Suicide Squad #46 review

Welcome back to Sink Atlantis, a four part crossover event running through Aquaman and Suicide Squad. This is part 3, which means that this issue’s main objective is to set up the finale. Does the creative team manage to pull this off, or does it result in a rocky ride toward the end? Let’s have a look.

It is with this issue that the true main character reveals himself, and he’s not one of the usual suspects. In fact, in my opinion it is Lord Satanis who truly takes control of the situation, acting out his own evil plans. He manages to block out Waller, temporarily disables his brain bomb and even kills a prominent cast member in cold blood. While the character’s motivation—to become this powerful warlock that all must bow to—is perhaps a little bit too straight-forward to really be of interest to me, I think it’s mainly the way in which he operates that makes him an interesting character to keep an eye on. What I do absolutely like about him, though, is the way in which Abnett and Williams have been going about his character development. Early on in the story he was a bit of a joke, a typical campy villain that can’t really be taken seriously and was also picked on by Harley and others. However, after a display of his awesome powers and willingness to slaughter people in cold blood, this guy went from “campy C-list joke” to “serious force to be reckoned with.” While I certainly think that a little more background information about where this guy came from, and a stronger motivation for why he’s doing what he does, would have helped to elevate this character from “interesting” to “great,” I do think that he works as the main antagonist in the story simply because he clearly is hellbent on completing his self-imposed quest. His obsession and determination is strongly portrayed and believable. Lastly, because everything now more or less revolves around him—the nuke, his own mission, Atlantis’ fate, his defying Waller, etc—I think he reads like the main character now, and I’m giving props to the creative team for that. I had not anticipated this seemingly throwaway character to rise like this.

Unfortunately, Master Jailer doesn’t get the same treatment in this issue. So far, the character hasn’t made much of an impression on me yet. Prior to this issue, next to no information about him was revealed, and so we never quite knew who we were reading about. In this issue, some information is provided, and to me it seems that some of his background information is intended to be an appeal to emotion to make readers root for the character, but it doesn’t work for me. See, he’s written as a guy who wants to quit his criminal activities and just be a dad to his kid. However, since this is just mentioned in passing (for all you literature nuts: a typical example of where showing would have been more applicable than telling), and because it’s way too similar to Deadshot’s ordeal, I find myself not caring about any of this. Had the creative team spend more time building Master Jailer’s character, perhaps I would’ve been able to connect to him and sympathize with him. But now he just comes off as a very generic character that is probably going to die before this crossover concludes (it really does seem like they are trying to give him some emotional resonance because they are setting him up to die). I just think it’s a shame when a new character is introduced, but the creative team just never really gets around to developing said character. But, despite all of this, let’s not forget that we have one more issue to go, so there may still be time for the creative team to at least give Master Jailer a moment where he can shine, and isn’t reduced to a mere, throwaway character that I’ll instantly forget about once this story concludes.

Another thing worth mentioning is that the solicits promote this fight between Killer Croc and King Shark. While there certainly is a fight taking place between the two characters, those who have been looking forward to this specifically should know that only two small panels are devoted to this “fight.” Literally what happens is that King Shark attacks Croc in the first panel, and in the next they crash into a wall. After this they are never seen again. Personally, I think this is very disappointing, but having said that, it is still possible that we will see a proper fight between the two in the next issue. The problem with leaving this fight for the last issue, though, is that it might distract from the main plot. What I think works best for a story, from a technical, structural standpoint, is to devote the final chapter entirely to resolving the conflict. Having leftover subplots running through the resolution of the main story can be a distraction. So too can a fight between King Shark and Killer Croc be a distraction (because, let’s be honest, this is really mostly fan service and not necessary to advance the plot at all). On the other hand, if the creative team completely forgets about the fight, then this will be one big wasted opportunity. Either commit to an idea and make sure it’s fully developed by the time the story’s concluded, or leave out the idea and perhaps use it for a different story where it fits better. Otherwise it’s uneconomical use of panels at best, and a complete waste of resources at worst.

One more point of criticism that I have with regards to plot concerns this issue’s cliffhanger. Hence I’ll wrap it up in spoiler tags, but I do think this is significant enough to write about.

