Though I found the opening issue of Suicide Squad to be something of a guilty pleasure, I quickly found I wasn’t alone in my tentative praise of the book. Though I didn’t pick up the second issue, Suicide Squad‘s reception was relatively positive, and when I learned that it was the first New 52 title to break the inevitable downward sales trend and action start selling up – for the curious, it’s picked up about 4,000 steady new readers since February – despite not having any crossovers, I was interested to see what the book was all about.
And, you know what, I actually mostly enjoyed it.*
It has its problems, and they aren’t small. Writer Adam Glass shows a huge improvement here over his Flashpoint: Legion of Doom miniseries, but he still needs to work on some basic areas like pacing, dialogue and general set-up/payoff plotting, all of which are, at various turns, fairly uneven throughout the title. For example, #2 (“When the Levee Breaks”) has some terrible dialogue – “Zombies?!? I’m going to squeal! I love zombies!” – and the pacing is flawed, jumping from getting the mission to fighting hordes of faceless enemies, but it does set-up/payoff pretty well, getting Deadshot infected here, reminding us periodically over the next couple issues, and then finally bringing it back in a huge, climactic firefight.
But what Glass does VERY well is the conceptual stuff. You have six hours to kill an entire football stadium worth of infected, prevent the infection from spreading beyond the walls, and retrieve the cure. You have 20 minutes to put down a riot at Blackgate Prison before the bombs in your neck go out. Harley Quinn is running rampant in Gotham: hunt her down and capture her without being caught on camera. These are all fantastic hooks that let new readers jump in with ease and find an exciting little action romp that builds on what came before without relying on it. Which is an immensely difficult type of plotting, and if Glass can master some of the more basic skills it is what could very well propel this book to excellence.
The book’s other main issue are the redesigns. Harley is the biggest offender, obviously, going from iconic to Hot Topic just like that, but most of the characters feel the problem to one degree or another. Amanda Waller just looks more generic – the Wall was such a fantastic character before – while Deadshot’s costume just looks a little bit off.
Suicide Squad is never going to be for everyone, and the extremes of violence the book goes to even in this opening volume suggest it may get even out-there by the end of it, but reboot wasn’t the trainwreck it easily could have been (or the trainwreck everyone suspected it would be). In fact, people craving quick, dirty, mission-based action comics could do a lot worse than Suicide Squad: Kicked in the Teeth. It isn’t a classic by any means, and it has its fair share of problems, but I found myself eager to see if Glass could grow as a writer and make his own mark on one of DC’s most fascinating legacies. As is, however, much like Justice League International: The Signal Masters, it’s a lightweight but mostly enjoyable take on some classic material.
– Cal C.
*obligatory disclaimer: No, it’s not even in the same LEAGUE as Secret Six… but then, not many books are.