So far, Constriction has been a lot better than the previous Suicide Squad arcs I’ve reviewed. That’s not to say that the story so far hasn’t been without its fair share of problems, but at least we’ve seen an increase in quality since I began reviewing this title. So I was eager to see this arc’s conclusion, really hoping that it would be great, but I’m going to have to be honest with you guys. I’m disappointed. Why? Well, let’s have a look.
Throughout this arc, Batman and Deadshot have been discussing the differences between superheroes and villains. As I read it, it’s meant as character progression for Deadshot, who asks the question of whether or not he can also be a hero, despite having killed many people. After all, as Deadshot argues, a superhero saves lives, and that is the opposite of what he does, and yet he’s setting out to save his daughter. While I certainly appreciate the idea of developing a character through this kind of commentary, I come away with mixed feelings. On the one hand, given that the discussion is set in the opening pages, it’s a nice recap of what’s at stake for Deadshot, especially considering this series has gone from twice monthly to once a month. On the other hand, I feel like it’s just that: a recap. The discussion doesn’t go beyond just stating the obvious.
I also appreciate that Williams attempts to go full circle at the end of the comic by once more addressing this question, but it just doesn’t work for me. Without spoiling the exact details of what takes place, I’ll say this much: in this issue, Deadshot never gets his hero moment. He hardly has a chance to shine. Very quickly he’s defeated, and he doesn’t contribute much to the story’s resolution other than managing to fire off a single shot at a Kobra priest, thereby interrupting the ritual and buying his daughter some time. Had Deadshot truly been the one to save the day, the superhero/villain discussion would have been more valid and also a lot more interesting, because then and only then it would’ve tied directly into his character development. But that’s just not the case, and therefore I think this story, thematically, misses the mark.
I have more to say about Deadshot and Kobra, and I will do so now. But I can’t discuss this without spoiling a key plot point, hence the spoiler tags. Please note that this does count toward my final verdict, as it is a big reason why this arc falls apart for me.
First, had Williams established this fact in #41—rather than having the priest outright state to the entire Kobra crew that Zoe’s the primary vessel—readers might have actually sat on the edge of their seats. If we, as readers, know that the protagonist is marching toward his doom, without the protagonist himself realizing it, then this can create a lot of suspense. I consider this yet another missed opportunity. Second, the reveal is not shocking at all because Deadshot never really contributes anything to saving his daughter while inside the cave (except, of course, for firing that one round). If Deadshot did get his chance to be a hero, then this would’ve carried a lot more weight. Third, the timing is too perfect. The Kobra clan is about to have the original Kobra’s spirit possess Zoe, and right at that exact moment Deadshot and Batman walk in, and Deadshot is possessed instead. This is just too convenient for me, and it takes away all suspense. Fourth, there is no reason presented, whatsoever, why Zoe would be a good secondary vessel for the spirit. When she does fire a shot at some point, she even misses her target. It’s even a little bit creepy to think that this spirit dude wants to possess a teenage girl’s body…
Besides Batman and Deadshot, we also have Harley, Boomerang and Cold running around. In my opinion, Cold is actually a pretty funny character, the way he’s written here. He’s rather clever about convincing Waller to send in all the backup that’s available—by lying to her—and even asks for them to bring him a beer. By the end of the story we see him sitting on a rock, overlooking the Belle Reve personnel rounding up the Kobra clan while enjoying his beer. Besides this, he also saves the lives of Harley and Boomerang, which, going by Deadshot’s definitions, actually makes Cold kind of a hero. Also, he’s pretty much the only character, besides Batman, that’s actually accomplishing anything at all. Harley and Boomerang, on the other hand, are completely and utterly useless. All they do is blurt out silly one-liners that are meant to be funny, but, to me, are just incredibly annoying. Effectively every single panel where Harley and Boomerang do something stupid is a wasted panel, as far as I’m concerned, because it doesn’t add anything to the overall story or the characters. The pair even gets incapacitated in the end, and so all they manage is hinder the story’s progression.
