I was fairly enthusiastic about the last version of the Suicide Squad, written by John Ostrander. Well, in the DC Universe, when all else fails, reboot: the latest version of the “team” (and you’ll see why I use the quotes) was part of the overall reboot, DC’s “The New 52.”
The team this time around starts off with Deadshot, Harley Quinn (the Joker’s girlfriend), El Diablo, Voltaic, King Shark, and Black Spider. There are personnel changes — sometimes you get nailed by the target, sometimes by your own team. The stories are pretty much predictable: the Squad is sent out on pretty thankless missions, one after another, and whoever makes it through gets sent out on the next mission. Seeing as how they’re all supervillains from the notorious Belle Reve prison, there is a safeguard — each of them has a nano-bomb installed in his or her neck, so if you get out of line, you’re finished — if the mission doesn’t finish you first.
OK — there’s enough gore in this one to keep the sickest little geek happy. Personally, I can deal with violence in a story if it’s justified by the plot or the characters, but I reach a limit when the whole thing is built around violence, and that seems to be what’s happening here. Hell of a lot of blood spurting and not much else.
There’s not much snap to the dialogue — it’s pretty straightforward — and there’s not much in the way of characterization. I’ve never seen much use for King Shark as a character — every time I’ve run across him, he’s been nothing but appetite, and there’s no difference in this version. El Diablo, aside from an attempt to paint him as the “moral voice” of the group, is pretty much a cipher; the same goes for Voltaic and Black Spider, and later YoYo and Captain Boomerang. To call them one-dimensional is being generous. Harley Quinn shows a little more depth, but only a little — mostly, she’s portrayed as a nutcase, although a smart one, and any depth of character is really just a function of her warped outlook. The one that comes closest to any sort of humanity is Deadshot, who actually has — or had — a life outside the Squad. There are flashbacks that attempt to round out the characters, but mostly they don’t help at all — there’s little in the narrative to support them.
The art is a group effort, but there’s a strong stylistic consistency throughout the volume. In a way, the drawing is very appealing, finely detailed without becoming congested, boosted in effect by the saturated colors. Layouts are fairly regular, but show enough looseness to avoid repetitiveness. My one huge objection is the character design for Amanda Waller — she’s portrayed as a very beautiful young African-American woman, and it’s a little off. OK, a lot off — she’s not hard-bitten and remorseless enough in appearance to be doing the things she’s doing.
This version of Suicide Squad is not something that I’m going to be following, I’m afraid — it just misses on too many points.
(DC Comics, 2012) Collects Suicide Squad #1-7.