Last month, DC Comics kicked off the start of its Rebirth initiative. After a wave of criticism surrounding the way they have treated their characters’ rich histories since 2011’s New 52 relaunch, DC has decided to rebrand. They hope that by restoring their characters’ pasts, they will restore readers’ faith in them as well. Do they succeed? That’s what the Comics Beat managing editor Alex Lu and entertainment editor Kyle Pinion are here to discuss. Book by book. Panel by panel.
Welcome to month three of DC Reborn!
Note: the review below contains **spoilers**. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on this book, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdict.
Suicide Squad: Rebirth
Writer: Rob Williams
Penciller: Philip Tan
Inkers: Jonathan Glapion, Scott Hanna, & Sandu Florea
Colorist: Alex Sinclair
Letters: Travis Lanham
Kyle Pinion: Today is Monday as of this writing, and when you, dear readers, get the opportunity to read this, I’ll have already seen Suicide Squad, the movie. In the lead-up to that fateful screening (and I genuinely have no idea what to expect with this one), we have the initial issue of Rob Williams’ take on the classic John Ostrander/Kim Yale/Luke McDonnell gang of bad guys doing good. I’ve always maintained that Suicide Squad is a can’t miss concept, though in recent years, DC has maybe tested my patience in that regard, pumping out dreck (mostly, save a quick cup of coffee with Ales Kot) with this hallowed name attached. When I heard Williams was taking on the title, I was awfully excited by the promise that held, and that was before I considered the art team attached. I’ve found his work to be on the more auspicious-side of DC’s younger talent, with Unfollow (which is solid Vertigo) and Martian Manhunter, which I rather enjoyed in my time reading it. Here he’s joined by Phillip Tan, who is one-half of the pencilling team that is completed by DC Co-Publisher Jim Lee, though he may be more famous now for sharing a piece of cake with Alex and I at SDCC. You be the judge!
This issue, which is set-up for release at a very fortuitous time – one of the few times I can think of DC hitting perfect synergy in terms of publishing strategy with the movie releases that share their name – does an effective job of introducing you to the core cast of the comic (Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, Harley Quinn, Amanda Waller, and Rick Flag) while also parlaying the core concept and dually reintegrating Flag into the DCU proper. I’m not sure Flag had even appeared in the New 52, and I’m frankly too lazy to look this up, so we’ll just say this is his first return. Honestly, there’s not a ton of *story* here, which I’m sounding like a broken record about in regard to these “Rebirth”/Prelude issues, but I think it gives you, as a reader, all the info you need to hop into this series for the first time.
You get a grasp of the team dynamics, including the antagonism that exists between all of them, while Amanda Waller, the greatest character in DC history, finally feels like The Wall for the first time in years. In concert with her appearance in Batman this week, it makes for a tremendous one-two punch of no-nonsense bad-assery. I have some pretty big gripes with character design, particularly with one notable Squad member, but this is as good an intro as I can reasonably expect for something that’s having to serve a few different aims and audiences. Alex, you’re newer to this stuff, did this aid you in developing any sort of interest in what’s quickly becoming DC’s hottest property?
Alex Lu: For my money, I think Suicide Squad: Rebirth is a solid prologue. It hits all the story beats you would expect it to, setting up the series conceit, major characters, and giving readers a sense of how monumental the stakes of the team’s missions tend to be. As usual, you won’t get a great sense of where the Suicide Squad series is actually going from this issue, but it does strike the tone quite well.
Williams does a good job of establishing voices for some of the major leads, yet falters with others. Harley Quinn, Boomerang, and Amanda Waller are laid out very well. They have distinctively recognizable speech patterns that immediately make their thoughts and actions jump off their page. On the other hand though, I think this book fails Deadshot completely. Flipping through the book, only two of his lines jumped out at me. One was a bit of a generic throwaway and the other was a declarative statement made in the heat of a big action he takes. The latter, while cool, really doesn’t give me an idea of how the character operates besides telling me he’s a badass with good aim. If that’s all Williams wanted to say, I suppose the point was made, but I personally enjoy a little more meat to my meal. Rick Flag doesn’t get very much to work with either, as Amanda Waller dominates their conversation in Guantanamo.