I suppose I should also say a few words about Batman. First of all, I don’t think the character is badly written per se. He saves Deadshot’s life in the opening pages, in a rather spectacular way. He also saves Deadshot’s life a second time at the end of the comic (although it mostly occurs off-panel, as if the creative team/editors weren’t sure how to show this off). But he is also knocked out very quickly during the final battle in the cave, and I can imagine that some Batman fans out there will be disappointed about this. However, I personally don’t really take issue with him getting knocked out specifically. This is not Batman’s book, and therefore he shouldn’t steal the show. In fact, him getting shot just shows that he too can make mistakes, and this humanizes him to an extent. What I really dislike, though, is that he can take a bullet to the head because his cowl is reinforced with kevlar. In fact, his entire suit is reinforced with kevlar. While it’s of course a good thing that Batman is armored up like that, I just wonder why Batman doesn’t even seem to have a scratch when he comes to (not to mention everything that he has been through up to this point; he hasn’t gotten any rest whatsoever). That, and his suit looks like it’s spray-painted onto his body, so it doesn’t look like it’s reinforced at all. Essentially, what I’m saying is that “kevlar” is too easy an explanation for why Batman can just jump around like nothing happened after getting shot in the temple. When something as dangerous as that happens to you and you’re fine, you don’t just say: “Kevlar. I hate guns,” as if that explains anything…oh well. One last remark on Batman: why is he such a dick toward Zoe? The Batman I know and love cares about kids, even if said kid attempted a kill shot in a moment of intense pressure and anxiety.
Moving on, this month we have Joe Bennet on pencils, Mick Gray and Vicente Cifuentes on inks, and Adriano Lucas on colors. To be honest, the art is a mixed bag for me too. Characters’ faces aren’t always consistently rendered and from time to time bodily proportions don’t work out, either, with the occasional leg, arm and torso twisted in unnatural ways. But there are things that this art team is good at too. For example, most compositions in panels, especially the action-packed ones, are great. On page 2, for example, we’re inside the helicopter and see Harley and Boomerang on our left, panicking (although, admittedly, I have trouble deciding whether Boomerang is laughing in glee or screaming). Outside the helicopter, in the background, we see Batman and Deadshot falling to their doom. Deadshot fires off several rounds, which shatter the helicopter’s windshield. It’s a dynamic panel, full of action, and the slanted panel border conveys an intentionally disorientating feeling. The other action sequences are also very dynamic, with a lot of movement occurring in both the foreground and background. With so much happening at once, at least these fight scenes should keep you entertained if you are into that kind of stuff.
The art team also renders a beautiful environment. We see a bridge over a canyon, a bus and a car driving across that bridge. We see water down in the canyon, reflecting the sunlight. We see electricity masts atop a high rock, and structures embedded in the rock wall down below in the canyon. Especially Lucas’s colors pop throughout the comic, bringing these panels to life. What’s more, the Kobra lair has an appropriately eerie vibe to it, what with the green glow that illuminates the cave and the altar-like ledge hanging over a deep pit from which rises the original Kobra spirit.
You want to know how the Constriction arc ends
You love action-packed scenes
Captain Cold is your boy
Overall: At best, this is an average comic. I think the juxtaposition of superheroism and villainy falls short because it’s never brought to a meaningful conclusion as Deadshot is robbed of his hero moment; therefore these themes don’t come full circle. There are also some wonky plot points concerning Zoe’s rescue, which really cause this arc to fall apart for me (see the spoiler tag above for details). Boomerang and Harley’s only contribution to the comic is that they hinder the story’s progress every step of the way, which I find incredibly annoying. The Kobra clan is also not very intimidating and therefore doesn’t feel like an actual threat. And the artwork consists of both oddly rendered faces, strange bodily proportions, and awesome compositions, backgrounds and fight scenes, which makes for a mixed bag. But at least Captain Cold is cool. I’m sad to say I can’t really recommend this one, though, and it’s probably only of interest to those who’ve been reading the arc anyway.