The total reboot of DC Comics, called the New 52, has produced some solid hits with Birds of Prey, Batwoman, and Catwoman. All 3 titles feature strong female protagonists that are multifaceted and complex. One of the odder additions was a new line called Suicide Squad. This title brings together some of Batman’s more dangerous foes headlining them as the protagonists. It’s a clever concept. The idea is that many of the super villains Batman or others have captured over the years have skills that can be put to use for the good guys. Good in this case being a shadow government agency that uses the Suicide Squad for dangerous missions no one else wants to do because of the likelihood of death. The Squad has no choice because they are constantly under a clock via a ticking time bomb in their heads. It keeps them motivated and on a leash. The Squad members rotate depending on who dies from mission to mission. When it starts sniper Deadshot is the leader, accompanied by pyro-magical El Diablo, ninja Black Spider, mutant King Shark, and everyone’s favorite pinup clown, Harley Quinn. Deadshot and Harley are the stars here but the title does a good job never letting you forget what they are. Most have superpowers of some kind, either incredible strength or combat skills, or in the case of Harley, they are just a lunatic with no concern for anyone’s safety making them wildly unpredictable yet effective.
The first collection, Kick in the Teeth, introduces us quickly to the various members and then throws them in to their first mission retrieving a package from a crowded football stadium that has been overrun with techno-zombies. As far as I can tell these are people that were turned in to zombies via some kind of nanotech virus. The first half of the book pinballs around as the team tries to find the source of the virus making the techno-zombies while protecting the package. The second half sees the team, or part of it, trying to put down a prison riot and then heading off to find one of their own who has escaped.
The book is fun and moves fast and the art work from Frederico Dallocchio is excellent. There is more depth to the villains than usual and its fun when they have to go to Gotham how wary they are to avoid Batman at all costs. Because of her marquee status, a lot of time is given to Harley and her rebooted origin story. It plays out same as the old canon, at least initially, but there is a turn later that I wasn’t fond of. Harley has always been an interesting character because out of all Joker’s victims she is the one that chose to follow him of her own free will. Her origin here tells a slightly different story unless I’m mistaken and the change takes some of the agency away from her revealing that when the time came to commit to Joker maybe she never had a choice in the matter.
As for how this book connects to the new movie, I don’t think it does. One of the big plot lines at the beginning of the New 52 is the disappearance and possible death of the Joker. He returns later, of course, but as a villain even more frightening and depraved than usual. In the epic multi title arc Batman: Death of the Family Joker targets Batman’s friends, family, and allies one by one. Here, the specter of the Joker hangs over the story, especially for Harley, and when she learns he was skinned alive her wordless reaction is all it takes to know she’s about to leave a trail of destruction. It’s powerful and you actually do care about her, at least until she starts viciously murdering people.
The volume does a good job of being reasonably self-contained. Sure there are dangling plot threads waiting to be picked up in the next issue but the story is fun and exciting. To be fair, I’m not sure why King Shark is in the mix. He’s a total livewire and eats the bad guys as well as his squad mates if they wander too close to his gaping hammerhead maw. He’s an interesting character and vicious but does more harm to the team than good.
If you are curious about the new movie, Suicide Squad: Kick in the Teeth may answer some questions for the how and why, but I doubt this has anything to do with the story of the movie. It’s a worthwhile read for fans of the characters, especially Deadshot and Harley, and a new take on the Gotham based DC universe.