Suicide Squad #38 review

Captain Prohaska, codenamed The Wall, is a super-soldier employed by the United States government. The character was first introduced in Suicide Squad #35. This guy has advanced stealth technology and even carries a small nuclear warhead as part of his arsenal. He also has an AI implanted in his brain so he can access military files pretty much anywhere and instantaneously. In issue #37 Prohaska finally got actively involved in the actual plot by neutralizing Hack, a technomancer type of supervillain. This issue, #38, is labeled as the start of a new arc, but I don’t consider it a good jumping on point for new readers. It definitely helps if you’ve read #35-37 for the full introduction on Prohaska and the state that Belle Reve and the Squad are in at the moment. Especially since this arc is a direct continuation of the previous one, and therefore reads like it’s still the same arc.

To begin with, the issue opens with a narration by Harley Quinn where she rants on about freedom. It’s told through captions and since we never actually see Harley during the narration, and neither does she play a large role in this issue, I’m not sure why it’s specifically her that’s saying this. While it does introduce a theme of freedom—which of course is relevant to the Squad because they are prisoners, and it also, in a way, comes back at the end of the issue—it also seems very preachy to me. Moreover, whereas the captions are supposed to make me read this in Harley’s voice, it very much feels like this isn’t necessarily the character’s opinion. Instead, it reads like Williams is using Harley as a mouth-piece here to voice some of his own concerns. I’m not saying that that is the case (because I can’t know for sure), but it really does seem like a rant on some things that are wrong with modern society rather than a solid thematic contribution to the story. It makes for a bit of a shaky start to the issue because it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, and it also puts the focus on very specific things that are never further developed over the course of the narrative.

Furthermore, although this issue is action-packed, it’s also very predictable and therefore a bit on the boring side. We meet Rick Flag on the White House lawn, along with a bunch of important government suits and the president himself (who’s obviously meant to be Donald Trump, what with his ridiculous combover and big talk). The scene mainly establishes Flag as Prohaska’s military handler as well as the dynamics between the two characters. Flag is a commander, stern and disciplined and trying to get everything to go according to plan. Prohaska is slightly less serious as he talks back at Flag whenever Flag is low-key threatening to crash him into a nearby field. Prohaska is to fly over the president and the others so the president can show off their newest super-soldier. But the moment he’s done, Prohaska’s attitude changes as he goes right back to business: he has a mission to accomplish.

The mission itself shows both to new readers as well as to characters in the story the extent of Prohaska’s abilities. On his own he manages to kill a whole bunch of enemies, which citizens—and anyone with an internet connection, for that matter—can check out in a live stream. This can also be read as some commentary on Donald Trump, who’s started building a wall around America, and who doesn’t think twice about publishing some dubious tweets. However, I’m not sure why these references to Trump are included in the narrative. Firstly, there’s nothing funny about it because it feels like beating a dead horse (it’s the same old story, with regards to Trump satire; making the same jokes over and over gets boring fast). Secondly, the comic could’ve started immediately with Prohaska attacking the enemies. It would’ve made for an action-packed opening, and I don’t think we would’ve missed out on anything essential. In short, the whole Trump stuff just feels redundant and unnecessary.

What’s more, the issue is very predictable in that most readers will probably see Prohaska’s brain AI problems coming from a mile away. After the mission, Prohaska suddenly flies off and doesn’t respond to Flag’s calls anymore. First they think he’s going to the White House, but then it turns out he’s heading for the Pentagon. Basically, he crashes through the roof and begins to download all the government’s records. The blue electricity sparking from his hand and touching the computers around him instantly reminds me of Hack, and although it’s not being revealed in this comic, I think it’s safe to say that she’s in Prohaska’s brain now. If this is indeed the case, then that means that we’re reading a comic where I can predict almost every next step in the story, and that’s detrimental to my attention span. Because of the predictability, I’m unable to get excited about the events as they unfold, despite there being so much action and the issue being paced incredibly fast. I’m hoping that Williams will be able to put in some plot twists in the following episodes, because as it stands I’m afraid this story is getting rapidly reduced to a snooze-fest.

