Suicide Squad: Black Files #1

DC is back at it with a single floppy featuring two stories! Last time they did this, we received an incredible story featuring Deadshot, and a horrible story featuring Katana in Suicide Squad: Most Wanted… This time around we’re getting a potentially questionable follow-up to Katana’s story, and a whole new adventure with a squad whose abilities are based in magic! Are we in for a treat, a mixed bag, or a total let-down? Find out below!

“Revenge of Kobra”

If you know me, then you know that I strongly believe Katana is one of the most underutilized characters at DC. There’s a great depth to her, an honor that is unmatched by anyone in the DC universe, and she’s a total badass who has held her own against the likes of Wonder Woman and Zod. Take those traits into account on top of the fact that she’s an Asian character, and it blows my mind that she’s not more popular than she is… So, with that said, it’s a shame that yet another solo mini-series for her will be average at best.

If you read Katana’s arc in Suicide Squad: Most Wanted, then you’re probably as trepidatious about this story as I am. Mike Barr did incredible work during his time on Batman & the Outsiders, and I’d hoped – still hope – that we would see that quality return with this arc. Sadly, it doesn’t appear as though that will be the case.

Where Suicide Squad: Most Wanted – Katana featured Katana’s battle with Kobra, as well as her introduction to Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad, this issue jumps forward in time during Tatsu’s tenure with the Squad. The team is working to wipe out Kobra and stop them from seeking revenge. Believe it or not, this portion of the book is quite good. In fact, it’s entertaining enough that I let my guard down and thought, “Maybe this won’t be as bad as I thought…” But then, Barr’s bad habits from Most Wanted begin to pop back up.

The narrative slowly starts to slip, and the script plummets with each turn of the page. The dialogue transitions from decent, to average, to highly questionable – especially whenever anyone from Kobra is featured. There’s just something about seeing villains who are depicted as mustache-twirling, evil-for-the-sake-of-being-evil caricatures that annoys the hell out of me. And that’s exactly what we get here. It’s a one-two punch of badness in a single scene.

Even moments that should have been good – and could have been good – aren’t. Take the scene where Tatsu talks to Maseo through the Soultaker. It starts off well. Really well, in fact. But just as the conversation is building to something great as Maseo questions Tatsu’s guilt concerning the death of their children, Barr writes a random, weird, Joker-like laugh that is completely out of place and inappropriate. But this isn’t the only awkward exchange or encounter. There are multiple transitions in this chapter that are rough.

When Katana reunites with Halo, there’s one awkward moment after another. From the caretaker, to Halo’s juvenile breakdown about school, to Katana’s vision of how Waller would use Halo, none of it feels natural. This is a problem that plagued Most Wanted. Barr would write moments without properly setting them up, and it would result in a clunky, ineffective execution.

Thankfully, the ending does introduce an interesting concept, but the set-up and reveal are so poorly constructed that I found myself struggling to enjoy it. As intriguing as the plot may be, the moment you wonder how this event happened, or how this character got here, it will be ruined for you because nothing adds up. If there’s one positive here, it’s that this isn’t as bad as Most Wanted… Not yet, anyway. That’s the key, not yet. I’m hoping for the best though.

The Art: Philippe Briones handles for art for this issue, and he does a respectable job. There are some panels/ pages where everything looks incredible, and I applaud that. But, he does have opportunities in storytelling as well as consistency concerning his pencils. When a script already struggles with transitions, the last thing you want is an artist that has opportunities in that are as well. It just makes those transitions more glaringly bad. They’re not major callouts, but they are noticeable and can impact the reading experience.

SCORE: 4/10


“Suicide Squad Black”

When I turned to the first page of this story and saw El Diablo carrying Gentleman Ghost who quipped about mystical arrows shooting them… I knew I was going to like this book. As I read further and discovered what the content of this book would actually be, I found that I liked it even more!

So, what is “Suicide Squad Black” about? Well, to meet recent trends in the DC universe, there are some unsettling events taking place involving the magic community and Amanda Waller is involving herself. Sebastian Faust, Felix Faust’s son, has turned from good to bad, and Waller needs to know why. Having been A.R.G.U.S. top warlock for years, his sudden turn not only caught Waller off guard, but it was also personal.

Knowing that her regular team wouldn’t be able to hold their own against Faust, Waller pulled together a rag-tag team of mystical offenders: El Diablo, Gentleman Ghost, Alchemaster, Snargoyle, and Dr. Thaumaturge. If you’re wondering who half of these people are, then don’t worry, I wondered the same thing… But that’s also the very thing that I loved about this story! Having a roster of unfamiliar characters adds to the excitement of the narrative and allows for an enhanced amount of unpredictability. It’s part of what made Ostrander’s original run so entertaining!

As you might assume – and as you can clearly see from the first page – this team doesn’t fare so well, so Waller is forced to regroup and form a new team. The twist, she can’t do it alone. She needs an upper hand to know how to come out on top, and the only way she can get that upper hand is with the assistance of magic. For what she needs though, she has to enlist the help of Klarion the Witch Boy.

This is a fun, unpredictable comic that takes me back to Suicide Squad’s glory days, while feeling completely fresh and new at the same time! We’re only one issue in, but it’s one gloriously entertaining issue that has endless potential. Nothing would make me happier than to see Jai Nitz meet this potential.

The Art: Scot Eaton handles the art for “Suicide Squad Black” and he balances the various themes quite well. He matches the depth, mysticism, and quips written in Nitz script to deliver an equally satisfying story through art. If this is just the beginning of what’s to come, then we’re in for a real treat.

SCORE: 7.5/10

Recommended if:

  • You’re a fan of recent magic-based stories like Justice League Dark.
  • You miss the dynamic of a D-list Suicide Squad roster.
  • You enjoyed Suicide Squad: Most Wanted – Katana

Overall: It’s all just a little bit of history repeating. With Katana’s “Revenge of Kobra,” you’re stuck with a story that mirrors its predecessor by poorly establishing itself as it embarks on a narrative that is lacking in quality. On the other end of the spectrum, “Suicide Squad Black” harkens back to the glory days of Ostrander’s Suicide Squad, but with a twist that resembles the magic taking place in Justice League Dark… And yes, I mean that in more than one way!