I’m really beginning to have a love/hate relationship with this arc of Suicide Squad. The whole, “Harley is the new field leader!” bit is beginning to get toned down (thankfully), but we unfortunately move from that focus to another one that feels equally as forced… The Squad going after Killer Frost and Batman.
This issue of Suicide Squad is filled with highs and lows. The highs stem from Williams craft as a writer, while the lows stem from what I can only assume is editorial throwing their weight around. I don’t know that, I’m just making an assumption. If I were to assess this entire issue in one word, it would have to be “manic.” The narrative jumps all over the place, piecing together a multitude of flashbacks with current events. The execution isn’t bad, it just doesn’t feel polished. As I’ve said many times before, I’ve come to expect tight, polished scripts from Williams.
If you’ve been tuning in every other week, then you know that Harley is now the field leader of the squad (shoot me), and Waller has come face to face with Karla and The People. Her brief meeting with Karla has inspired(?) her to venture out on a new approach, and she’s now turning her sites to stop, and ultimately control/ incarcerate, heroes… Her first targets: Killer Frost and Batman.
This entire approach is being presented as if it’s new, but it’s not… The Suicide Squad special leading into Rebirth made it clear that Waller wanted to rid the world of heroes if she couldn’t control them. And going back to the New 52, Geoff Johns’ Justice League of America (assembled by Waller) was created for the strict purpose of having a team to oppose the Justice League… Now don’t get me wrong, I like Waller thinking this way (hell, I have an entire pitch for a comic that relies on Waller having this mentality), but the approach to the story and the execution leave something to be desired.
Karla’s influence for Waller to suddenly decide to take action doesn’t feel natural. She’s been collecting information on our heroes ever since Justice League vs Suicide Squad, so why not act sooner? Also, I have to feel that jumping into a mission like this feels irresponsible considering we just wrapped up the Zod arc. The whole point of that arc was for Waller to realize the limits of her control and abilities, so I’m scratching my head as to why she’s now targeting heroes – some of which are equally powerful, if not more powerful, than Zod.
Reading through this issue felt like a tug-of-war of emotions and reactions. One moment I’m thinking, “Wow, that wasn’t done well at all…” then the next I’m thinking, “This is freaking great!” But notice I said “moments.” I’ve grown used to liking certain scenes or plots more than others, but these differences are often found within the same page. Drastic differences in quality coming at you that quickly, back-to-back creates a sense of whiplash.
It’s as if “Killing My Darling” is struggling to find its identity as a story. The narrative doesn’t know what it wants to be (or what story it should tell), and it’s struggling to gain traction to move in a cohesive direction. There are so many plots at this point, and nothing is catching or sticking. Something should have been saved for later. I mean, we’ve got Harley taking on the role as field leader, while she also tries to overcompensate for the loss of Flag. Boomerang’s betrayal was just revealed, and we practically “dealt” with it over the course of three to four pages. Waller has encountered Karla and The People – a meeting that’s turning out to be quite anticlimactic. The Squad are now going after Batman and heroes. And if all of that weren’t enough, there’s a slow burn of a story developing with Katana… It’s just too much, and each issue has put a focus – or split the focus – on each thread.
The problem here is that every one of these plots feel rushed and under-developed. Williams has done such a good job of exploring his ideas prior to this, that I’m sitting here wondering why we’re not exploring these plots in detail. I mean, there are interesting ideas here. As much as I hate the idea of Harley as field leader, there could’ve been an interesting narrative had Williams focused on her progressive unraveling throughout each mission… But we’re not getting that. We’re getting a rehash of the rather forgettable Justice League vs Suicide Squad…Literally. There are pages that are flashbacks of exact pages from that arc/it’s aftermath involving Batman, Waller, and Frost.
Then there’s Boomerang. Williams has been toying with the reveal of Boomer’s betrayal for months, and basically wrapped it up with Harley beating the crap out of him for a few panels. No real resolve, no emotion or progression… Just a beating. Then there’s The People… They’ve done nothing. So here we are, in this chapter, as Waller sends the Squad after Frost in what comes off as a petty attempt at vengeance. I’m sure there’s more to it than that, but we’re not seeing it here.
Stepping away from concept and motivations, there are some nice moments here. Williams expertly inserted some twists involving El Diablo, Batman, and Katana. I won’t go into detail here because they’re the only redeeming moments of this issue, but trust me when I tell you that they do play well… except for Katana’s. Her moment just rubs me the wrong way because it appears that DC is trying to convert her into a villain… And she actually refers to herself as a villain… Mmmm, no. Stop that, DC. Katana deserves better than that.
I wish I could say that the action was great considering there’s a solid dose of it here, but the art doesn’t really support that. In fact, the art is pretty bad most of the time. The characters come off stiff, and the faces are atrocious most of the time. Gus Vazquez appears to have potential, but his work is so inconsistent and unpolished from panel to panel that it makes it rather unbearable. Let’s hope for a new artist stat. Considering Williams’ scripts are falling a little short, Suicide Squad desperately needs strong art to help redeem itself.
Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.
Waller’s Secret Files. I love the idea that Waller is keeping, and expanding, secret files about Earth’s heroes. She and Batman are more alike than either ever really admit, it’s just their moral compass that differentiates them. While I like the concept of this, the execution in this chapter is unfortunately rather poor.
I’m Batman. We already know this, but Batman is a badass! Tapping into the brain bombs to take out the Squad is so brilliant, and completely something Batman would do. Easily the best moment of the entire book, and Harley’s reaction when she discovers what he’s doing is perfect! This alone redeems so much of this issue!
The Mission. When it comes down to it, this “mission” shouldn’t exist. It’s pointless and doesn’t ring true for Waller as a character. No matter how hard you try to compensate for that, you ultimately fail to overcome such a big issue. There are so many other plot points to deal with that are a core of Suicide Squad’s Rebirth run… Let’s focus on those.
Loss of Control. I understand why they’re focusing on control with Killer Frost, but this is something I want to see her work to do on her own, in her book (Justice League of America). Watching her struggle to be better will be more interesting than having Waller infect her so she’ll lose control.
Virus. Also, on the topic of this virus… If it’s supposed to make you lose control, then why isn’t El Diablo losing control? He’s over here whining about not feeling well, but he should be blazing rage fires all over the place. Ultimately, Diablo’s inclusion was strictly to provide a means to an end, and it wasn’t thought out very well.
Katana. I mentioned this above, but what the hell, DC? We’re going to blatantly call her a villain now? I get she’s working for the Squad and doing questionable things, but that’s basically her history… Even as a hero with The Outsiders and the Birds of Prey. I have no problem with other people wanting to view her as a villain, but having her call herself a villain (even if she is questioning her actions) is a total turn-off. Also, Batman wouldn’t lose track of her that easily, or get taken out by her that easily… Unless they’re still working together secretly, and he let her (which I would be ok with… I mean, that, too, is a part of my pitch… I might be biased though…).
- You were a fan of Justice League vs Suicide Squad.
- You love a good standoff between Batman and the Suicide Squad.
Overall: Based on what I know from this issue, I’d say skip it. I know, I know… It pains me to say that, but I feel like everything you need to know from this issue will be recapped in two weeks. There’s really nothing worth sinking your teeth into, and I doubt anything major will unfold from these events. If you do decide to purchase Suicide Squad #23, it’ll need to be for one redeeming moment with Batman.