I’m going to be honest, Rob Williams did not have an easy job in writing this story… assuming he was told the parameters of what he needed to write, and what he could/ couldn’t disclose by his editors. But don’t worry, this review isn’t going to be a giant excuse for the issue’s “shortcomings” simply because I’m a fan of Williams. While I do feel that a number of the problems found in this issue are at the fault of the editors, Williams also has his fair share of opportunities. Don’t assume this is all bad though. Williams does what he can, when he can, and his interpretation of Lobo is worth the purchase on its own!
Depending on how you feel about the concept that Lobo, Rustam, Emerald Empress, and team were the first Suicide Squad could make or break this issue for you. Why? Because this issue covers their first and only mission. I’m not too fond of the idea that Waller had this “first team” to begin with – for many reasons – so I had hesitations out of the gate. And I don’t have hesitations because of the team members, I just have a hard time understanding why Waller would only use them for one mission, then burry them as a consequence/ to protect herself… It just doesn’t add up.
When all is said and done, Williams accomplishes the same thing with this issue that Williamson did in Justice League vs Suicide Squad #3… but with much more finesse. Since this story is a one-and-done telling of the original Squad’s first mission, a chunk of the issue is spent showcasing the characters and their abilities. This is where the repetition comes into play. Williamson exposed these details through (terrible) dialogue and exposition, while Williams makes a point to show rather than tell. I can’t stress how much this means to me! Instead of defining these characters by what they can do, he chooses to instead define them by revealing what they want. Some are after money, some are searching for information to track others, and some have hidden agendas. As for their abilities, we get to witness what each of these characters are capable of during the mission. There’s no cheesy set-up or dialogue to explain it, they just slaughter people in ways that only these characters can. Had we not already been privy to these details, this book, overall, would’ve been much more enjoyable. Unfortunately, JL vs SS had to taint these revelations for me.
Concerning the mission, it’s what you would expect from Williams, and that’s a good thing. His story, while a little rushed, is engaging and contains the right amount of suspense. There are enough twists in the plot to hold your attention, but don’t expect any earth shattering revelations. The Squad is sent to stop an international threat, but as always, Waller didn’t give them all of the information, and their actual mission unveils itself naturally.
Continuity does come into play more than once though. Despite the fact that this is this Squad’s first and only mission, there are references that Rustam has been working for Waller for some time – as referenced by both characters. It comes across as though he’s been serving as some sort of general for Waller, similar to Flag and Katana, rather than operating as a criminal. In fact, he even shows shock when introduced to his team members, and makes a point to challenge Waller’s plan. I’m not familiar with Rustam, but this alone endeared me to the character, and intrigued me as well.
Just when I thought things were going well, I immediately became confused. The other Squad members ask about a character, who Waller then refers to as the “newest member.” If this team has never been on a mission, then how is there a new guy, and why are the villains familiar with one another? It’s not a big issue, but it came across as not being well thought out… Which slowly becomes a recurring problem.
The biggest opportunity with this story is ultimately Waller’s arc. The narrative is presented as though you are reading/ hearing a classified case file of this team’s creation and downfall. It’s supposed to reveal Waller’s learning from this team’s mission, but everything falls flat… comes up short… doesn’t quite meet the bar. However you want to describe it, the narrative doesn’t seem to land. Most of this is because the climax doesn’t feel bad enough for Waller to cover it up… At least not in comparison to what we’re seeing her do now. Plus, in all of this, she has some sort of false epiphany because of this mission. More on that later.
Aside from the questionable narrative choices, there’s not much else to be disappointed with. When all is said and done, you can’t help but enjoy the issue because the characters themselves are presented so well. As expected, Lobo steals the show! Williams took advantage of his opportunity, and threw in as many Lobo-isms as he could without it being obnoxious. But every character is represented well given the few pages and lack of an actual spotlight. Unfortunately, the one thing that lingers throughout this entire tie-in, is the same thing that has been plaguing the entire event… it doesn’t feel big enough to qualify as an “event,” and I’m concerned it may never get there.
The Art: Riley Rossmo covers art duties for this issue. If his name sounds familiar, and his work looks familiar, it’s probably because you recognize it from “Night of the Monster Men.” Overall, I’m hit and miss with his art. There are times where I feel like it works really well, and I enjoy the textures and stylization that Rossmo presents. But then I become aware of how inconsistent the art is from panel to panel, and I can’t help but notice the glaring differences in a character’s features. Thankfully, Pat Brosseau delivers some exceptional work with colors, that help this issue stand out.
The Good: The mission. As expected, Williams delivers on a mission that is entertaining and fun to read! There’s action, brutality, suspense, and twists. You can’t really ask for much more than that. I also particularly enjoyed the setup involving Cyclotron as the failsafe, and the fact that the Jangsun powered his “gods” through the life force of his citizens. They were two fantastic twists for the plot.
Lobo. Whenever I see that Lobo’s going to be part of a story, I tend to get really excited. Then, the pessimist in me thinks, “Wait… What if this author doesn’t portray him well?” That’s exactly what I thought going into this issue, and it was a stupid fear to have… Because Lobo is awesome under Williams pen! I mean, a metahuman rips Lobo’s arm off, then Lobo uses it to beat other people! You’ve got that, “bastiche,” him referencing Waller as “God,” and much, much more… including flicking a guy’s nose through his head!
The Bad: Cover up. I’m not quite sure why Waller feels the need to cover all of this up. She initially wants to retreat when she discovers that Jangsun’s citizens are being killed as the Squad kills his gods… but I can’t seem to swallow this considering Waller has never shown any compassion or care towards civilian lives up to this point. We’ve read mission after mission where tons of lives have been taken because of the Squad’s actions… so why is this so different? I would argue that she had remorse during these days, but it becomes evident that isn’t the case by the end of the issue… So what’s the point? Had she just left a mass of bodies, the Squad could have returned successfully without anyone ever knowing.
Control. The “lesson” Waller apparently learns at the end of this issue, is control… But this also makes no sense. She brags about her ability to control people, and influence them to her will. I think we’re supposed to believe that she never had control of this first team, and that’s why she turns to the neck bombs… so she can control her Squad. But she had control of this Squad. Cyclotron was her leverage. He was the bomb. When the Squad started going off course, she used her bomb… There’s no actual lesson here. The only relevance, is the fact that she knows these villains will kill her if they have the chance, and that’s why she puts them under ground… (And they wouldn’t even be a threat now had she taken necessary measures to move them after Lord influenced her to get their location.) The holes are starting to show through, and I’m worried this might be the beginning.
- You want to learn about Waller’s first Squad.
- You’re enjoying Justice League vs Suicide Squad.
- You like Lobo, you bastiche!
Overall: There are many aspects worth enjoying, and a few that highlight the issues of this event. Williams delivers great dialogue alongside a decent story, but the glossed over details might leave you wanting more.