In my opinion, Suicide Squad hadn’t been that great lately. The book’s quality suffered from predictable storytelling, plot holes and character interactions that, to me, felt more mandatory than natural. But, since the previous arc came to a close, I’ve been looking forward to this new arc with a more optimistic mindset. A new story means it’s possible to move away from all the problems that the previous episodes had. So is #41 a success? Let’s have a look.
The premise of this story is actually rather basic: Deadshot’s daughter has been kidnapped; Deadshot himself is in Belle Reve; Batman is breaking Deadshot out of jail to help him rescue his daughter. Whereas basic sometimes means that it still needs a little more work, I’d say that, in this case, it’s actually a really good start. In previous installments it bothered me when the Suicide Squad went into open, public spaces to deal with big threats (such as Damage and Hack), wrecking cities in the process. I argued that the threat level and the scope were just too large for a secret black ops unit like the Suicide Squad. Someone is bound to find out, and once that happens it’s all not so secret anymore, which then beats the Squad’s (and the book’s) purpose. So what works in #49’s favor is that the scope is a lot smaller, and is mostly set inside Belle Reve. It gives the story a much more clandestine atmosphere, fitting for a book about the secretive Task Force X.
The issue opens with Deadshot sitting in his cell, and we read his inner monologue. While there isn’t a lot of new information here for long-time readers, it’s still nice to have the inner monologue because it establishes Deadshot’s predicament—his daughter has been kidnapped. By having this right at the start, a sense of urgency is introduced which sets the tone for the rest of the story, and which plays into Batman’s motivation for helping Deadshot. Williams does a good job of keeping this tone consistent as well. Whereas it takes a while for Batman and Deadshot to really team up and get moving, I’d say that that is in fact a sign of a good build up. If Batman is to break someone out of a high security jail, the creative team better take the time to show this to us, from start to finish.
Batman is portrayed well for the most part. We see him as his confident self; he’s thinking on his feet; he’s implementing contingency plans; he’s taking out several small squads on his own as he makes his way through Belle Reve; and to top it all off, he manages to do so without the security systems picking him up. It’s a nearly flawless infiltration. It’s straight-forward and fast-paced, and very entertaining because it moves along so smoothly. There’s even a bit of room for a couple jokes, which balance out the book’s tense premise. However, I do have some complaints about Batman’s entrance.
Batman comes in flying at night with a hang-glider. If Belle Reve’s security systems really are that advanced, surely they’d be able to pick up that someone is flying over. Granted, it’s at night and Batman is wearing a dark outfit, but at the same time I can’t help but feel like it’s all too easy. If Batman can get in like this, then basically anyone with a glider or kite and a dark suit can, as long as they know where to land and where to enter the building. And if that’s the case then Belle Reve should really work some more on their security. Sure, I’ll buy that Batman can bypass the security as that’s part of the character’s skill-set, but as it stands I’m not seeing anything that’s unique or specific to the way Batman enters the complex. I would have liked to see a more unique approach, that really shows us why only Batman can get inside Belle Reve. He’s a resourceful character, after all, so let’s show that in the comics.
In addition, I don’t like the way Alfred is written here. He has a few good lines in the issue which sound like things he could say because of the dry wit and sarcasm that is often attributed to the character. But the way that he’s speaking to Batman during Batman’s infiltration almost feels like he’s not the experienced butler that we all know and love, but rather someone that’s still new to the job. We see him essentially questioning Batman’s plan, and even going as far as to suggest that Batman might get a brain-bomb implanted if he gets caught. Lastly, he states:
First of all, the function here is to provide us with some exposition meant to explain where Batman got those frequency signals. That in itself is fine (except that it’s put rather artificially; I don’t see why Alfred needs to specifically remind Batman where he got those signals, it’s just doesn’t sound like natural conversation). Secondly, it seems like Alfred is stating the obvious here. Of course Batman knows the signals work, because Batman wouldn’t be Batman if he hadn’t at least done some testing before breaking into one of America’s most secure prisons. Especially if his plan largely hinges on those signals. Well, color me disappointed when, on the next page, Batman says: “Let’s find out,” which indicates that he doesn’t know for sure after all. I suppose that a scenario like this could be used to create some tension in the comic, to raise the question of whether or not Batman will be able to manipulate those frequency signals. But there’s no trace of this tension anywhere throughout the comic, and so this little exchange between Alfred and Bruce not only feels unnatural and unedited—it also feels out of character.
