Ugh. I don’t even really want to talk about this, because what is there to say? There was no reason to think that, after the fairly disastrous Suicide Squad #1, that #2 would be an improvement. But, due to my superior intellect, I am a naturally curious person and sometimes that curiosity compels me to pick it up.
When last we left our intrepid Suicide Squad, Amanda Waller had thrown them out of a helicopter at a stadium full of cyborg zombies (we didn’t know it was full of those at the time, but now we do know that: cyborg zombies).
This is just…ugh. Look, I get why you’d use the Suicide Squad for this: if things go south, you’d rather have the headlines read “Supervillains go nuts, massacre football stadium” rather than, “Government screws up, massacres football stadium.” But still, like — I don’t get what Amanda Waller’s plan is. “I’m going to break these six people out of prison, torture them for a while to make sure they won’t give up their secrets, and then throw them at some zombies.” Is she supposed to be an idiot? Is all of this Adam Glass’s commentary on a brutal government that eschews finesse and wastes money by always resorting to the most violent recourse?
I don’t know, but it doesn’t look like it. It looks like he just thought that it would be cool to see some people fight some cyborg zombies. Harley Quinn is there with her hammer which…again, it raises the question as to why they would buy her a sledgehammer instead of just giving her a bunch of guns, but actually if you look at the last panel of SS #1, she clearly doesn’t have the hammer with her when they throw her out of the helicopter, so maybe it IS a special magic hammer that she keeps up her butt or something.
I don’t want to keep harping on the JLU as being the best thing ever, but just looking at the Task Force X episode gives a pretty good insight into how a comic like this could work: that episode was about a bunch of guys, each with particular skill sets, who were chosen for a specific mission which was intricately planned and executed. And the thing is, even though they were bad guys, and they were trying to do something bad, and they were fighting the JUSTICE LEAGUE, the suspense in that episode doesn’t come from “How is the Justice League going to stop him,” it comes from, “Oh no! Is their plan going to fail?” What I mean is, even though they’re badguys, you still WANT them to get away.
And the reason for that is that “different people with skills executing an intricate plan” is an awesome thing to watch. There’s a reason that they made a million episodes of The A-Team, and that Leverage is in its 5th season. That’s because this premise is great. It’s a great premise, it gives a lot of opportunity for creative uses of idiosyncratic powers, for character development and conflict, &c.
So, look. It’s easy for me to say, “Suicide Squad isn’t doing all of the things that are good,” but could I do any better? Of course not, I’m just some kind of idiot, right? No, wrong. Let me just take a minute here and describe what could have happened in Suicide Squad #1 in a way that would have just been interesting to read, and would have let you introduce the “Government is actually messing around with us” idea incrementally, seeded throughout a kind of adventure-competence comic that would have been cool.
Everyone Loves it When a Plan Comes Together
We’ve got to pretend two things here, two key differences from the actual comic.
1) The guy they’re trying to get is actually at a fortified house and surrounded by bodyguards, instead of just hiding out at a log cabin by himself. Let’s pretend that, for right now, that’s a pretty small distinction, I think that’s a worthwhile distinction to make.
2) Let’s also pretend that Harley Quinn has a skillset that is different from “Swinging a hammer.” Let’s pretend — and just hear me out here — let’s pretend that she’s actually a literal sociopath. That she really just has no sense of human compassion, but she’s a high-functioning sociopath and so she can fake human emotions really convincingly. Like a con artist, she’s this absolutely sincere-seeming but completely manipulative personality that’s only not narcissistic because of her obsession with the Joker. Let’s pretend that, I don’t think that’s so far a departure from Harley Quinn’s personality — she acts like a goofy-clown-whackjob, but that’s just because she’s trying to impress the Joker, you know? It’s a reflection of his personality, it’s not like she was a clown-themed psycho first, and then found the Joker later.
All right, so the plan. Harley Quinn doesn’t dress up in her crazy costume. She dresses in regular hiking clothes. And she shows up at this compound. The bodyguards let her come inside, why? Because she’s a pretty little blonde girl, just weeping with terror because she’s lost in the woods. They don’t let her near anything important, obviously, but she’s cute, and so the one dude especially let’s her in to get warm and help her out.
Harley brings in a discreet surveillance device built by that Black Spider dude. So, once she’s inside, now they have a map of the whole compound. So, now. Voltaic (electric guy) sends some volts into the compound and knocks out the power. King Shark eats one of the perimeter guards and, let’s be gritty and real here, right?, let’s say he bites the dude’s arm off and starts throwing body parts through (or at) the windows.
The guards inside scramble. A bunch go out to hunt King Shark, but he flees, and the El Diablo Rojo covers his escape by setting some of the woods on fire. In the meantime, the remaining guards try to spirit the other guy away, take him out the back door or whatever, and as soon as they take him out — POP! Deadshot shoots him in the head.
Maybe Harley Quinn murdered that dude while she was inside, too. This is good because it reminds us that Harley Quinn is a psychopathic murderer, and every time she does her job successfully, it’s just a reminder as to how completely untrustworthy she is. And the structure of the plan actually lets the El Diablo Rojo conflict with King Shark, let’s say, or Harley, rather than Deadshot, because that’s too obvious. Deadshot isn’t an indiscriminate killer, he only kills the one guy. El Diablo Rojo is a hardass, he can respect that. He can’t respect a dude like King Shark, who just likes to kill and eat people, because that’s messed up; and he can’t respect Harley Quinn because she is a complete sociopath — but you know what’s interesting? What if we don’t really know that, right away? Or WE know it right away, but as far as everyone else is concerned she just seems charming and helpful (and, hey, let’s actually figure that these guys have all probably never heard of each other) so not only do we get this weird kind of sick suspense over when Harley’s going to finally snap and just start murdering people, but we can eventually get a reveal where the rest of the Squad finds out that the reason she was in prison is because she’s actually a serial killer.
It also let’s us explore a couple other ideas. For example, maybe the El Diablo Rojo just doesn’t have really good control over his powers, you know? He can make a lot of fire, but once he’s made it, he can’t put it out — that was how he ended up killing all of those people in the first place. It’s not that he didn’t KNOW that there was a family in that house, it’s just that he was trying to scare those guys, and he lost control of the fire. Or, maybe even better, maybe the dealers he was going to roast DIDN’T have their kids in that house, but because the El Diablo Rojo can’t control his fire that well, he accidentally burned down the whole fucking neighborhood, or something.
That makes him really reluctant to use his powers, and also a bit of a liability on the team — you kind of CAN’T just send him flying headfirst through the cabin with everybody else, because if he starts setting fires, then he’s going to set everyone on fire, right?
Anyway, look: that’s a plan that uses everybody, it uses their powers, it reveals the character of a lot of them (not all of them, because there’s six people, let’s give it some time). I’m just trying to point out that this isn’t an impossible task; this is a pretty easy change to make that still lets you do most of the same things (you’d have to rethink the “capture everyone and torture them” scenario to make it work, but as I mentioned in my review of #1, I think you should be rethinking that whole thing, anyway — in the sense that it is stupid, and if you want to do it, maybe you should THINK AGAIN).
Then you can also have the resolution of the first arc be Harley Quinn just trying to murder her way out of the Suicide Squad, and then their mission is to take HER down, but it fails because she’s a deadly maniac.
Good. Good use of Harley Quinn, in my opinion.