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The first major crossover event of the Rebirth era has arrived! As we saw at the end of the first Batman arc, the Dark Knight has plenty of justification for disliking Amanda Waller. And so when the League learns that the Wall’s Task Force X is mixing it up in the island nation of Badhnisia, they rush in to intervene. But there are darker forces at work, and one gets the feeling that it’s only a matter of time before the interests of the League and the Squad align. [if you haven’t read this week’s Batman and Justice League titles, you might want to do that before picking up this one—there are some elements that make a bit more sense if you’ve read those two]

Fun and dangerous

As a kick-off, Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #1 (hereafter JLVSS) does a great job of introducing the major players in interesting ways: a breakout, a mission, and an intervention. The power set of the real bad guys seems legitimately threatening, though I don’t know enough about them to say whether or not it should require the combined might of the League and the Squad to take them down. At any rate, they’re bad people, and I’m sure I’ll have no conflicting feelings about who I’d like to see prevail.

The Squad’s mission to Badhnisia is what makes this book work, and not just because it occupies most of the pages. Williamson’s dialogue is its best in the Squad-only scenes, and the characters all feel just right. I was particularly entertained by Harley and Boomerang, who each had quite a few hilarious lines (Harley also set up a nice one for Croc to cash in). I’m not a veteran of Task Force X stories, but I’ve been reading the current series, and know enough about them to sound intelligent, and this feels like the right tone—the Squad is known for punching above its weight and inexplicably managing to make it out alive (well, some of it, anyway), and this mission fits that mold.

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Unfortunately, the entrance of the League into the narrative brings things down a bit. As the team discusses the Squad, the dialogue feels far less natural than what we read on the ground in Badhnisia, as though Williamson is trying just a bit too hard to give everyone a chance to speak. In addition, he uses words and phrases like “team-up” and “villain” that I usually encounter in writing about comics rather than within modern comics themselves. Perhaps if the artwork were a bit more playful (which is not really in Jay Fabok’s wheelhouse), it would be easier to give the dialogue some wiggle room, but the sternness of the lines suggests a stern interpretation.

There’s also a bit of continuity incongruity, as Batman says that he “saw firsthand how destructive [the Suicide Squad] can be” during his mission to Santa Prisca. But if you’ve been reading Batman (and if you’re not, seriously, what are you doing here?), you know that the mission to snatch the Psycho Pirate from Bane, while born of a conversation and agreement with Waller, did not directly involve her band of explosively coerced villains. It’s not a huge deal within this story, but this seems like something editorial should have caught.

In the same scene, Lantern Cruz is among those assembled in the Watchtower. While she did rejoin the League temporarily in this week’s Justice League #11, she was pretty clear about her desire to only show up when they need her help. A strategic meeting about Waller and Task Force X doesn’t seem to line up with what she was talking about. If you dropped Justice League (an understandable decision) before she quit, you wouldn’t even know she was no longer part of the team. Again, this doesn’t wreck JLVSS, but if you’re going to cross over properties, you should take the time to get the details right.

It looks great, but I’m not sure it looks right

I reckon most of us were thrilled to see Fabok attached to this book when it was announced, and disappointed to discover that he wouldn’t be pencilling the whole thing. Now that we have an issue to look at, I can say that it’s wonderful getting to enjoy his talents once more. His layouts are a perfect balance of character and setting, and as an artist capable of remarkable detail, he shows equally remarkable restraint when required. Among artistic realists, I don’t think there’s anyone in comics who is as consistently successful as Fabok, and his figure work and character faces have actually managed to mature since we last enjoyed them in Darkseid War.

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Colorist Alex Sinclair replaces Fabok’s usual collaborator, Brad Anderson, and the difference is striking. Whereas Anderson’s finishes tended toward a flatter, grimmer aesthetic, Sinclair offers a gloss and a vitality that I haven’t seen paired with Fabok before.

For all of Fabok’s prowess, I’m not sure his style is the right fit for this. His cold, dour characters were on the money for his New 52 work, but after one chapter, it seems to me like JLVSS would benefit from something less grim. Fabok’s characters seldom smile, and when they do, it lacks warmth—clouded by uncertainty, evil, or both. There’s really only one spot in the book where he nails the tone, and it’s this gem of a page:

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So yeah, it’s hard to criticize Fabok’s work on its own, because it shows a remarkable level of technical proficiency and directorial instinct; but I felt a disconnect between the nature of the story and the nature of the artwork throughout. It didn’t ruin it for me, but it’s not quite the homerun (I think) it could have been.

Recommended if…

  • You’ve missed Jason Fabok and want to stare at his gorgeous artwork whether you like what’s happening in the story or not.
  • You like the concept and chemistry of Task Force X.
  • You’re curious about the team of super-baddies that have been revealed online and in other marketing (there’s not a whole lot on them this time, but enough to whet your appetite).

Overall

A pretty good start to Rebirth’s first major crossover event, JLVSS #1 benefits greatly from the inherent levity of Task Force X, as well as smartly-written Squad dialogue from Williamson. While I’m not convinced Fabok was the right artist for the job, his work is nonetheless breathtaking, and pairing him with Alex Sinclair is an editorial master stroke. Pick it up for a good time with the Squad and a fat stack of beautiful pages.

SCORE: 7.5/10