One year in, and “The New 52” has now shifted to “The 52.” How’s it been? Steve Morris investigates in a series we’re calling “One Year Later.”
Suicide Squad’s year was made up of two controversies: one which I think they deliberately orchestrated, and one they didn’t realize was going to be a big deal.
The first was Amanda Waller, commander of the team, whose reappearance in the New 52 had her lose her weight and “wall” to become a skinny lady. This seemed like a deliberate move on DC’s part to build up some controversy for a title which only had two star characters in it (the other being Harley Quinn — more on her in a second) as it knew the internet would go crazy at the reveal. Skinny Amanda Waller has yet to display an inch of the savvy she had back when she was a bigger lady, and scared Batman on a regular basis. Making her skinny wasn’t just a sign that DC were going for looks over substance — it was a sign that they were taking everything back to the start, and wrecking it from the beginning.
The second controversy was Harley Quinn, the main star of the book and main attraction here. Reinvented with a much more revealing costume, increased libido and new origin story, she was rightfully included in the initial outrage aimed at DC regarding their treatment of several of their female characters. Again, we had a character with an iconic look get reinvented right from the start, changing everything about her apart from the name. Before she was an emulative copy of Joker: now she literally has the same origin as him, having been dumped into a vat of chemicals just like Mistah J was.
Creatively speaking, it’s been a fairly awful time for Suicide Squad. While the art side of things has remained solid and fun, the choice of cast members has been uninspired and the dialogue bland. Anybody picking up the book would need to have more than a cursory knowledge of prior DC history to recognize anybody but Harley, and the rest of the team all seem to be altered around. Deadshot is probably the central figure here, and the character readers are asked to view the stories from. He’s also lost his awesome facial hair and become a generic assassin character. He is meant to be smart and cynical, but his dialogue shows him to be constantly reactive, struggling to stay alive in a world he can’t handle. He doesn’t inspire confidence as a protagonist, in other words.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team are made up of identikit villains, none of whom have an individual voice or defining character-trait. One of them is a shark, which helps, but the rest are really rather bland. The overall narrative also leaves a lot to be desired, with plots rolling in and out with no notice or regard for coherency. In this issue alone we have at least two people changing side for no reason, revealing themselves as part of an ambush they really didn’t need to set up.
John Ostrander’s run casts a heavy shadow over the team concept of the book, and since issue #1 writer Adam Glass has struggled to match him for character, tone or plotting. There’s little internal logic at play, and characters make bizarre moves for reasons explained only to themselves. It reads like a book which is obsessed with seeming cool, but also can’t stop pointing out the cool things it’s just done. The big moment of these first 12 issues was the storyline explaining Harley Quinn’s story… and that didn’t make much sense at all. A big deal was made of the moment she takes Joker’s severed face (don’t ask, it’s the upcoming big Joker story in the Batbooks and sounds really bad) and places it on top of Deadshot’s own features. It sounds like a grotesque, weird, intriguing moment, I know, but it played out in a thoroughly generic, boring manner.
The first year of Suicide Squad has been a mess, basically. The series started out badly, and has made wrong choices at almost every step of the way. Decompressed when readers wanted compression and compressed where the pacing needed to be slower. The character work has been poor, the narrative incoherent and dull, and the overall tone uninspired. It’s a massive step down from Ostrander or even Gail Simone’s run on Secret Six. There are a few DC books which are stuck in mediocrity — but this is the only one which feels like it’ll never escape.
For more not-so-new-52 coverage, check out Steve’s other One Year Later essays:
- One Year Later: Animal Man/Swamp Thing
- One Year Later: Demon Knights
- One Year Later: Suicide Squad
- One Year Later: Catwoman
- One Year Later: Batwing
- One Year Later: Aquaman
- One Year Later: Wonder Woman
- One Year Later: Birds of Prey
- One Year Later: Justice League Dark
- One Year Later: The Flash
Steve Morris is the head and indeed only writer for Comics Vanguard, the internet’s 139th most-favorite comic-book website. You can find him on Twitter at @stevewmorris, which is mostly nonsensical gibberish you may enjoy or despise. His favorite Marvel character is Darkstar, while his favorite DC character is, also, Darkstar. He’s on Team X-Men, you guys.