, but you can tell she trusts her – as much as Waller can trust anyone.
The story brilliantly dips into two subjects that readers who are unfamiliar with Katana need to know: her past and the soultaker. Katana’s backstory is one of the more tragic ones in the DC Universe. Understanding everything she’s endured and been through greatly helps understand her demeanor. She is a killing machine, but she does so with a sense of honor… Unfortunately, it’s an honor that she grew to understand because of loss. Rob Williams and Phillip Tan barely begin to scratch the surface here, but it’s enough that readers should want more development over time.
In addition to Katana’s backstory, this short also explains her sword, the soultaker a little further.
We all know that this isn’t an ordinary sword, but the extent of what it really is remains to be a mystery. Here, we at least get to gain a better understanding of its abilities, as well as part of its history. There’s so much that can be explored with Katana as a character, as well as the soultaker, that I honestly hope this is a sign that Williams is setting up for much greater things. Especially with how he ended this story.
“Choose” Overall: This is a great short story! I wish we could go back in time and have Rob Williams write the Katana mini instead of Barr, and let him tell “Choose” over the course of six issues! It would’ve served as the perfect set-up for Suicide Squad, and would have prevented Katana’s brand from being tarnished by poor storytelling. I don’t want to complain though. I’m happy with this story, and I’m glad it showcases Katana in a light that she deserves!
“Choose” SCORE: 9/10
Suicide Squad #3 SCORE: 8/10