How do you replace Gail Simone’s much lauded Secret Six? Yet another victim of the DC relaunch, forced to end before its various plot threads could be tied up adequately. Even then, Secret Six went out with a bang, the entire gang taken down by no less than the entire Justice League.
Well, that’s certainly a tall order but Adam Glass rises to the challenge. While many will mourn the loss of Secret Six, Suicide Squad offers its fair share of action, black comedy, and interesting character developments. Yes, per usual, we’re retreading old material with younger, less rounded characters, but the book establishes a consistent tone and pacing early enough that one easily forgets these facts while getting caught up in the action.
Naturally, the book is a return to its namesake’s roots, a team of supervillains brought together by the government’s secret black ops division, Task Force X, to carry out suicide missions Dirty Dozens-style on the promise of a reduced sentence. Commanded by the now magically thin Amanda Waller, the team consists of sharpshooting hitman Deadshot, the Joker’s unstable yet ever faithful girlfriend Harley Quinn, the monstrous King Shark, the repentant fire powered El Diablo, Gotham’s homicidal vigilante Black Spider, and other rotating members (sidelined due to injuries or more…permanent complications). The book focuses primarily on the aforementioned members, Deadshot and Quinn in particular with the former assuming the leadership role and Quinn his unhinged, wise-cracking second. The book sets up some ongoing plot threads, the rise of clandestine criminal organization Basilisk (how many clandestine organizations is the DCu up to now?), but wisely downplays them in favor of a series of shorter, contained stories tied together by circumstance. For their debut mission, the Squad must take down 60,000 unlucky football fans quarantined in a stadium and infected with a techno-zombie virus.
There’s not really much to delve into as far as underlying themes and ideas in this book. It’s like a fun summer blockbuster action film — though less Michael Bay and more Paul Greengrass or Martin Campbell. The action comes heavy and hard but the characters keep you involved. Deadshot and Quinn form an amusing double act with Deadshot’s pessimistic, dour mode clashing with Quinn’s relentlessly morbid cheer. El Diablo earns some sympathy with his genuine religious quest for redemption and futile pleas for mercy amongst his relentless comrades. Black Spider (among the stable of DC characters like Black Lightning and Black Manta who just have to make a big deal about being black) bridges the moral gap, regretting his actions in Gotham while falling for the bloodlust intoxicating Deadshot and Quinn. And King Shark is King Shark. A giant shark that walks like a man. How can you not love him?
These aren’t exactly Gail Simone’s rich characters but, then again, they need the time to develop and grow into their own. Meanwhile, Adam Glass keeps the dialogue snappy, dealing dark humor in spades, creating fun character moments that could easily go on to define the book and carve out a unique slot in the DC library.
With a rotating bill of artists, the artwork can vary in quality at times. In particular, no one can seemingly get Deadshot’s costume consistent from issue to issue. Pouches disappear and reappear, his silver trimmings alternate between a chrome codpiece and his usual, pre-reboot metallic diaper. Federico Dallocchio especially has problems rendering Deadshot’s helmet which often changes shape panel to panel with the various minor details distorted or asymmetrical. While the pencillers can’t be excused for these errors, Jim Lee bears a good portion of the blame. His redesign of Deadshot is atrociously over detailed and complicated, especially the helmet where lines blur together into an inchoate blob. Personally, I prefer Deadshot’s trench coat and realistic body armor outfit but at least the chrome diaper Deadshot had a clean, consistent look that wasn’t difficult for rotating artists to keep consistent.
And lest we forget, his redesign of Harley Quinn…yeesh. The hair, the corset, the stockings, the goofy little half cape with clown ruff, the two-tone hair, the daisy dukes — it’s all just terrible, over-sexualized, and unlike Harley Quinn. You can’t get more alluring than Harley’s harlequin outfit which left just enough to the imagination while still being shapely. Harley’s new outfit is just too…skanky. Regardless, overall the art is good and suitably fluid and cohesive during action scenes. Given the book’s quick pacing, minor details and inconsistencies aren’t likely to bother the unscrupulous reader.
Putting aside the qualms and comparisons regarding the book’s history and predecessors, Suicide Squad emerges as an enjoyable, solid team book. Whether it will prove a worthy successor to Secret Six remains to be seen but on its own merits and, with enough force of character and fun, could easily defy comparison altogether.
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