[WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for “Suicide Squad: Rebirth” #1.]
The days of the Suicide Squad being a second-tier, out of the spotlight team title are well and truly over, thanks to the massively-budgeted blockbuster bearing the DC villain strike team’s name. But as the Squad prepares to hit theaters around the world, it coincides with the arrival of a brand new Squad on the comic book page, in “Suicide Squad: Rebirth” #1. When the company’s plans for the “Rebirth” initiative started to take shape, it was revealed that the new book wouldn’t just be releasing near the film, but in the exact same week.
That means more eyes on the book than, likely, any other release window would offer – and writer Rob Williams and artist Philip Tan haven’t disappointed. Not only does the team’s roster directly reflect the film’s cast (not much of a stretch, to be honest), but a brand new face on the team has finally been returned, after waiting in the shadows of the New 52 for his time to shine. Not to mention the first foe presented, standing clearly in the way of Amanda Waller, and her ‘suicide squad’ known as Task Force X.
President Barack Obama
That’s right, this adventure begins at the very top of the United States government, with Amanda Waller being called to the carpet by the Commander-in-chief himself. Thankfully, it’s a pretty easy stance to take, considering the political ramifications of a clandestine strike team intervening on behalf of United States interests without clearance, oversight, or formal training. Naturally, the President is opposed to the entire operation, having just learned of its existence in his second term.
And for the DC Comics fans who’ve been following the Squad in the years since they were relaunched as part of the New 52 – and relaunched again – the downside of such a structure is more than obvious. In short: hundreds, if not thousands of people killed, laws broken, innocents left in the wake, and all without really knowing if things were made better, or worse by the team being brought together and set out into the world.
But as much as he would like to shut down Waller’s pet project with a single word – and, to be fair, the morality and ethics on his side – the President hasn’t dealt with Waller when she’s backed into a corner.
Waller makes a case that’s nothing new to the “Squad” comic series, or film and television at large: to keep people safe, there are things they’re best not knowing about. That, and that international laws and rules are only an issue if you get caught. Still, the President wins one concession: if the team is going to function under Waller’s supervision, doing jobs, facing enemies, and averting crises that it’s best even the President of the United States not know about, then they can’t remain the ragtag group of homicidal maniacs with nothing to lose that they’ve been to this point (to an outsider, at least).
No, if the team is to continue, in the words of the President, “someone has to know. Someone has to represent the American people. Someone must be accountable. And it’s obviously not you.”
He’s got that right. Fortunately for him (and the fans) Waller already has a soldier in mind to keep this band on course, and turn them into the actually-functioning team they potentially could be.
Colonel Rick Flag
The man who brought the first incarnation of DC’s villain black ops team together may have been benched until now, but he’s coming back in exactly the way that fans will expect. For those who aren’t familiar with the original “Suicide Squad” series created by John Ostrander, then the role of ‘Rick Flag’ in both the DC Universe and the upcoming film (played by Joel Kinnaman) may be a total mystery. But in the first version of the story, he was where the Suicide Squad truly began. Well, his family, anyway.
It was Rick flag, Sr. who led the first affectionately-named wartime team known as the ‘Suicide Squad’ in World War II, leaving it to his son to lead a very different version. It was due to a botched mission that Flag, a veteran, upstanding, highly-experienced soldier lost his entire unit, leaving him with no path forward… until Amanda Waller gave him one. Leading a team that could be killed on each mission, taking down threats too large for the world to know about them, it was Flag and Deadshot who eventually emerged as leading figured in the series, with each of their backstories helping to round them out as humans first, and Squad members second.
However, that role, backstory, and inherently fun-killing leader was pushed to the side when the team was relaunched for DC’s New 52 continuity. Until this version of Waller was finally forced to accept that she needed a hero among the villains – just as she originally did back in 1987.
We meet Rick Flag imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, having clearly ticked off someone important or powerful enough to not only place him outside of America’s borders, but keep his incarceration a secret. But then, Amanda Waller trades in secrets. So her offer is simple: stay in prison, or lead the Squad, and hopefully do some good before he actually does disappear from the world.
Flag’s decision is teased out over the course of the issue, as the Squad – now only consisting of Boomerang, Deadshot and Harley Quinn – attempts to prevent, then fire a superpower-granting-and-negating bomb. Naturally, he makes the right call in the end, arriving in the field to pull the Squad’s proverbial butts out of the fire, and lead them in an assault. It functions well as a “Rebirth” issue, effectively resetting the series that will now be told by Williams, Tan and artist Jim Lee.
And with Flag now back in the fold, the fantastic figures on the team have more than just eachother to bump up against. That’s even before the likes of Killer Croc, Katana, Enchantress, and who knows what other past and future Squad members may be worked into the story.
For the older comic fans, or those who simply felt that the Squad just isn’t the Squad without Rick flag leading them against their worse instincts and impulses, the “Suicide Squad” series has been placed firmly back on track. We don’t yet know just what insanity Williams, Tan and Lee have cooked up for the next year of “Squad” stories, but the move to return a long-lost soldier to the mainline DC Universe may be reason enough to keep your eyes on this series (as if fans needed another reason).
Suicide Squad: Rebirth #1 is available now.