Anghus Houvouras reviews New Suicide Squad #1….
The world has changed for Task Force X, a.k.a. the Suicide Squad. Director Amanda Waller no longer has the autonomy she once had. New members disrupt the team dynamic. And the team takes on an international scope. New members Joker’s Daughter, Deathstroke and Black Manta join Harley Quinn and Deadshot for a mission in the most dangerous and unpredictable place in the world: Vladimir Putin’s Russia!
The creative staff at DC has been working overtime to correct many of the perception issues they’ve been battling since launching ‘The New 52’ several years back. It hasn’t felt like long, but over the course of the last three years DC comics had managed to generate excitement that their titles had been lacking for a long time and then slowly bleed out all the goodwill with decisions that at best have baffled fans, and at worst have alienated them to a maddening degree.
The recent Forever Evil series was a nice step forward for the DCU. The heroes were curb-stomped by Ultraman and the Crime Syndicate. The villains, led by Lex Luthor, stepped up and saved the Earth. We learned the Anti-Monitor just eviscerated Earth 3 and a new crisis is brewing. With the once despised villains of Earth now seen as heroes, this new status quo has given DC an ample opportunity to perform a creative tune up.
Suicide Squad is a concept I’ve always been a huge fan of, even if the title hasn’t always been firing on all cylinders. The government recruits some useful dastardly villains who do their bidding in the hopes of one day gaining their freedom. I’ve been following Suicide Squad since the 1980’s when the group was born from the fairly tepid event series Legends. The book has gone through many iterations and cast changes over the years. Recently writer Ales Kot had shaped the book up quite nicely before promptly leaving DC behind for Marvel. Since then the book has teetered from average to good before relaunching the team book yet again with NEW Suicide Squad #1 which unfortunately was about as well received as New Coke.
This book just doubles down on everything wrong with the current DC line-up. They bring aboard new characters, which is a staple of the title, but their choices are somewhat suspect. I’m all about characters like Black Manta being brought in. Some of the best Suicide Squad teams have featured B or C List villains getting the spotlight. Deathstroke, on the other hand is a villain who has been criminally overused as his popularity surges. His appearance on Arrow has caused his stock to rise, so they have started cramming him in books like Marvel does with Wolverine. The third member is the deal breaker for me. The kind of choice that made me roll my eyes the moment I saw the cover.
Dear lord, how long will this character continue to plague the DC Universe? I guarantee you somewhere in an editorial meeting suggested the pairing of current team member Harley Quinn with Joker’s Daughter and uttered the phrase ‘it’s a no-brainer’. They are absolutely right. This is a decision that lacks any and all cerebral activity. This is the laziest kind of writing, shoehorning in a character that DC seems desperate to market like it’s an editorial mandate. Why have one Joker obsessed villain on the team when you can have two? Ick.
The actual issue is a by the numbers affair seeing the old team members Deathstroke and Harley Quinn forced to take supporting roles in a team they used to run. Deathstroke, in an outfit that looks like it was borrowed from any Image team book in the 1990’s (Youngblood, Brigade, Stormwatch take your pick). Big horned shoulder pads and a revamped armor that makes him look like a Tony Stark cast off design. The team heads to Russia for a routine hit that soon becomes anything but.
Writer Sean Ryan has penned a fairly average issue that feels like all sizzle and no steak. Jeremy Roberts’ pencils are by no means bad, but the style feels bombastic and big. I hate to go back to the Image analogy, but I had so many recalls to the early 1990’s books while reading New Suicide Squad #1. It feels like the DC editorial has taken the Suicide Squad somewhere it didn’t need to go. The earlier issues featuring artists like Patrick Zircher seemed to suit the tone of this dark title and felt more appropriate.
There’s a lot wrong with New Suicide Squad #1, and very little right. The good news is that DC Comics rotates creative teams with the frequency of a shift change at McDonalds, so we can wait for the inevitable next stab at Suicide Squad.
I’ll be waiting.
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker. His latest work, the novel My Career Suicide Note, is available from Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.