Oh, Suicide Squad, how you’ve fallen from grace. You literally went from being one of Rebirth’s top titles, to completely pointless thanks to this arc/issue…
Before Rebirth launched, I had no faith in Suicide Squad. The previous runs of Suicide Squad were mostly horrendous, so that alone made me weary. On top of that, I wasn’t familiar with Rob Williams’ work, and the structure in which he’d be writing his stories due to Jim Lee’s schedule concerned me… Surprisingly, the book had a solid debut, then slowly built upon itself issue by issue to become one of my favorite titles.
Rob Williams expertly crafted stories that balanced genres, characters, and action perfectly, while clinching tightly onto the theme of consequences. I would dare say, Rob Williams’ Suicide Squad was nearly perfect. We then reached “Kill Your Darlings” where it appeared that trend would continue. Everything that Williams had been building to over the past year lay at our feet, ready to be explored. Naturally, we eagerly answered… only to endure week after week of being let down – “Death Over Slavery,” the conclusion of “Kill Your Darlings,” serving as the biggest let-down of them all…
The People – who were introduced in the first arc and have had a presence in the title ever since – have revealed themselves and their plan to Amanda Waller. The goal? Return earth to humanity by killing metahumans… or heroes. Those details have been foggy. Anyway, the People have followed Waller’s lead to create Suicide Squads in nearly every country, and with Waller at his side, Director Karla has launched an all-out war on metahumans/ heroes. This issue delivers the beginning of that battle…
…and also the end. How’s that for a big middle finger to the past year’s worth of stories?
I wish I could say that I found something redeeming in this issue (or the entire arc for that matter), but I can’t. “Kill Your Darlings” has been a mess of a story. From Harley’s promotion to field leader, to the discovery of Boomerang’s betrayal, to not-Waller sending the Squad after Batman and Killer Frost… There’s been no clear focus or direction. The best way to describe the narrative is “manic.”
That remains true here. Harley is over-glorified yet again. Don’t get me wrong, I like Harley, but her representation in this arc is terribly unbelievable. To make matters worse, the focus on her saving the day is so strong that there’s hardly any reason to have the rest of the Squad involved at all. The only other characters with any type of weight in this issue are Amanda Waller and perhaps Katana. The entire issue feels like the Harley Super Hero Show with constant reminders that the Squad are actually bad guys… A repetition that I hated in DC’s Suicide Squad film. Yes, yes… We get it… They’re bad guys and they’re saving the day. Move on.
After leaving off in the previous issue with missiles heading straight for Batman and Frost, there’s surprisingly very little for them to do in this issue. Williams pretty much reminds us of that “threat” before abruptly resolving it. This is followed by one abrupt resolve after another: Goulag. Waller. Katana. Boomerang. The People. Karla. The multiple squads…. Williams “addresses” (I use that word lightly) a number of plots, but none of it feels remotely satisfying. In fact, most of these are wrapped up with a single panel or page.
Sadly, the main element that made Williams’ earlier stories so impactful – consequences – is nowhere to be found. If I didn’t know better, I’d assume this entire arc was written by a completely different writer. “Kill Your Darlings” is a mess of unimpressive plots, but “Death Before Slavery” is just unapologetically bad.
There is a tease at the end of this issue to set up the next arc. Initially, I found myself excited, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it really just f’d up continuity… big time… I’m calling it now folks, Suicide Squad #25 is the nail in the coffin for Rob Williams’ runS. I can’t see myself becoming invested in Suicide Squad again unless there’s a drastic change. Shame.
The Art: Giuseppe Cafaro is on art duties. His work is good enough, but he’s incredibly inconsistent. It’s most notable with Harley’s face and Waller’s physique – she appears to shed and gain weight from panel to panel. This is probably my biggest callout though, and for the sake of fairness, I am comparing Giuseppe to the artists that came before him, so he has big shoes to fill.
I did like the look of his characters most of the time though, and his panels contained a nice energy to them. I also feel as though he could work on the story-telling aspect of his art. If he improves on consistency and storytelling, then I think he’ll be a welcomed addition to any title.
Breakdowns for this issue can be found in the spoiler tag.
I Am Worthy. The only redeeming moment for me in this entire issue, is Katana’s “I am worthy” moment. As nice as it is to see her character shun the slow decline of her honor, we don’t get any follow-up in this issue. She doesn’t leave the team, or demand to be leader, or anything… She essentially has her moment, then falls back in line… Maybe I should move this to “The Bad”…
The Title. “Death Before Slavery.” Williams makes the title an actual plot point in this issue, but I have a problem with it because it’s not true. All of the characters mention they’ll accept death before slavery to Waller… Yet they all fall back in line by the end of the issue. Hell, Boomerang even came back from Russia to be with the team before making this stand… I know the characters aren’t going to commit suicide (we wouldn’t have a book then), but it’s pointless to have them make this stand if at least one of them doesn’t take some form of action.
Harley. Enough of “Special Ops Leader Harley.” I want to return her character to the more traditional approach. When it comes down to it, she should physically be the least threatening character out of all of the characters. The way she’s written at the moment suggests the opposite.
Boomerangs Will Do What Boomerangs Do. Talk about a total let down! After creating one of the best moments in Suicide Squad by killing Hack and revealing that he’s been communicating with The People, Boomerangs arc ultimately happens within a few, short pages. The conclusion of his personal conflict with the team is wrapped up within a few mere panels. It’s embarrassing how well this plot thread was built up, compared to how it was executed.
The People. What a freaking let down! We were teased with an organization similar to Waller’s Task Force X operating in Russia during the first arc. In fact, this organization had gotten their hands on Zod, and originally had Hack in their ranks. They managed to get two – yes, two – spies into Waller’s ranks (Harcourt and Boomerang). The Squad then learned that the reach of this organization went much further than just Russia, but the entire world. They then took control of Waller and began their assault on heroes… In the same issue that The People begin their worldwide assault, it ends. Williams has literally been building this war up for a year, only to start it and end it within a single issue. As a reader and fan, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to experience that! I’m not sure if the fault for this should be directed towards Williams or editors, but it’s a big pile of crap. Fans deserve better. This issue should have been the start of that war. Instead, every single threat is killed off, and it’s all explained in roughly three or four panels. What a joke.
Flag. Hey! It’s Rick Flag! He’s alive! Ya- Wait… Did Karin Grace just say that they’re all that’s left of the original Suicide Squad? What about Rustam’s squad? This page better be a flashba- Wait, Waller didn’t meet Flag until she pulled him for prison, and brought him onto the Squad… Which was the start of Rebirth… Come on DC!
- You want the cold realization that the past year has been a total waste.
- You like the Harley Show.
- You’re looking for a reason to get angry.
Overall: Readers and fans should be pissed. With one issue, Williams completely undoes everything that’s been building for more than a year now. All of my praise about Williams’ ability to play into consequences… Yeah, I take that back. All of it! If you’re reading trades, stop with the Zod arc. Just stop there. “Kill Your Darlings,” specifically this issue, is insanely frustrating for anyone who feels invested in the narrative.