NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for “Suicide Squad: Rebirth” #1 & “Suicide Squad” #1
The verdict is in: the Suicide Squad was NOT what most critics (and plenty of moviegoers) were expecting. It hasn’t had much of an effect on the film’s box office take, with the latest venture in the DC Extended Universe still breaking box office records. But for fans of the supervillain team from DC Comics history, it’s no real surprise that the film version has proved to be weird, off-putting, divisive, and above all, NOT sticking to the normal formula of what makes a hero.
In true comic book form, the writers and artists of DC Comics have taken that bar, and raised it once again. With the film coinciding with the “DC Rebirth,” more eyes than ever before will be on “Suicide Squad: Rebirth”. The creative team seems to be well aware of that fact, taking some of their cues from the movie, but also charting an insane path of their own. And in case anyone thought DC would actually be capitalizing on the film (molding this new team in its image), the issues released so far are their very own brand of crazy.
7. Even President Obama’s No Match For Amanda Waller
Thanks to the big budget blockbuster, movie audiences are now aware of a fact every DC Comics fan has taken as Gospel: that Amanda Waller is not someone to be messed with. She may not be the physically dominant figure one might expect from someone with the nickname “The Wall,” but in terms of people willing to abuse their power to do horrific things to those unable to resist… she’s as scary as they come. And while comic writers have usually put her up against fictional politicians to show how unshakeable Waller’s actions are, writer Rob Williams and artist Philip Tan turned to an actual sitting President to prove the point.
While the president in the “Rebirth” issue isn’t actually stated to be President Barack Obama, the similarity is obvious. That makes his moral objections to Waller’s program – but eventual acceptance of defeat – a powerful claim. At least it would be, if it wasn’t clear that even George Washington would cower before The Wall.
6. The Meta-Gene Bomb Creates a Villain Army
While the Suicide Squad movie showed that Hollywood’s reliance upon blue beams of light fired up into the sky is alive and well in making their villains truly terrifying, “Suicide Squad: Rebirth” is relying on something a little different… blue explosions of light in the sky. It’s more than just show, of course, as Amanda Waller explains what the explosion has to do with the Squad. In short: a leading expert in meta-gene research has been kidnapped by a terrorist group, and not long after, his cutting edge work on activating metagenes was put into use.
It’s a clever idea: a terrorist cell kidnaps a man capable of creating a ‘metagene bomb’ that activates said gene in those within the blast radius, turning them into superpowered villains for a window of thirty six hours. A supervillain army for hire – even on so short a clock – would still be useful for America’s enemies (or so Waller claims). But the real threat comes with the fact that the bomb doesn’t just affect the non-superpowered: it deactivates the metagenes of any superheroes, too. The activation of just one bomb, and the construction of another is the reason the Squad is sent in to recover the scientist, but it’s hard to believe that such a game-changing piece of technology couldn’t be used later in the “Squad” series or the larger DCU.
5. The Squad Takes a Shortcut
Unsurprisingly, we’re introduced to the Squad after they’ve already been deployed into the Mongolian ghost city to track down the scientist (Dr. Mark Ljungberg) – a feat they’ve already completed. Unfortunately, the mission becomes a bit foggier after they’ve gotten in. While fighting to get the good doctor and the metagene bomb he’s carrying out of the city, it becomes clear that the scale of the odds has escaped their commanders. And before long, the villains succeed in stealing Dr. Ljungberg and his bomb away from the Squad (thanks to a massive, semi-translucent blob).
But within seconds of being snagged by said blob, Dr. Ljungberg can barely cry out that his bomb be kept out of villainous hands before his own are removed. That’s right, within a heartbeat of the Squad’s main objective falling back into enemy hands, Captain Boomerang takes it upon himself to slice clean through the doctor’s arms, returning the meta-bomb to them. That may seem a bit extreme, but Deadshot puts him to shame moments later, when Waller determines that Dr. Ljungberg’s knowledge is just as dangerous, and plants a bullet between his eyes.
