Jessie Robertson reviews Justice League vs. Suicide Squad (with spoilers)…
When DC Comics initiated Rebirth some months ago, it brought a lot of fans out of the New 52 funk they’d been in for several years; it realigned the universe back to the its original state, in most cases, and brought you versions of characters you loved instead of the complete rebranding New 52 brought to a lot of these characters (except of course, Batman….because he’s Batman.) This was touted as the first “event” of Rebirth, and was set to feature the two most popular and brand-recognized teams at this point as DC begins to launch its cinematic universe. I think my initial reaction was the same as a lot of fans: “How in the hell can the Suicide Squad stand up to the Justice League?” Well, as with most things in comics, it’s a swerve. Yes, there is a battle and no, Harley Quinn does not stand toe to toe with Wonder Woman, as the comic covers suggest; but in a twist of fate, the Suicide Squad do end up the victors. It’s all due to the standout in this series (you could inter-changed “standout” with “focus”) of a surprise character: Caitlin Snow herself, Killer Frost.
Killer Frost began as a Firestorm villain, a woman scorned by him who gained superpowers and started a life of villainy terrorizing the elemental hero. Now introduced as the loveable, quiet and doomed in love Caitlin Snow from The Flash TV series, new doors have opened for her. In Rebirth, Killer Frost is painted in the same light as her TV counterpart; a woman who didn’t ask for these extraordinary powers that also turn up the heat on her temper, but has the heart of a hero inside her. Her powers are a bit of a twist now: not only does she have immense cold powers, but she actually needs energy to keep strong; she is able to sap energy from other people to fuel her cold fusion; depending on the power source, she could become extremely strong. So when she holds onto Superman for an extended period of time, you can guess what comes next…
Meanwhile, just as in all good comic book fights, the headline fight is a mere distraction from the always hidden villain element the two forces must combine to confront; the same is true here. In a clever bit of writing, a very known villain from the past puts together a plan to gain a powerful DC element not seen in the New 52 in this form, and to rescue the original Suicide Squad he learns Amanda Waller has had locked up for years when her first Task Force X was a terrible experiment. The cool thing about this group is that none of them had been seen in the New 52, again, as their recognizable selves. It’s quite the heavyweight team as well to go up against our heroes. To remind you this is not the New 52, there are some other great character moments throughout; my favorite being Deadshot having a death wish and when in issue #1 he realizes he can’t escape a crumbling building as he’s perched on its rooftop, he simply dives off backwards giving himself that grand death he’s always dreamed of; of course, Superman was there to catch him and ruin his plans.
The Justice League is as it’s always been, with its stalwart members (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman) but it’s small twist on the New 52 squad as Cyborg remains and two Green Lanterns now join the team (Simon Baz, and Jessica Cruz). The Suicide Squad on the other hand, which has always been a constantly rotating membership, resembles very closely the team from their own 2016 feature film. DC follows in the footsteps of Marvel, which started way back in 2000 when the X-Men had their first feature and the team shifted to resemble that lineup. Harley Quinn, as popular as ever, is continually featured throughout this event, as a resourceful, insane, deadly but still lovable character who apparently had stepped in for Wonder Woman as part of the Trinity since Rebirth started and looks up to Diana as a role model; it’s a cute relationship that softens the antagonistic and absurd notion from the marketing materials that these two would stand toe to toe. Superman also has a nice subtle role as Frost’s supporter throughout, believing there’s a hero inside her and supporting her to do more to help and to follow her heart. It’s a relationship I did not expect but one that casts a nice pall upon our Kryptonian hero.
If you like hero vs. hero (or hero vs. anti-hero) battles, you’ll get some fun but brief stuff here; one of my favorites being Aquaman and Killer Croc taking to the seas to battle as Croc disembowels a Great White Shark Aquaman sends after him, and as Arthur mourns the loss of his friend, Croc takes a bite out of his arm, or so he thinks. He nearly breaks his teeth on Aquaman’s strengthened skin and suffers an uppercut from Arthur that would make Mike Tyson pee his pants. The end of the saga gets a bit predictable as what villain hasn’t turned the Justice League against its own , except of course for Batman, who always ends up outsmarting the League. It’s been done so many times, it felt way too worn out. But, overall, for a first event, this was a nice contained story that provided many character details to a ton of DC’s brightest and didn’t over-reach too far and turn this into a Morrison muddled mess, nor did it achieve a Johns monster epic.