NOTE: This article contains spoilers for Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #6
The Rebirth of the DC Comics catalogue brought with it a titan title in Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, and the battle has now been drawn to a close, spinning the characters and twists out into no fewer than three new teams, and countless new subplots. For some, the event series written by Joshua Williamson was a chance to see classic heroes return to the current universe (sending space mercenary Lobo into the Justice League). For others, it was one more reason to really hate Maxwell Lord. But its final act is one that every fan of DC's heroes will want to see.
The series has also been something of a coming out party for the supervillain Killer Frost. Since she's already been announced as a future member of DC's new Justice League of America book, a turn to the heroic and away from villainy was less than shocking. But even her faithful fans didn't expect her to become the most dangerous player on either side - absorbing the thermal/solar energy of Superman, and using it to take down the entire Justice League. It turns out that was only the beginning.
Killer Frost is what finally ends the real threat of JL vs. SS, and it comes with a sacrifice that reminds us why these superheroes stand apart from the rest.
A Cure For Eclipso
To offer a bit of context, the "real threat" of the series wasn't the Suicide Squad, Amanda Waller, or even Maxwell Lord, technically. Lord's plan was to release the infamous Eclipso from his 'Heart of Darkness' diamond stronghold. For newcomers, Eclipso is the embodiment of ancient Wrath, and divine Vengeance that the more even-handed Spectre was eventually created to replace. Eclipso lives to kills, control, destroy, and torment. So of course Maxwell Lord thought he had figured out a way to wield him as a weapon. That plan went wrong, and Eclipso soon turned America into an Eclipso mob hellbent on killing itself.
With Batman and the 'villains' of the Squad left standing, they form a new kind of Justice League to take down Eclipso (as much for heroic purposes as anger at his decision they weren't worth turning). Heading to the White House, where Eclipso has taken over Lord's body and the corrupted League heroes help to tear the world apart and prevent Batman's attack, the heroes hatch a plan. Eclipse needs an eclipse to function (go figure), meaning sunlight must be his weakness.
Ever the problem solver, Batman reasons a prism of ice would be enough to scatter Superman's heat vision into light, dispelling Eclipso's magic and, hopefully, returning him to the Heart of Darkness. It's a more complicated trick than Killer Frost is used to sustaining, and after a short burst proves the theory, she collapses, unable to continue.
The Price of Victory
It can't be understated just how serious a threat Eclipso really is. Despite his silly name, it's the equivalent of the Justice League tackling the Angel of Vengeance - the literal, Biblical Wrath of God - fueled be darkness, hate, and malice. It's isn't just the innocent present who are trying to kill one another, but the horrible 'truths' and 'desires' Eclipso pulls from the darkness of people's psyche. Deadshot is afraid of the guilt and shame he feels in the imagined eyes of his daughter? Eclipse twists it into a need to remove her from the equation, sending Floyd to murder her with a smile on his face. Dark stuff.
So with the Justice League corrupted to the enemy's cause, and Killer Frost's life fading (she's a heat vampire who required thermal energy from living beings to stay alive), Batman sees only one solution. It's a testament to the character's decades-long journey that his unthinking, immediate command for Frost to drain his own life to complete the task doesn't skip a beat. It is Bruce Wayne's way to sacrifice himself, and that was even before the Rebirth turned his origin story into one of prolonged suicide. A life is what's needed, and his will be freely given.
Before Killer Frost can follow the order, however, it's revealed that her brief explosion of light did have an impact on Eclipso's puppets, if not the villain himself. And Batman never had a monopoly on self-sacrifice.
It's moments like these that Justice League stories are built on: a collection of heroes who devote their lives to defending the innocent, knowing full well that it may mean sacrificing their lives, as well. It's a welcome change to see the heroes of the Suicide Squad - Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Killer Croc, even Captain Boomerang - included in that ultimate sacrifice, and one that highlights the fact that DC's Suicide Squad isn't just a team of villains, bad guys, or superpowered criminals. Well... they are that, but even opportunistic outlaws or hired guns have a sense of human decency.
Whether it's pride, a dislike for the harming of innocents, or simply a desire to keep the world existing so as to plunder it in the future, the Squad and League stand together. And, thankfully for everyone involved, Killer Frost is able to siphon only some of the needed life force from each person present. The prism is constructed and maintained, the heat vision blasted, and Eclipso well and truly defeated. Leaving Amanda Waller released from her enemy's clutches, and finally given a chance to end Maxwell Lord's life, once and for all.
But she's not going to do it herself.
Frost is No Killer
Despite spreading the energy withdrawal across the combined superheroes and villains, Killer Frost is the only one left standing - and barely. As someone who must judiciously subsist on a minimal energy intake to keep from becoming a homicidal heat vampire (again), using her powers to such an extreme leaves her in dire need of a refill, lest she expire. Waller, ever the opportunist, commands her to take the life from Maxwell Lord. Few would probably take issue if she did, least of all the readers, but Frost has crossed a threshold she's unwilling to undo. She may have been a killer, but those days are behind her.
Refusing to take Lord's life means forfeiting her own, using her last breaths to extend her official resignation from the Suicide Squad, before collapsing onto the ground. She awakens back at Belle Reve, with her many allies clearly having found a way to keep her alive in transit (we're looking at Superman, the solar battery). Frost explains that when Eclipso went digging into her innermost secrets and found hope instead of fear or anger, the will to defeat him overrode her own self-preservation. In essence, proving she was as heroic as a Suicide Squad member could be. But Superman sees things differently - and he's not alone.
Superman, like the reader, can spot the difference between suicide and sacrifice, and the latter has shown Killer Frost to be a hero in the making. Batman conveys the same message to Amanda Waller personally, requesting-- no, telling her that Killer Frost is to be released. Her path to the same Justice League as Lobo is left for her to walk of her own volition, but make no mistake: Killer Frost defied her name in a major way. And a sacrifice like that means her new chapter in the DC Universe is only beginning.
Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #6 is available now.