It's a whole new era of Suicide Squad greatness... and darkness.
Amanda Waller is sick of losing. She's sick of being reactive. And if that means crossing lines and assembling a Task Force X squad less stable and more deadly than ever before... so be it. Their first assignment is to rescue their newest recruit from none other than Arkham Asylum!
Plus: who is Peacemaker, and why does Waller suddenly trust him over longtime ally Rick Flagg?
At its peak, Suicide Squad was one of comics’ most daring, audacious reads: politically deft, with a real sense of danger because any of its characters was expendable. At its low point, it was a showcase for Harley Quinn and other assorted A-list villains whom readers knew would never actually be killed. Pumping star power into the book during its New 52 revival might have goosed sales, but it also robbed the book of the potency of its very central premise. Last year’s volume courtesy Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo was a great read but ultimately not really a Suicide Squad book – but rather a stealth lead-in for a different comic altogether. (Note to DC: let’s get Revolutionaries on the schedule sometime soon, okay?)
And so, with the advent of Infinite Frontier and a renewed focus on getting-back-to-their-roots storytelling, DC is trying something that hasn’t been done with Task Force X since the halcyon John Ostrander days: crafting a team of true D-listers, any of whom could be offed at any moment. Film Freak? Peacemaker? Bolt? Who cares if these guys catch a bullet, right? (Okay, in fairness, I’m sure there’s a very passionate Film Freak fandom in some seldom-trod corner of the internet. But I digress.) But Harley Quinn, Killer Croc, et al. were never going to be killed, which was the inherent flaw with including A-list characters in a book like this. With that misstep set aside, Suicide Squad is at least on a superficial level back to its roots.
It’s a little hard to tell with writer Robbie Thompson’s first issue what the long game is just yet, other than that reintroduction of imminent death for anybody as a feature that could befall anybody at any time. Sure, there’s clearly a whole lot more going on with Peacemaker that is yet to be revealed. (Notwithstanding his inclusion due to being part of the upcoming Suicide Squad reboot/sequel.) He’s a cypher right now, deliberately so, but from what we know so far, his reputation precedes him to the point that Rick Flagg immediately calls Amanda Waller out for being so reckless as to include him in a field mission. He’s repaid for his concern with a subcutaneous electric zap. The problem is, we’re never given a real reason as to why Flagg would be so alarmed – Thompson’s script shows him as a highly-competent fighter, even if he’s more than willing to sacrifice teammates for the sake of the mission. That’s bad, but doesn’t rise to the level Flagg presents it as. To be continued, I suppose.
Amanda Waller is a character who has been gradually reduced to a one-dimensional version of herself over the decades, and unfortunately, this comic continues that trend. When initially introduced, she was given a tragic backstory that lead her to making hard, even coldblooded, decisions for the greater good. Her actions were sometimes horrific, but they were ultimately for the greater good – operating from a dark place counter to that of traditional caped superheroes. She was the ultimate pragmatist, despite what it did to her conscience and soul. In the intervening decades, though, she has been gradually reduced to simply, “coldblooded bitch.” There’s no nuance, subtlety, or underlying pathos to Amanda Waller anymore, just a woman determined to win regardless of cost. Robbie Thompson does a fine job with that aspect of her character, but I was disappointed that he didn’t do more. We’re supposed to be terrified of Waller and what she’s willing to do, but at this point, she’s just predictable. There’s nothing new being said or done with her in this comic to justify renewed reader interest.
As for the rest, they behave predictably as well: Peacemaker is the token hardass, Bolt is the token smartass, Film Freak is the token weirdo, et cetera. Their mission to liberate a prisoner from Arkham is interesting – and leads to some pretty quick and easy deaths – and is supposed to communicate just how far Waller has gone over the edge to recruit for Task Force X. To a degree, it’s successful, because as readers we’re aware that only the worst of the crazies reside in Arkham, which adds an x-factor to the long-term proceedings, as well as Waller’s ultimate plans. But it’s difficult to gage how successfully this added element will shake up this volume of Suicide Squad just yet. All the oxygen in the room is taken up by the mere fact that the team is audacious enough to break into Arkham, rather than explore the whys and wherefores of it.
Eduardo Pansica and Julio Ferreira bring an A-game level of art to “Assault on Arkham.” Pansica has been just out of reach of elite-level artist for some years now; Suicide Squad could easily cement his rep should it prove a success. His art calls to mind a bit of Eddy Barrows with a dash of Ivan Reis – strong figures, dynamic angles, powerfully-blocked and kinetic fight scenes. The action leaps off the page at the reader. Ferreira’s inks drench the entire comic in the appropriate amount of shadow without oversaturating the pencils, and Marcelo Maiolo’s muted color palette – a welcome change of pace from his usual overly-bright look – brings the whole thing together. Whatever shortcomings the story may have, this is without a doubt a slick-looking comic.
Suicide Squad #1 at once goes back to basics but also falls short of its goal by not giving readers enough story yet to gauge its success or failure. This title may come together as a great rejuvenation for the property in a few more issues, but it's not quite there yet.
Suicide Squad #1: "This is Crazy, Even For You"
Writing - 7/10
Storyline - 6/10
Art - 8/10
Color - 8/10
Cover Art - 7.5/10
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