At the time of writing this, I have not seen the Suicide Squad movie. Despite the geek Internet throwing down in another vicious argument about a DC movie, I remain skeptically excited to check it out. Will Smith is maybe the most likeable leading man around, Margot Robbie’s Harley has been amazing in each of the forty-eight trailers, and, you know what? I know everyone currently has a hate-on for him for some reason, but Jared Leto’s Joker looks like he might be kind of cool. Even if he does spend his free time exchanging menacing glares with Rick Ross and Skrillex at nightclubs and on boats.
In celebration of the movie, Blastoff is all Suicide Squad all the time for the month of August. We’re going to dip back into some of the classics, as we always do, but first let’s take a look at what DC is currently doing with Suicide Squad. I haven’t read the book since the New 52 relaunch, which was controversial for multiple reasons, including the ill-conceived skinny redesign of Amanda Waller as well as Harley Quinn’s controversial new outfit. Since then, Waller has returned to the character we all know and love (and fear?), and Harley has achieved breakout success in her own title, becoming one of DC’s most consistent top sellers. Let’s see how the Suicide Squad proper is doing in their current titles.
HARLEY QUINN AND THE SUICIDE SQUAD
APRIL FOOLS SPECIAL #1
This recent one-shot was far more of a Harley Quinn story than an “and the Suicide Squad” tale. Which is fine by me, as Harley’s book sells like it does for a reason – the character is delightful. Rob Williams is on script duties, with Jim Lee himself handling the majority of the art with inkers Scott Williams, Sandra Hope, and Richard Friend and colorist Alex Sinclair. Sean “Cheeks” Galloway illustrates a hallucination sequence, which is trippy and gorgeous with pastels and cartoony figures, creating a vibe that I didn’t expect from this book.
The concept is pretty great. Harley Quinn, needing a morale boost, comes upon a new purpose for herself: she decides to become a therapist for supervillains. This quickly goes south when she attempts to “heal” Man-Bat by jumping onto his back and riding around on him until he crashes. Things only get worse from there as Harley spirals out of control and the narrative gets darker, ending with the set-up for the Suicide Squad relaunch as Harley joins the eponymous team.
In this comic, Harley feels very different from her main title. She’s nastier here and the jokes feel both darker and more focused on breaking the fourth wall – think Deadpool amounts of fourth-wall breakage. The main series of course has a fair amount of that, but this focuses on the humor in the narration a lot more than the situational and character humor we’ve come to appreciate in the Amanda Conner / Jimmy Palmiotti run. It’s fun and engaging, with a very cool set-up, but I admit I like my Harley stories a little more on the feel-good side these days.
SUICIDE SQUAD: REBIRTH #1
Next up, Suicide Squad gets the Rebirth treatment. I’ve loved what DC has been doing with the rest of their Rebirth titles, especially the double-sized issue that kicked it all off. With the Suicide Squad relaunch, it’s a lot of set-up, a good amount of action, and not quite enough Harley Quinn. What can I say, the April Fools special made me greedy.
Rob Williams, who wrote the April Fools issue, also wrote this. He’s joined this time by penciller Philip Tan; inkers Jonathan Glapion, Scott Hanna, and Sandu Florea; colorist Alex Sinclaire; and letterer Travis Lanham. In the issue, Amanda Waller convinces a skeptical President Obama to leave the Suicide Squad alone, guaranteeing that she will give it great leadership in the form of Rick Flagg. She spends much of the rest of the issue attempting to recruit Rick Flagg, as the Suicide Squad – missing a couple of the characters we saw at the end of the Harley special, which kept the issue focused but left me wondering where those characters had gone – handles a potential disaster. They save the day with cunning, skill, ultra-violence, and a complete lack of regard for human life.
The thing that excites me about DC’s Suicide Squad titles is the plurality there. They are expanding the brand as the movie comes out, giving various creative teams the room to explore the characters that DC does best… its villains. I’m looking forward to seeing if any of these titles will have the crossover success that Harley Quinn has enjoyed now that they’re on the big screen… though let’s be real. We all know that as awesome as the characters are, Harley is special, ain’t she?
PAT SHAND writes comics (Vampire Emmy and the Garbage Girl, Equilibrium, Van Helsing), novels (Avengers, Iron Man, Charmed), and pop culture journalism (Blastoff Comics, Sad Girls Guide). He truly believes that if the supervillain community of DC Comics had given her a chance, Harley Quinn could’ve really helped them work out some of their issues.