Random Retrospective #24 – Suicide Squad #58

I came to SUICIDE SQUAD late in the game, to be honest. At the time this was published, I was leaning more towards JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA and GREEN LANTERN and I think my first encounter with this title would have been the two issue crossover with JLA. Over the years, though, I heard more and more good things about it and, after reading Ostrander’s THE SPECTRE, I realised I’d been missing out so started hunting through the back issue boxes until I had the complete run.

And, typically, out of the 67 issues in this series, the one my random selector chooses, is one I’ve already touched on here, as it’s part of the crossovers of WAR OF THE GODS. Rather than do a quick summary again, I’m going to pick out one thing about this issue.

Suffice to say, the Squad had been assembled to attack Circe on her island as part of the crossover and there’s the obligatory shot of heroes and villains about to be briefed by Amanda Waller.

Up in the top right hand corner, this little exchange is going on:

The pale guy with a laptop in front of him is the fictional DCU version of Grant Morrison who had appeared in the pages of ANIMAL MAN about a year or so before and, as they state here, has since become subject to the whims of any other writer. This version of Morrison has become a character in someone else’s story! And they demonstrates their powers to a clearly unimpressed Firehawk and Silver Swan:

Unfortunately for The Writer, as they’re called in the comic, their tenure with the Squad is brief to say the least. The attack on Circe’s island is launched and they run into Amazons and Bestiamorphs and within moments . . .

Writer’s block – perhaps the only time it’s been fatal.

I performed a quick search to see if there was any comment from Morrison about their use and death in this issue and found a Newsarama interview from 2001 that has been saved on a Grant Morrison fan site where they say:

NRMA: One final sidenote – what was your reaction to appearing in Suicide Squad, as “The Writer” only to be killed off in issue #58?
GM: I think it probably served me right after everything I’d put Buddy Baker through. I just come back from the dead, stronger and stranger, like everyone else in comics.

Suicide Squad Review

Critics hate it, fans love it, apparently. At the time of writing, Rotten Tomatoes scores it thus:

Suicide Squad Rotten Tomatoes

For what it’s worth, those scores aren’t much different from the much maligned Batman v Superman which are currently 27% and 65% respectively.

I’m going to have to come down somewhere in the middle – there’s stuff to enjoy in the film but there’s a lot of dross to get through as well.

First the good stuff:

Deadshot Harley Quinn

Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn are both absolutely spot on and carry the majority of this film. Smith is back at his wise-cracking but serious best and absolutely nails the character of Deadshot. He shares most of the limelight with Robbie’s Harley who has received much of the pre-release hype and more than lives up to it. They’re both damaged in different ways and of all the Squad members, they’re the ones who most believably bond, Deadshot’s daughter issues making him look after the sometimes innocent, mostly crazy Harley.

The other character that shines is Viola Davis’s Amanda Waller who is scarier than a dozen Killer Crocs. She’s cold and ruthless (perhaps too ruthless in one scene) but always in control of the Squad and isn’t rattled by any of them. These three are definitely the high points of the film – it’s just a shame there are so many other things happening around them that don’t allow them to be even better.

As to the bad – well, to be honest, it’s not terrible . . . it’s just disappointing.

Once again a DC film takes places almost entirely at night in the rain; you want to make a brighter film, DC? Try doing it in daylight for a change.

EnchantressThe plot’s barely there: after twenty minutes or so of setting up most of the characters, the Enchantress (technically a Squad member) manages to escape, rescue and resurrect her brother and then sets about wiping out humanity by building a machine using magic. Because, you know, that’s what she does, apparently.

And Enchantress’s method of magical machine building seems to be comprised of wearing not very much and writhing about with her hands in the air.

The Squad are assembled and head off to deal with a “terrorist threat” and rescue someone very important. Led by Rick Flag and accompanied by a band of nameless and expendable special forces types, they quickly realise the threat is actually the Enchantress and her brother and end up coming together in order to combat her.

And that’s pretty much it. Sure, there’s a sub-plot featuring Jared Leto’s much talked about Joker (short version: he’s okay, but he’s no Heath Ledger – and, man, he’s going to hear that a lot so full marks for having the balls to take on the role) and his attempt to rescue Harley, but really the film spends a good 80% of its time battling the bad girl. There’s no real lead up, there’s no believable bonding among the Squad (with the exception of Deadshot and Harley) and apart from the leads, none of the other members really have a stand-out moment.

El Diablo comes closest near the end but even his moment (and I’m trying to avoid spoilers) comes out of nowhere and is gone in an instant; Captain Boomerang does next to nothing and has a fetish for pink unicorns that is neither explained nor mentioned; Katana has a handful of lines of dialogues, slices up some generic bad guys and does little else; and Killer Croc merely growls a lot.

Because most of the Squad doesn’t bond with each other, the audience doesn’t have the opportunity to bond with them either so when one or more of them don’t make it (hey, it’s called Suicide Squad – not everyone pulls through) there’s no real emotional cost.

Again, it’s not a terrible film and I would definitely watch this again rather than B v S, but if this was the one that Warner Bros/DC were banking on as being a credible counter to Marvel’s run away success, they’re going to be disappointed. Again.

So, no pressure, Wonder Woman.

Spot The Difference

Here’s a handful of DC covers from the last few years:

Justice League Vol 1 13 Worlds Finest 13 Justice League Vol 1 11 Green Lantern Vol 4 66

And here’s the latest issue of Bloodlines which came out just last week:

Bloodlines 04

Notice the difference?

All of the earlier covers have large banners running across the top of the cover promoting the latest DC film or TV show, but on Bloodlines, we get this:

Bloodlines 04 Squad

Yep – Suicide Squad, the film that’s getting way better pre-release buzz than Man of Steel or Batman vs Superman gets a little logo down in the corner rather than a banner across the top of the entire front cover.

Yet another brilliant marketing move from DC.