Then there is one more instance that I find very forced and unnecessary, and that is when we find Harley in her cell basically explaining to the reader that the frequencies of the brain-bombs changed. She connects it to an earlier visit from Batman, and then says that she probably doesn’t know what she’s talking about because she’s crazy. To me it seems that this panel has only been included because Harley’s appearance in the book is pretty much mandatory by now. People expect the character—who has become incredibly popular in recent years—to be in a Suicide Squad book, and so the creative team has to find ways to include her. This doesn’t necessary have to be a bad thing, but at least make the appearance more entertaining. What we have here are two fairly large speech balloons, filled with unnecessary exposition, and on top of that I think it’s overwritten as too many words have been used. Now, had Harley played a bigger role in this issue, and actually acted on her realization regarding the frequencies of brain-bombs, then this moment would’ve had a purpose. Now it’s just there for the sake of being there. In my opinion, moments like this have been a recurring problem throughout the Suicide Squad series. These are little scenes sprinkled throughout the narrative that don’t add anything, and aren’t all that entertaining either. It’s as if these characters have to say something for the sake of saying something.
But that is where my criticism mostly ends. Batman, from that point onward, is extremely effective and efficient in how he breaks out Deadshot. So efficient, in fact, that Waller isn’t even sure what’s going on at first. It’s only when she finds out none of her men have been killed, that she realizes it’s Batman. Next, we see her exploding with rage. Her frustration grows as the story continues, and all odds seem to be stacking up against her. Clearly, Batman has her outmatched in every way possible, and this fact alone is a great reason to pick up the comic—especially if you’re a Batman fan. As annoying as Waller can be from time to time, it’s just straight-up awesome to see the Bat himself taking care of things and putting Waller in her place at the same time.
Moving on to the art, Eduardo Pansica (pencils), Julio Ferreira (inks) and Adriano Lucas (colors) are back! I first noticed this amazing art team when I was reviewing Suicide Squad #35, and I immediately stated that I’d love to see these guys working together again. Besides #35, their work is also featured in #36, and now in #41 as well. The reason this team stands out to me—especially when compared to other artists that have worked on Suicide Squad since I started reviewing the series—is because these guys play close attention to detail. The pencils and inks blend together so seamlessly that at times it looks like it was all done by one and the same artist. They also work really well with facial expressions, conveying the emotions of characters to make the script come to life. These guys are also very consistent: proportions of characters are rarely if ever off; the colors match the inks really well, creating a moody yet dynamic atmosphere; and where they truly shine this time around is during the fight scenes.
This team understands sequential art. To illustrate this point, I’ll briefly break down a part of a fight scene. First, we see Batman sitting on a beam, close to the ceiling, looking down on a guard squad on the floor below. Second, Batman uses his grapple hook to pull one of the guards up, and when this happens we zoom in on the guard’s face: he’s utterly shocked as he realizes what’s about to happen. Third, Batman leaps down from the beam. He has already dropped a gas bomb (which goes off in the next panel), and lands right on top of the guards. He grabs the guy with the rifle, and knocks out the other two with well-aimed kicks. One of the kicked guards basically falls out of the panel, into the next. And here we see that the gas is spreading, and Batman rushes through, punching another guard in the kisser before leaping and crushing the next guard with his knee. The fight continues on for two more panels, and what makes it so cool in particular is that the artists really make it seem as if Batman is leaping through the panels, as if he’s literally moving across the page. It puts me as a reader right in the middle of the action, and it’s just a fantastic sequence. Here’s to hoping this art team will be featured on subsequent chapters of this arc as well, because their Batman’s the real deal, all right.
You’re a Batman fan!
A buddy adventure featuring the World’s Greatest Detective and the World’s Greatest Assassin sounds good to you!
You are into dynamic, well-executed fight scenes!
You love it when Amanda Waller is put in her place—by Batman, no less!
Overall: Despite there still being some problems narrative-wise, I think this is a great improvement compared to previous chapters. The story flows smoothly, Batman kicks ass, there’s room for humor, and the artwork is great. Sure, there is a moment where Alfred and Batman are acting out of character, and I question the way Batman enters Belle Reve (it just seems too easy), but other than that, this is an entertaining comic that thrives on the action and Batman’s awesomeness. Recommended if you have some free time and want to kick back, relax, and enjoy a fast-paced action comic.