It’s interesting to note how many inkers this book has– three in total. Jonathan Glapion, Scott Hanna, and Sandu Florea all do a good job of enhancing Philip Tan’s incredibly detailed pencils, but one can’t help but wonder how close they were cutting it to a deadline! Tan’s designs generally hit the spot for me. I love Harley Quinn’s take on ostentatious street fashion in contrast with Boomerang’s classic homely design. Deadshot’s look is a bit much to work with, in my opinion, as it’s overladen with lines created through the necessity of rendering his armor, but Tan does a nice job of filling in those requisite details.
In conceit, I think Task Force X has always been a winner in my mind. It doesn’t get much more morally wild or creatively fertile than a franchise based around a constantly rotating cast of villains doing “good.” The stakes of this series should constantly be high considering how disposable most of the Suicide Squad members are as characters and how dangerous the situations they’re thrown into are– all of this in theory, of course. In practice, I find it strange that the Suicide Squad can have a core beyond Rick Flag because these villains should either be dead or out after a successful mission, no? Yet time and time again, Harley Quinn and Deadshot are here. I know I’m fighting a losing battle here, but I can’t help but feel like if there’s any property to take a risk on, it’s the Suicide Squad. Even if we concede the presence of Harley Quinn, Deadshot, and Rick Flag to cross-media synergy, is it too much to ask for something really outlandish and inspiringly different from this book’s debut?
Kyle: Well, a couple of counterpoints if I may, #1. I do think it’s probably too much to ask to bust up cross-media synergy at this very delicate stage, if I’m being frank. Much like with Guardians of the Galaxy a few years ago, and Marvel’s attempts to take advantage of the craze that surrounded that property. DC sees blood in the water and money to be made, and I can’t really blame them. The team has got to be recognizable to any new reader, and if you start throwing…I don’t know…Jaculi in there, it’s going to throw those ticket-buyers for a loop. That may perpetuate the myth that films produce new comic readers, but the success of those Guardians-based titles means there’s some juice to that line of thinking. #2. These folks are criminals, so they probably end up in jail a lot and well, given that capital punishment doesn’t exist in this universe that I’m aware of, that gives Waller plenty of face-time with “Boomer Butt” and Deadshot and the crew that’ll probably populate this series for stretches at a time.
Getting back to the issue though, I agree with you about Deadshot’s design. To be clear, I’ve always thought they had a perfect look for Floyd for decades, and there was little reason to change him. But this current, I assume Lee-created, design is indeed a bit too busy and alien-looking for my tastes. But on that same note, I was fairly surprised to see just how close Tan’s art is hewing to a Lee style. I don’t have a ton of familiarity with his work, but when he was working on his Larfleeze story in Green Lantern, or his Red Hood set of issues in Batman & Robin, I don’t recall him looking quite so much like his new artistic partner. But if you told me this was Lee working in a looser style, I might buy it. For what it’s worth, that tells me that the crew behind this book wants it to look a very specific way, no matter who is on pencils. As someone who has some affection for Lee’s work, I can ride with that. Alex, I’ll let you get the last word here, but I’m a “buy” for sure. This couldn’t have come at a better time to take advantage of my excitement.
Alex: Aye, in the end, I enjoyed myself with Suicide Squad: Rebirth and think that many readers will find something to love here as well. I think that this book is good in an inoffensive way– it produces the most general audience friendly story for the conceit possible and hits every important character beat on cue. It’s a pop song or a Michael Bay movie, and that’s not a bad thing considering how well the analogy summarizes the upcoming movie’s aesthetic, which looks great, as well. If you leave your theater this weekend hankering for more Suicide Squad, you can’t go wrong with this. I have high hopes for Williams’ writing and strongly enjoyed Tan’s art here, so let’s call it a solid buy.
Final Verdict: Buy