I touched on this a little bit in my review of Suicide Squad #45, which was the opening chapter of this crossover event. I am sick and tired of the same old trope of Atlantis being a threat to America. This is a typical story that, in my eyes, works only once, and after that it’s been done and it’s time to move on to new stories, because I don’t see many ways to explore this story idea other than making it overtly political. And while politics in stories are fine, I do think that a comic book series like Aquaman already has enough of that what with Arthur and/or Mera actually being king/queen of Atlantis. If we can read about Atlantean culture versus the same old struggle with America, I’d rather have a story that explores Atlantean lore, because I love the high fantasy qualities of it and it is what makes the book unique. This crossover event, however, hinges on Atlantis as the supposed threat against America. Now, here’s why I’m bringing this up once again. The first time I criticized this part of the story was because it concerned a few politician characters that were saying some boring, generic things that failed to resonate with me. But this time we actually see a tsunami, apparently raised by Mera, looming over the American coastline, and I can’t help but think about Throne of Atlantis, which was an Aquaman/Justice League crossover from 2012-2013. In other words, it seems like Sink Atlantis, when it comes to this political element, is very much rehashing what Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis and Paul Pelletier were doing on Throne of Atlantis. This is boring to me, seeing as it’s such a recent story that Abnett and Williams seem to be drawing from. If you don’t care about this, that’s fair enough, but I do feel like it has implications for how stories are being written these days. Bottom line is: less rehashing, more new ideas. I won’t believe for a second that new stories can’t be written with old characters. Not a second.

Artwork this time is brought to us by José Luis (pencils), Jordi Tarragona (inks) and Adriano Lucas (colors), and I like what the art team is doing a lot. It shouldn’t be a surprise to those who’ve read my previous reviews that I’m a big fan of Lucas’s color work. Lucas has a way of creating layers so that colors bleed into each other smoothly, and he can easily shift from a lush sunset to deep, oceanic colors. He is also incredibly consistent, as usual, in the way that he colors every character and every background. His colors truly draw me into the story and enhance my experience, because they make me feel like I’m inside the story rather than just looking at the story. Luis and Tarragona are also doing good work together. They create characters with believable bodily proportions, and I think the facial expressions are rendered well because they clearly show the emotion that the character is feeling. Their renditions of King Shark and Killer Croc are also awesome: both look like huge, hulking monsters that could easily snap spines in half, and each has an aggressive, intimidating look in their eyes as well. I would’ve loved to see these artists draw an extended, sequential fight between Croc and Shark and I’m disappointed that they didn’t get to do so. If I have to nitpick, however, there are three things that I dislike in the artwork.

The first is that, for some reason, someone decided that the art should depict some of the characters walking across the bottom of the ocean at a certain point in the comic. While I suppose that two of them, since they are wearing special deep water suits, probably have some kind of technology that allows them to walk like that, I do wonder why they aren’t just swimming. Not only would it look cooler, but it also would have made a lot more sense to me. The second has to do with Master Jailer’s powers. When he uses his superpower to unlock a gate, his power is rendered as glowing red gears. While I like the idea of this—because gears are cool—there isn’t any consistency to this. It looks like the artists just drew some random gears in random shapes in random places. It would’ve been much cooler if there was more consistency, so there actually is a pattern that Jailer deciphers with his powers. As it stands, this is a missed opportunity as far as I’m concerned. The final thing is that Satanis at some point picks up a spear, but during his fight with Aquaman the spear suddenly vanishes. We never see the character dropping the weapon: it’s just gone. I think this is weird because the spear seemed to be very significant at first, but apparently it had only one function in the story (one that will be obvious when you read the book, but one which I won’t give away now to avoid spoilers).

Recommended if…

  • You want to see Satanis’s awesome character development
  • You love explosive fight scenes

Overall: I think this is actually a really fun comic. I think Master Jailer could’ve been a much more interesting character; I don’t like that this story is rehashing some themes from the recent Throne of Atlantis story (see spoiler tags); and I think that the “fight” between King Shark and Killer Croc is extremely underwhelming. But this comic moves fast, has plenty of action, features gorgeous coloring and the creative team has managed to make me a fan of Lord Satanis. And making me a fan of a brand new character, who seemed to be random cannon fodder at first, is no mean feat. Despite my criticisms, I still recommend this one.

Score: 6.5/10