Battleground Badhnisia! Last week, the League and the Squad clashed on the shores of this small island nation, while Maxwell Lord and his band of sinister escapees did some evil plotting somewhere far off. The battle heats up (and cools down) in this week’s Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #2.
Now that everyone knows everyone, howzabout everyone tells everyone who everyone is?
I’m going to try to get the bad out of the way up front, because in spite of just how bad the bad is, it isn’t bad enough to make this whole issue bad. But it’s bad.
With a few exceptions, the dialogue this week is an utter waste of letterer Rob Leigh’s time and talent. Both in Badhnisia and in the Swiss Alps—where Max and co. continue to plot in most sinister fashion—the text teems with clunky exposition. We get almost every character’s name in dialogue, there’s backstory dropped in dialogue between two characters who already know the backstory, and powers and weaknesses are exposed in dialogue for no reason other than that Williamson wants the reader to know about it. But it’s not as though expositional dialogue fails some comic book checklist that I keep in my head. The problem isn’t a personal preference. The problem is that the desire to convey information ends up trumping the desire to craft believable dialogue, and characters interact in completely unnatural ways. Here are a few examples:
Character name AND superpower—BONUS POINTS!
“Gee, thanks Cyborg. I had forgotten what turned me into a freakish, murderous ice-witch.”
More like “Amnesia Bay,” amirite?
“I’m the World’s Greatest Detective Lawton. Let me tell you some of the things I’ve detected about you.”
Making matters worse, Williamson writes Batman terribly in this installment. He tells Deadshot that he’ll never be more than a killer—that the good the Squad has done won’t take back the lives Floyd’s taken. And yet in this continuity, back in Gotham, Batman has a murderous shape-shifting clay monster on his team. A Batman that doesn’t believe in redemption is inconsistent with the character’s past, but he’s also terribly inconsistent with the character’s present. Williamson should never have written this line, but editorial should never have let him keep it after he did. Batman also spends a lot of air egging Lawton on (“it’s a shame that she’ll always know you’re nothing but a hired gun” is just one example), a battle tactic that likewise seems utterly foreign to the Dark Knight. Certainly, he has at times “told it like it is” while finishing a villain off (he did it at least a few times a year during Snyder’s run), but this sort of knife-twisting that he’s doing with Deadshot isn’t his style.
So yeah, that was pretty terrible. How does that not wreck the entire enterprise?
I promised that the bad doesn’t weigh down the rest of the book, bad as the bad is, and even after writing that section above and wallowing in the muck, I stand by my earlier statement. How can I? Because JLVSS #2 still manages to deliver on what you would expect from a crossover between these two teams: lots of fun, larger-than-life action. Most of the credit for this goes to Tony Daniel, whose pencils are in absolute top form. I lamented his lack of a decent shot of Superman in the first arc of Bryan Hitch’s Justice League, but there’s no room for such a complaint here. Superman—and every other character in the book—looks great, and with Florea’s clean inks and Sinclair’s bright gloss, I would venture to say that I actually prefer the aesthetic of this week’s installment to what we saw last time. Daniel’s facial work has a lightness that Fabok never approaches, and while there’s a place for grim character work, I find it burdensome when it’s all you get.
Williamson, for all of his error documented above, contributes to the fun, as well. Enchantress has been one of my favorite characters in the main Suicide Squad book for her over-the-top, sneering insults, and her response to Superman when he attempts to rescue June is priceless:
There are other funny bits, as well, but I wouldn’t want to spoil them for you. Suffice it to say that Williamson doesn’t waste his opportunities with Croc, Harley, or the rookie Lanterns.
There are some well-scripted points of intensity, too. Aquaman thinks that using sea creatures against Croc is a good idea, but Croc quickly vetoes that thought by tearing a great white in half. And Killer Frost, while the newest member of the Squad and the most reluctant, is the author of the most literally and metaphorically chilling moments in the book. If nothing else, Williamson has successfully piqued my interest about Frost’s inclusion in the upcoming Justice League of America ongoing.
How about those variant covers?
If you’re picking this up from your local comic shop, be on the look out for variants, featuring Superman and Enchantress. I didn’t love the Rebirth one-shot variants against stark white backgrounds, but I’m digging what Conner, Martin, and the Dodsons came up with for these:
- You like the concept of this crossover and want to have some fun with it.
- You can overlook horrendous dialogue.
- You enjoy Tony Daniel’s character aesthetics and want to see him in top form.
The bad in Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #2 is downright terrible. It would sink the whole thing, but when it’s fun and exciting, it’s really fun and exciting. Daniel and Florea’s excellent line work and Sinclair’s colors are a helpful distraction during the dialogical doldrums, and Williamson generates ample interest in Killer Frost and Max Lord’s anti-Waller squad to keep this from being nothing more than a good time. It’s not great, but it’s decent, and if you can pick up one of the two excellent variants, the dollar upcharge is easier to justify.