Suicide Squad #20 debuts a new creative team, with Ales Kot and Patrick Zircher taking over as writer and artist respectively. Does this herald a new direction for DC’s most devious super team? This Major Spoilers review will point you the right way.
Previously, in Suicide Squad: After some expected deaths and unexpected betrayals, Amanda Waller decided she needed tighter control of the band of psychotics and criminals known as the Suicide Squad. So she tapped the Unknown Soldier to take control as the group’s new leader.
“A BREAK AND REBUILD EXPERIENCE”
I dug the first few issues of Suicide Squad in the wake of the Nu52 reboot, but I quickly lost interest. The series’ concept works as an ultra-violent, dark counterpoint to four-colored caped heroics, but with most of DC’s line working in shades of moral gray, Suicide Squad was not doing enough to retain my interest. But when I saw the solicits for Suicide Squad #20, I was intrigued. Ales Kot just wrapped up an incredible, mind-bending series for Image called Change, which spun a tale of Lovecraftian meta-weirdness that I still don’t understand but definitely enjoyed. I think DC needs to tap independent comics for younger creative talents if they want to compete, so putting someone like Kot on Suicide Squad seemed like a great idea.
Unfortunately, Suicide Squad #20 did not live up to my expectation. Kot’s script is a good jumping-on point for new readers, but it fails to do anything especially interesting with the characters or concept. This issue finds the team taking a breather, as they adjust to new field leadership in the form of the wildly erratic, violent Unknown Soldier. The principals are reintroduced by a shadowy figure delivering psychological profiles to Amanda Waller, while she works to break the already splintered team down further. There are some bright spots. I like the image of King Shark reading up on Sufi mysticism while chowing down on vegan reubens. Waller’s revelation to Deadshot regarding his repeated brushes to death is appropriately creepy. But there’s no variance in tone or subject. All of the characters are grim, tortured sociopaths, engaging in physical or psychological abuse of one another. Without any sort of character remotely sympathetic, or even simply different, there is precious little for a reader to engage with. And ultimately, it feels safe – the stuff happening to these characters is harsh and nasty, but not particularly risky.
“HELL OF A PAINT JOB”
Patrick Zircher slots into this title ably, working in a similar style to his predecessors. It fits well with the book, dark and shadowy, with a little roughness in the characters themselves. His main strengths are his dynamic panel layouts, which work wonders at bringing energy to the issue that is mostly talking. My only real quibble is that this art feels too standard, too safe. It’s competent, assured, and fine. But this is a book about risk-takers, and again, I find myself wishing that there was some risk-taking in the execution of the book itself.
BOTTOM LINE: I EXPECTED MORE
Marvel Comics has found success by grooming creators from the indie world and letting them loose in the Marvel universe. There’s so many different flavors to choose from, due to the writers and artists being allowed indulge wildly differing styles and themes. With all the behind the scenes rumors of DC’s editorial heavy-handedness, I can’t help but wonder if Suicide Squad is a casualty of editorial policy. Ales Kot’s Change was one of the weirdest, most interesting comics I’ve read in 2013. But his unique voice here seems diluted. It’s a shame, because I was looking forward to something special, but ended up with another grimdark slog that is increasingly becoming DC’s stock-in-trade. I might stick around for another issue or two to see if Suicide Squad improves, but this issue was a disappointment. Suicide Squad #20 rates two stars out of five.
DID YOU READ THIS ISSUE? RATE IT!