Squad Baddies + Checkmate-Esque Espionage = A Wild Ride
I rarely take the time to write reviews for New 52 books unless I really like them. No use wasting energy on negativity, right? So here I am, in full support of the direction that the Suicide Squad has been taking since Ales Kot took over; and now that he's left the title, I'm extending the kudos to new writer Matt Kindt.
Based solely on the cover and a few solicits leading up to this issue, readers new and old alike will know that there's going to be a shakeup in the ranks of the Squad during Forever Evil. And now that we've gotten a taste of Forever Evil and maybe a little too much of Villains Month, it's also apparent that Amanda Waller is calling on the now released Deadshot and Harley to work one last mission for her.
This issue establishes a new division amongst the remaining inmates of Belle Reve. Some of these characters are well-established mainstays, while others are fresh takes on pre-52 favorites, and still others are Kindt-created.
- It's great seeing Captain Boomerang again, if only for an introduction in this issue. Kindt's preview of Digger's dialog is pretty spot-on when comparing him to Ostrander's 80s-90s Digger. Here's hoping we get at least one exclamation of "S'trewth!" before this arc is over.
- Speaking of old favorites, the choice of a main "villain" here is a clever one and it makes sense within the context of Forever Evil. Zircher's artistic take on this villain breathes new life into an old character and looks rightfully disturbing.
- I can't give Ales Kot enough praise for introducing James Gordon Jr. to this book. He crafted the Batgirl adversary into a perfect foil for Amanda Waller's no-nonsense personality. And much is owed to Matt Kindt for keeping Gordon Jr. in the spotlight for this storyline. His presence balances the book and saves the title from being just another "gritty for gritty's sake" comic. Although Kindt seems to have toned down the humorous nature of his narrations for this issue, the character still feels authentic and not too different from what Kot was doing with him. He continues to work on the level that Cliff Carmichael worked in the 80s-90s Squad, as an anti-Oracle of sorts and a genuine loose-cannon.
- At first, the matchup of these two makeshift Suicide Squads seems like a rather one-sided beatdown in favor of Team B. While a revelation near the end of the book seems like it could even the playing field a bit, I'm still extremely hopeful that Kindt can use this opportunity to establish Deadshot, Harley, and Captain Boomerang as villains who can hang with even the top tier of DC's superheroes by way of their technology and weaponry skills.
- The issue starts with a casualty; and while I get that Suicide Squad should be a book where any character can bite the dust whenever, this particular death concerned a character who was fairly well-established in the old continuity and was making his first appearance in the New 52. That kind of character death comes across less as a shock value scene and more as squandered potential.
- Kindt is setting a lot of pieces in play for this storyline. While this is a good thing, there are times where the dialog comes across as exposition-filled and one-sided as a result. Aside from Boomerang and Gordon Jr., a lot of the characters don't really develop distinct personalities as they relay messages back and forth. There are a few too many times when both Waller, her B-Team leader, and the villain all begin their sentences with the word "Well". Minor gripe, but it's noticeable.
- With all the characters present for this story, I was hoping to catch some updates on the early Squad members who have been locked up for some time. El Diablo, in particular, has been strangely absent. Though most readers weren't too keen on him, I'd be interested to see how his character would react to the events of Forever Evil. I'd like to see more backstory on what Digger, Harley, and Deadshot have been up to since the end of Kot's arc (and whatever happened to that woman who looked oddly similar to Nightshade?!), but there's still plenty of story left, so I won't judge too early. Also, I'm not quite getting why King Shark is hanging around and acting like he is, but I'm betting this will be touched on further at some point.
I approached this issue with hesitation after how much I enjoyed Ales Kot's work and how little I enjoyed Matt Kindt's issues from Villains Month. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the setup of this "Squad War" storyline, as well as how much respect Kindt pays to both Ales Kot's run before him and Ostrander's classic characters while still feeling like a fresh start. If you enjoyed the direction that Ales took the Suicide Squad in and saw the potential that I did in his book, then this should keep you interested in the team and their future exploits. Kindt introduces elements that should give him several ways to build upon the mythos of the Squad in the coming months. Definitely an important title in the New 52, as it's a rare ongoing that lets the criminals of the DC Universe shine and grow as characters month after month. It's early yet, but at first glance, it appears that Matt Kindt really understands and appreciates that opportunity.