Suicide Squad #4 is here, and this time, Task Force X  has to deal with a new threat: Red X! Will Amanda Waller reveal the secret of this mystery Titan’s identity, or will Red X reveal some secrets of hers first? Let’s dive in and find what awaits lurking in the depths. Spoiler alert: it’s not great.

Suicide Squad? More like… uh…. bad issue

Suicide Squad #4 is what I like to call a nothing book. So much stuff is thrown in our face, yet more plot threads are dangled in front of us like we’re all tiny little babies to be entertained by the jingling keys of “oooooh mysteryyyyyy”, and yet nothing happens. Any and all progression in the story of the Suicide Squad gets thrown out the window in favor of showing off a character from an entirely different book! Everything that happens in this book happens so the writer can further Waller’s claim that Red X is a “Batman level intellect.” This isn’t a joke. She says this on the first page.

I just…

Look, sure. Maybe Red X is a genius. Maybe he’s as smart as Batman, even. This was not the book to showcase that in. The whole prelude to this issue does this whole “ooooh boy maybe Red X is on the Squad now instead of Bolt oh geez oh golly oh gosh” thing that falls apart under even the slightest scrutiny. Obviously X isn’t joining the Squad, he’s barely developed as a character in Teen Titans Academy right now, they’re not going to just have their one big attraction jump ship. But this begs the question, why have an entire issue of Suicide Squad focused on him prep-timing his way out of Waller’s custody? (No, that’s not a joke, I’ll get to that in a second.) It all just seems unnecessary.

Plot threads, plot threads, everywhere, and not a stop to think.

Okay, that subheader was a bit of a stretch, but bear with me. Red X has so many “oh yeah, that secret you have? I know about it” moments in this book about so many things that not even the audience knows about, and it forces readers to sit through page after page of this guy just being better than everyone because he’s the super cool mysterious guest character and they need to pull attention back to TTA after some pretty rough first issues (check out Corbin’s review of issue 3 here!), but was this really the book to build up intrigue and show off Red X? Why not do that in TTA? I’m infuriated by the choice to waste a whole issue of a book about the Suicide Squad focusing on how cool this other guy is. I get that it’s probably not Robbie Thompson’s choice, there was probably some kind of editorial “We have to milk the crossover!” thing going on behind the scenes, but come ON, who thought this was a good idea? I’m going to include a list in the spoiler tags of everything Red X does and reveals in this issue in the hopes of effectively demonstrating exactly why I’m so frustrated.

Spoiler

  • Apparently rigged his mask to electrocute anyone who touches it before this issue, and Waller-proofed it
  • Weathers like 5 or 6 rounds of being electrocuted without so much as blinking
  • Manages to listen in on the laundry room that was established last issue to not be listen-in-able
  • Taunts Waller about both this and the fact that he “let” himself get caught
  • From the chains where he is bound, hacks Belle Reve and breaks himself and all of the inmates out
  • Figures out the Waller he was talking to was a hologram
  • Shorts out the bombs in LITERALLY EVERYONE’S necks
  • Takes Superboy head on
  • Reveals that Nocturna is hiding something that is wrong with Superboy but, instead of telling him, says it’s “his journey” and just zaps him
  • Reveals that he knows that Talon is actually fully sane right now before kicking his ass in a vent system
  • Reveals that he knows about Culebra’s family and where Waller is hiding them (or not, he leaves their status vague)
  • Finds Waller
  • Detonates a bomb in her office that was already there
  • Taunts Waller that Rick Flag got away, but it wasn’t him that did it???
  • Gets away on a jet that showed up specifically for him, apparently

Oh, I forgot to mention. He does all this IN AN UNDERSHIRT AND BOXERS. He doesn’t have any of his suit or equipment beyond his mask. Yeah.

Waller? I hardly know her!

I wouldn’t feel right if this entire review was just me dumping all over a book, so this section is going to be about the things that I did like.

The art in this book is very good, which is doubly surprising when you look at the credits. I don’t know what happened to cause work to get divvied up like that, or if anything happened at all, but I honestly wouldn’t have been able to tell that there were three artists working on this issue if you hadn’t told me. Eduardo Pansica, Joe Prado, and Julio Ferreira all do a fantastic job at keeping the style and quality of the art consistent throughout the book, and it’s a very high level of quality.

One thing I’m very much digging about this book is that it’s not afraid of color. In my experience, when a book goes for a dark, gritty art style like Suicide Squad seems to, there’s a lot of drab, muted colors, which can make pages a strain to look at. Marcelo Maiolo, however, does anything but drab. Action scenes are backed by these bright orange and green fields, keeping them visually interesting while not hard to look at. The characters are drawn dynamically here as well, you can feel the impact of a lot of these punches, and while it can at times be what’s technically a play by play of the fight, it never feels like the writer or artists is “and then”ing you through the book.

Another thing that continues to blow me away whenever I see it in this book is the use of light. Every issue so far has had one or two panels that just absolutely amaze me.

There are so many places in the issue where it could be so much easier to have something like Peacemaker’s helmet or a metal door be a flat, silver-colored surface, but every single surface in this book shines under the light, creating this sense of beautiful realism that makes the book an absolute treat for the eyes.

There are bits in the writing that I like too, such as Peacemaker trying to gear the Squad up for taking Waller down, the drama between Superboy and the rest of the Squad, and the tension between the Squad and Waller. All of this could make for an intriguing and compelling issue, if only Thompson would do anything with it. His dialogue is mostly solid as well, with some of that tension even straying towards banter that gives the characters a much-needed sense of humanity.

That’s not to say there aren’t still times when the dialogue is a little irritating (particularly with Culebra on the whole, and Red X in this issue specifically), but Thompson is showing real promise when it comes to a team dynamic so far. I hope to see it grow.

Recommended if…

  • ???
  • The trope of “actually I planned my plan around your plan to plan for my plan with your plan’s plan!” is actually something you like
  • Idk man, I’m struggling here, maybe you just want to read something

Overall

This issue isn’t good. It’s really frustrating and goes nowhere and does nothing except for set up more things that we didn’t need set up yet. I really hope this book turns it around soon.

Score: 3/10


Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.