I think many of us hoped that Suicide Squad: Black Files would surprise us, and that each story – Katana: Revenge of Kobra and Suicide Squad: Black – would both be quality narratives. Last month, we learned that wouldn’t be the case, and that history would repeat itself with Katana being a lackluster turn. This issue only drives that reality further. While Katana continues to drop in quality, Suicide Squad: Black continues to be a fun riot that harkens back to Ostrander’s run in many ways.
Katana: Revenge of Kobra
I want to start off by saying that I completely respect Mike Barr. I thoroughly enjoyed his original run of Batman & the Outsiders, and as I’ve stated many times before, Katana is one of my favorite characters… But maybe, just maybe, he should put the pen down for a little while. I was so excited when Suicide Squad’s Most Wanted was announced, but then we got it, and Katana was atrocious. I hoped that was a fluke for Barr, and that he’d come back to redeem himself here… Nope.
This chapter of Katana: Revenge of Kobra sinks to the pits of poor writing. From plotting to dialogue, there’s nothing redeeming here. It’s simply bad. The dialogue is so stiff and on-the-nose that I can’t take it seriously. The script reminds me of what I’d see from a children’s program that’s targeted to preschoolers. And I’m not even talking about a good program. I’m talking about one of those that even the kids watch and halfway through ask if they can watch something else.
We last left off with Eve – somehow- performing a spell that forced her soul and Katana’s soul to switch places. Now, Katana is trapped in her Soul Taker while Eve parades around as her. If you want to know how incompetent this book is, Barr makes a point to establish that Eve can’t hear those in the sword, but immediately before and immediately after that, Eve and Katana are communicating.
This trend continues all throughout the issue with dozens of questionable moments and transitions like the one featured above. “Katana” (Eve) clearly tries to attack Halo, she protects herself, then asks if Katana needs help with a mission… What!?!? Other questionable examples include Eve killing hordes of her own soldiers to get to her husband – who responds by talking with her even though he has no idea it’s his wife. But even when everything is revealed between the two of them, Halo acts as if she has no idea who Kobra is or what they stand for… She literally fought them in the last book. They tried to kill her, and now she’s like, “Any friend of Katana’s is a friend of mine!” Have I mentioned that this book is frustratingly bad? Because it is.
On top of the poor dialogue and illogical plot and character development, we have art from Phillipe Briones. The art isn’t bad, but it is incredibly inconsistent. There are panels where Katana looks incredible, but all of the characters’ faces look like they’re possessed or under some type of influence. The transitions aren’t the best either, only highlighting the shortcomings of the script.
Katana: Revenge of Kobra score: 2/10
Suicide Squad: Black
Now, where Katana is completely abysmal, Suicide Squad: Black is one hell of a fun ride! The roster of rotating, D-list characters harken back to the glory days of Ostrander’s Suicide Squad. I’m excited to see these characters – especially Gentleman Ghost – because they never really get a spotlight, but are proving they deserve their fifteen minutes of fame.
This squad is a magical team that Waller assembled to combat the former warlock for ARGUS, Sebastian Faust. The story brings in heavy hitters like Enchantress and Klarion, but is told from El Diablo’s perspective. Jai Nitz made a brilliant call by using Diablo as his lead character. Technically, he’s a criminal like most of the squad members, but he has a stronger moral compass than his peers. This helps infuse some heart and relatability into the story, and it’s hard not to like Diablo when he writes to Killer Frost, admiring her transition from villain to hero.
The characters aren’t the only fun aspect of this book though. The mission itself is equally as fun! When reading the book, it feels as if there are endless surprises and potential awaiting the turn of each page, making the book an engaging and exciting read. Each of the characters has a role to play, proving that quite a bit of thought was put into planning the book and how it would unfold. Throw in surprises such as Aladdin – yes, that Aladdin – and a number of ties to mainstream continuity, and you’re left with a story that is well worth adding to your collection.
Scot Eaton delivers the pencils for Suicide Squad: Black, and he does a stellar job. Similar to Jai Nitz’s script, it’s clear Eaton put quite a bit of thought into his layouts and panels. The art completely aids and elevates the script, and the crisp, detailed linework is easy on the eyes. Eaton’s definitely an artist to keep your eyes on, and will hopefully get some continuous work before too long.
Suicide Squad: Black score: 8/10
Overall: Honestly, save your money. These issues aren’t worth the cover price. Just wait for the trade and buy Suicide Squad: Black when it’s collected in trade format. I’m afraid that if you buy the monthly floppies, you’ll only encourage DC to continue creating these brand damaging stories for Katana.