Graphic Reviews has been a bit Gotham Central the last few weeks with the reviews of The Killing Joke and Gotham City Sirens, but I’ll be wrapping that up this week with a review of the two most recent Suicide Squad series just in time for the movie. Suicide Squad is a concept that’s been around for decades but wasn’t particularly well known until DC announced the movie and created not one but two connected Suicide Squad series. In both series, a group of villains are coerced into working together as a disposable black ops team and mayhem ensues. It’s a combination that is equal parts silly and ridiculous and incredibly violent. The New 52 series ran from 2011-2014, was written by Adam Glass, Ales Kot and Matt Kindt and illustrated by Federico Dallico and Patrick Zircher (among others). The New Suicide Squad series picked up in 2014 from the New 52 series, was written by Sean Ryan and Tim Seeley and illustrated by Jeremy Roberts and Juan Ferreyra. I’ll be looking at both these series and letting readers whether either is really worth their time.
New 52 Suicide Squad
The New 52 Suicide Squad series brings together a cast of villains including Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Captain Boomerang and King Shark. None of these characters are particularly well known for working together but they had been promised eventual freedom (and at least a lack of boredom) by Amanda Waller, a high-ranking government official who needs a disposable covert ops team. How does she manage to keep them on task during the mission, you may ask? With nano bombs implanted in their necks of course! Under the threat of death (and hence a fair amount of hatred for Waller herself), the villains “complete” missions for the American government under the guise of villains creating mayhem. I say “complete” because these missions are largely complete disasters. They never go well because surprise, surprise, villains make terrible covert operatives. The series does deliver on violence and mayhem however.
On the note of whether it’s really worth your time to read it, skip New 52 Suicide Squad unless you’re feeling particularly masochistic that day. There’s a total of five volumes in the series and the first three which are written by Adam Glass are godawful. He may have been a co-creator of Supernatural but he has absolutely zero idea of what to do with Suicide Squad. Few of the characters have any real personality beyond “I’m crazy and I like to kill things”, Waller is inexplicably thin as a rail which I find immensely aggravating, and in a series full of violence and mayhem, it somehow manages to be so trite that I almost died of boredom before it got interesting. When Ales Kot and Matt Kindt take over for the writing, the series improves but not drastically. It becomes more humorous and fun like I would expect a Suicide Squad series to be but still isn’t what I’d call must-read. Overall, I can’t say I’d recommend this series to really anyone.
New Suicide Squad
The 2014-2016 New Suicide Squad series picks up where the New 52 series left off: Amanda Waller has been demoted after the Suicide Squad created mayhem but no actual results in any of their missions. This new Suicide Squad still has Harley Quinn and occasionally Deadshot but is led by Black Manta and otherwise has a constantly rotating cast of villains. A new government agent named Vic Sage has been placed above Amanda Waller so that she isn’t the only one making decisions anymore (a fact that she really doesn’t appreciate) but otherwise the missions go about as expected for the Suicide Squad. To make things a little more interesting, a new more violent arm of The League of Assassins known simply as The League has set about trying to create a new world order and a mysterious organization known as The Pearl Group has its own part to play in the entanglements of the Suicide Squad.
The larger antagonistic groups help to keep this series a bit more on track than the New 52 series and the constant rotation of villains made a lot more sense for a group named “The Suicide Squad.” This series also balances humor and action better than the previous one but it still makes some major missteps. Until the final storyline, Harley Quinn is written not so much as crazy as ridiculously mercurial with no reason for anything she does except that she’s crazy. I mean, I get that she’s not right in the head, but she still has motivations. The series actually redeems itself with the final storyline which I won’t get into for spoiler reasons but actually does a much better job of treating the members of Suicide Squad more like individual characters and less like crazy cardboard villains. The art, particularly in the early issues, has a tendency to be really terrible. And I mean, like WTF terrible.
While I wasn’t a huge fan of either of the newer Suicide Squad series, the New Suicide Squad series is decent enough to be worth a read if you want a feel for the group before watching the movie. Not so with the New 52 series. I was very disappointed with the handling of Harley Quinn in both series as I don’t feel that either did her complete justice (at least not til the end of the second series). I’m learning to expect that disappointment however as HQ is rarely done well. She’s kind of like Deadpool in that sense. I also was pretty disappointed with the change to Amanda Waller. I have no idea why they decided that making her skinny made her a better antagonist for the Suicide Squad. She was a lot more interesting when she didn’t look like a model because she created her own mystique and her own appeal by being a hard-headed, take no prisoners kind of woman who could push around even superheroes. Overall, if you’re interested in Suicide Squad, it’s worth considering the New Suicide Squad series. I’m still not sure I’d say that either were a miust-read before you watch the movie. That’s a sad change from the usual for me but I just wasn’t super impressed by either.