NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for "Suicide Squad" #3
Thanks to the big screen Suicide Squad, millions of moviegoers have gotten a (brief) introduction to the DC Comics femme fatale Tatsu Yamashiro - better known as Katana. An introduction to her AND her signature weapon, Soultaker: a magical sword that traps the souls of the victims it slays within its blade. The film version kept close to the comic book roots, and now "Suicide Squad: Rebirth" is taking a similar path to the movie, making Katana a member of the new team as Rick Flag's bodyguard.
It would have been hard to guess just how effective a swordstress would be against an angry Kryptonian general, but thankfully for Katana fans, Issue #3 of Rob Williams and Jim Lee's "Rebirth" series puts her squarely in the spotlight. She's not just a match for General Zod, either - and her sword is taking a starring role alongside her.
Katana The Godstopper
When last we left the Squad in Issue #2, they had quickly learned that the target they were searching for in a top secret Russian facility was actually a gateway to the Phantom Zone. No sooner had they realized the danger than General Zod himself came erupting out of it, disintegrating one of their teammates in a blink. Thankfully, the metahuman that helped them track down the target - a digitally-gifted girl named 'Hack' - wasn't too choked up by the death, and instead worked on returning Zod to the Zone through her cyber skills.
The newest issue sees Harley Quinn make a retreat, leaving Hack for dead. But just as Zod's skull-shattering fist is about to make contact, another member of the Squad leaps in to help her. It's probably not the one most fans will expect, but by stepping in and putting her sword to good use, all are reminded that while she may not be the most boisterous, Katana has the mother of all secret weapons up her sleeve... well, in her scabbard, is more accurate.
Katana's sword, Soultaker is able to stop the Kryptonian's swing in its tracks, leaving the blinded-by-rage Zod further blinded. The moment should click for any devoted DC Comics fan, since the advanced and ultra-durable physiology of Kryptonians on Earth still can't make them immune to one thing: magic. It's the reason that Aquaman's trident can make Superman bleed, and why a punch from Shazam can actually stagger the Man of Steel.
As the standoff continues (peppered with Zod's colorful, but confused threats), it's shown that Soultaker can even take a blast of Heat Vision at point blank. Rather than wasting time wondering how that's possible, we'll skip ahead to Katana's most badass moment of the story, going toe-to-toe with a godlike supervillain and coming out on top.
Scream For Soultaker
The showdown is made worthwhile by Zod's blasts of boiling heat clearly breaking through to the spectral residents of Soultaker. The sword itself begins to whisper, crying out in pain as the souls contained within yearn to escape the attack. As experienced and cruel as Zod may be, hearing tortured voices emanating from the apparently indestructible blade of his foe still gives him pause. But when fighting an enemy like Katana, a pause is all she needs - wounding Zod in a manner that even Superman fans aren't used to seeing.
Unfortunately, the action of the issue shifts elsewhere, meaning the next stage of the fight will have to wait until Issue #4. Even so, the background images of Katana continuing to slice the enemy as Rick Flag empties his sidearm into his temple with no impact are nothing, if not memorable. And just that suddenly, Tatsu Yamashiro distinguished herself as not only a fearless warrior, but one capable of taking on even Superman's greatest foe.
But wait, some critics might say: isn't it the sword that deserves the credit, not the one holding it? It's a fair point... but the same issue also reveals why sword and master are partners, above all.
An Origin Story, Too
So far, Rob Williams has delivered not only a story set in the present day, but a backup story detailing the origins of the team members. For Deadshot, it was his team-up with Batman to save his daughter. For Boomerang, it was an exaggerated account of Digger Harkness' time as Australia's top secret agent. For Katana, it's the traditional origin story of tragedy and murder that Amanda Waller musts recount (offering what must be one of her only apologies - ever). For the most part, the origin is as it has always been.
Two brothers love a girl, girl chooses one, spurned brother rises through Yakuza and slays her husband with an enchanted blade and burns down their home with two young children still inside - that classic yarn. Kidding aside, artist Philip Tan turns in a beautiful rendition of the tragic tale, capturing the innocence of Tatsu prior to the murder of her family... and the remorseless warrior that comes out the other side. But seeing as this is Soultaker's story as much as it is Katana's, Williams make a few small, but important additions to the account first offered in the pages of "Batman and the Outsiders" #12 (1984).
The New Twist
Innocent though Tastu might be, the origin story maintains that she was a specialist in martial arts as a child, meaning she was as deadly, if not more so than her brother-in-law Takeo. As the origin story tells it, Tatsu returned to find her home in flames, her husband mortally wounded, and his brother Takeo responsible. Having been poisoned by Soultaker (because he was evil, not it) to act out his revenge, Tatsu realizes that Takeo must be defeated before her children perish, as well. She eventually wrestles the blade from him - but by then, it is too late. The voice of Maseo's soul speaks from the sword, informing her that the children are gone.
The origin story in "Rebirth" begins with a mysterious note: as Tatsu approaches her burning home, she is surrounded by green forms - the same green used to portray the energy and souls of the blade - speaking a single word... choose. The voices returns as Takeo stands over her, ready to kill the woman he once loved. This time around, Katana doesn't disarm her attacker, but, in the words of Amanda Waller, the sword chooses to fly from his hand and into Katana's.
She didn't acquire Soultaker by stealing it, but by accepting the will of the souls residing inside of it (including her husband's).
Tan and Williams go one step further this time around, showing Tatsu descending completely into her ferocity and slicing Takeo from shoulder to stomach. Not that you can really blame her. But the lasting impression is the agency given to Soultaker, no longer merely a weapon but a willing partner - at least, that's what Katana believes is the case. As if that weren't enough, Waller inquires as to the exact reason why Katana volunteered to serve on the squad, protecting Rick Flag whom she, at least so far, has no clear attachment to.
Katana replies that the decison was also made by Soultaker, with its many souls informing her that she is needed in Waller's pet project. Why? Because something is coming. Whether General Zod is that something, or it's referring to a threat still wrapped in secrecy, we don't yet know. But in an issue that delivers an unforgettable moment between an underrated fan favorite and a raging Superman villain, expanding on Katana's mystical backstory is just icing on the cake for DC fans. The only real question is: who's ready to join the rest of Soultaker's tenants?
Suicide Squad #3 is available now.