4. Harley Quinn is a Pokemon Fan
When you’re dealing with a character as unhinged and fourth wall-breaking as Harley Quinn, actually defining reality from her perspective can get complicated. In her solo series, Harley is approaching Deadpool-levels of cartoonisg, manic comedy. But in the Suicide Squad, it’s hard to have a member who has stepped out of a Looney Tunes cartoon operating alongside the legitimately-scarred Deadshot and Rick Flag. Rest easy: no need to fear that this Harley is immune to wall-breaking and referential comedy.
Aside from her running commentary in and out of fights (and her t-shirts literally pasting the “Rebirth” name in front of readers’ faces), Harley shows just how unflappable (or oblivious) she can be in the face of danger. As her teammates are focused on details like an orbital drop, or actually living to begin the mission, Harley is more interested in catching the rare breeds of Pokémon known only to reside in the stratosphere – a Pokécutey, to be specific (Editor’s note: Pokémon Go players should not attempt this feat).
3. Killer Croc Drowns in His Own Vomit
When the team first heads into action, it goes without saying that something unexpected will take place to turn the mission from bad to worse. But we have to hand it to writer Rob Williams: on the list of possible disasters or backstabbings, we did not expect ‘Killer Croc drowning in his own vomit’ to be a top contender. But that’s just what transpires, with Boomerang’s claims of stomach problems and dehydration taking a backseat to Croc’s zero-gravity sickness. And as the green slime gushes forth, it’s hard to tell if the ensuing tragedy is actually more of a comedy (it is).
Thankfully, while Waller is content to leave Croc to die, his commander Rick Flag isn’t. By opening his helmet to let the man-croc-hybrid breathe, we can only assume that Flag is ‘owed one’ by his sharp-toothed teammate. That is, assuming that Flag’s shifting of their dropship doesn’t actually wind up killing them. If so, it’s hard to think of a worse way to go than crammed into a tin can filled with crocodile puke.
2. Batman Created Deadshot
The first issue of the new “Suicide Squad” run is told by Rob Williams and artist Jim Lee, but it comes with a back-up origin story by artist Jason Fabok. The “Personnel File” in question gives a closer look at how Floyd Lawton a.k.a. Deadshot wound up on Waller’s team of criminals and killers, with her literally explaining the events that led him from wealthy Gotham citizen to hired assassin. And in this version of the story, as so often seems to be the case, it’s Batman who actually gives Lawton the idea for a career as a costumed, theatrical “scumbag” (Waller’s words).
Over the years, the emergence and theatricality of the Dark Knight has been used as a catalyst for Gotham’s criminals to up their game (with the movies following suit), but the decision to link Deadshot to Bruce Wayne so closely is a new wrinkle. It’s still in keeping with the character’s original story (and Waller’s reference to his life being a “crapstorm” beforehand hints that his troubled family life remains intact), but it’s not every day that the birth of ‘Deadshot’ is shown from Floyd’s perspective, among the upper crust of Gotham’s high society.
1. Deadshot & Batman Team Up
Finally, it’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for: after seeing Deadshot (Will Smith) and Batman (Ben Affleck) come to a truce in the Suicide Squad movie, the comic book actually puts the two men – Gotham’s caped crusader and the world’s deadliest assassin (he inspired) – into a fight as a duo. But before anyone assumes that Batman has taken the same turn towards mortally wounding, or even killing his opponents in the comics as Zack Snyder’s Batman V Superman, the team-up is for a good cause.
When Floyd’s daughter winds up kidnapped by a cult hoping to force the infamous Deadshot into killing Bruce Wayne, he resists. Instead, he informs informs the Dark Knight of the plan, and seeks his aid in rescuing his daughter (using rubber bullets, obviously). The Gotham team-up is brief, but as the image above shows, it’s worth the price of admission for fans looking to see the hero and villain cross paths with meaning. To make things even sweeter? Deadshot still follows through on killing the man responsible for the kidnapping, ending the threat once and for all, and surrendering to the Bat – so long as he keeps his daughter safe.
Suicide Squad: Rebirth and Suicide Squad #1 are available now.