A short stay in Amanda Waller’s custody last week segue’s directly into this week’s long-awaited collision between the “Justicide Squeague” and the Wall’s original band of losers. The fight is a massive one, and before it’s all over, feelings will be hurt, alliances will be forged, and someone’s going to need some eye drops. Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #4—read on! Mild spoilers ahead
Fun covers a multitude of frustrations
This event will not be remembered as a masterpiece. I suspect that even its fans will not revisit it much in the future. The dialogue has been just okay at its high points, and pretty bad a lot of the time. And yet I largely enjoyed the first two issues, because for all of his shortcomings with dialogue, Williamson managed to tap into the enormous potential for fun that lies at the center of this series’s concept. Last week’s #3 was a downer—not least because of a sharp drop in the quality of the artwork—and even though the reading experience felt less awkward, I still had problems with characterization. Poor visuals, shaky character behavior, and—on top of those—the lack of any spectacle to drum up the sort of entertaining interactions that fueled #1 and #2 all combined for a fairly disappointing installment.
I’m happy to say that, this week, Williamson returns to form—maybe even that he achieves a better form than he had before. The dialogue isn’t perfect, but it is much improved. While there are a few lines that clearly exist for exposition alone (I’m looking at you, Emerald Empress), I find that things read far more naturally now. And while Batman isn’t what I would consider ideal, he also seems more recognizable. Williamson wisely milks characters like Harley and Boomerang, giving each of them strong moments of humor: whether it’s Digger’s incredulity at Flash refusing to kill monsters, or Harley staring into the face of Johnny Sorrow and walking away, unaffected. And though I wouldn’t say we need a dedicated Harley/Diana Wonder Twins book, I wouldn’t mind seeing their worlds intersect a bit more often for the occasional team-up. I had a lot of fun with them.
The “Ends-in-O” dingus
We also get our fullest look at Lord’s true purpose: the Eclipso Diamond, an artifact that—well, I’m still not entirely sure how it works or what (precisely) it does, but as far as I can tell, it makes the Justice League look like they go to the same dermatologist and ophthalmologist as Darkseid. Honestly,at first, I was a bit underwhelmed. I’m sure part of the problem is Pasarin’s take on it, but even considering that, this thing seemed like nothing more than an amplifier for Lord’s mind-control, that also happens to turn he and his drones really ugly.
With a bit of research, however, I’ve learned more about the diamond, and it is considerably more exciting than I first thought. Whereas, according to DC lore, the Spectre is the spirit of God’s vengeance, Eclipso is the spirit of God’s wrath, imprisoned in the “Heart of Darkness” (another name for the diamond). How precisely Max’s use of the artifact ties in, or how things will develop from here I cannot say. But this is way bigger than some special little trinket that makes Max a better manipulator, and I’ve a suspicion that we may see Eclipso released from the diamond before long. I finally have something I’m looking forward to in this event.
The artwork is a little better
I know there are folks who really like Fernando Pasarin’s work, and I’ll be the first to say that his layouts are quite good. I’ve enjoyed a number of his collaborations with Pete Tomasi, especially (most of) Gordon’s final few issues in the cowl at the end of the New 52 run of Detective Comics. But as good as his layouts may be, his finishes leave a lot to be desired. Character proportions are all over the place, everyone has a funny nose at one time or another, and his backgrounds are super-bland—when we’re lucky enough to get backgrounds at all. I would still say that the work here is noticeably better than Merino’s last week, but it’s nowhere near the quality that we had in issues one and two.
- You’ve been enjoying the series so far.
- You haven’t been enjoying the series so far, but you can look past the artwork for what is probably Williamson’s best script yet for this event.
- You like an emphasis on fun characters and interactions—like Harley and Wonder Woman, or Boomerang and Flash.
Artistic shortcomings prevent me from loving this, but a marked improvement in dialogue, focus, and interest allowed me to enjoy it quite a bit. Harley and Wonder Woman were a particular highlight, but Williamson did a better job across the board of playing to the strengths of his zanier characters and letting their personalities move things forward. The emergence of the Eclipso Diamond raises the stakes considerably, and for the first time since this all started, I’m eagerly waiting to see what happens next.