Rick Flag himself is perhaps the most interesting character of all, if only because he’s actively trying to save the day. He doesn’t merely do this because of orders, but mostly operates from a moral standpoint. He shows concern for his men, and for Prohaska as well, as Flag understands that Prohaska is acting like this due to the AI in his brain malfunctioning. However, despite these benevolent qualities of Flag’s personality, he does come across as incredibly weary, frustrated and stressed out. Of course, given the circumstances, this is entirely understandable, but it also means that there’s nothing really likeable about him as he’s mostly depicted as a pessimistic guy fed up with everything. Since his mission is a chore to him, it’s also a bit of a chore for me to read about it.

What doesn’t exactly help to make this issue more interesting is the way the Squad members themselves are being written. Now, before you get the wrong idea, it’s not that the characters are badly written, not at all! They sound like themselves, and once more say the things that we’d expect them to say. But there we go again: it’s all so predictable! We see Belle Reve getting shut down and Waller acting all surprised about it. But after she blew up the prison’s main servers in the previous issues, and Hack took over the entire building, slaughtering personnel left and right in the process, I don’t really see how Waller could believe that they’re still up and running. Of course the Squad has to be moved to another prison, because obviously Belle Reve isn’t secure anymore. As the Squad is being escorted to aircrafts, each member passes by Waller and says something to her. For example, Deadshot immediately begins to threaten her because she blew up the servers to which he and the others were tied in #36. Boomerang cracks a stupid, sarcastic joke at her which is such a standard Boomerang remark that I just don’t find it funny anymore. But perhaps my biggest gripe with the scene is when June and Croc are separated from each other.

June panics as she’s being dragged off, even screaming how she can’t live without Croc. But as Croc is being led to his aircraft all he has to say is “Hungry…” It’s that same old joke once again, where Croc almost doesn’t have any personality beyond just being a big crocodile hungry for human flesh. Lastly, this entire scene failed to entertain me not only because the characters were written so by-the-books, but also because everything here feels so mandatory. Though I think the Squad being transported to another prison is significant enough to warrant a scene, the way it’s written now feels like it’s only here because the Squad just somehow has to be included in the comic. As such, it feels rather uninspired. On a more positive note, though, Flag and the Squad are finally reuniting and the Squad has a big mission ahead of them. Hopefully this will bring back the excitement and entertainment values that I expect from this title.

Look at those eyes.

On pencils and inking we have Tom Derenick. While I think he’s a capable artist, I can’t help but notice the inconsistencies in the way that he draws characters’ faces. They are always recognizable, but sometimes their eyes are too far apart, or their jaws are bigger, or their noses are smaller. Every time I see this, it takes me out of the story. Especially characters’ eyes are often rather creepy in the way that, sometimes (not always), each eye looks into a slightly different direction. But besides this, Derenick draws a very dynamic comic. The action sequences are easy to follow, and especially when he draws scenes where we see aircrafts speeding through the sky, he really manages to get that speed across. His inking is rather rough around the edges, but effective in that it fills in some details and helps to solidify the pencils. So, while I’m annoyed by some visual inconsistencies, overall he draws an okay action story, though it’s nothing to write home about.

Ulises Arreola provides colors this time, and while he has a nicely varied palette, I do think that the colors make the visuals look flat. I don’t really get a sense of depth, as if everything is placed on the same layer. While there’s nothing essentially wrong with the colors that he chooses, it’s that flatness that makes for a bit of a dull look overall.

Recommended if…

  • You’re just looking for a quick read, even if it’s very predictable

  • You want to see more of Rick Flag because he’s been taking a backseat as of late

Overall: This is a really fast read and there’s not much here to analyze, but sometimes that’s all that’s necessary in order to enjoy a story. However, with the high level of predictability, the story feels rather uninspired and it takes away from the entertainment value. Although the next issue could be a lot of fun due to the Squad’s upcoming mission, I can’t really recommend #38 based on its own merits, even if it sets up a potentially fun next chapter. This is an average comic at best. So my advice is to wait and see what the next review will be like.

Score: 5/10