NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for Suicide Squad #11
You don't have to be a villain to firmly believe that when leading a people, it's better to be feared than liked. While most of DC's superheroes tend to lean towards the idea of leading by example, there are few who adhere more strictly to the rule of terror and intimidation than Amanda Waller - the terrifying mind that created Task Force X. And the iron will strong enough to keep that Suicide Squad in line.
In the modern era of DC Comics, 'The Wall' has been able to leverage political blackmail or old fashioned secrets to get her way - and even convince President Barack Obama that the Suicide Squad was a valuable asset. But in the recent Justice League vs Suicide Squad crossover event, Waller went one step further, concocting one massive scheme to raise Maxwell Lord up, just to put him down for good. In the process, putting the entire world in jeopardy.
As a result, Amanda Waller was finally disciplined by her superiors. But as the Squad takes a brief bit of R&R in Suicide Squad #11, Waller runs into an unexpected guest... and may be taking a long time off, herself.
The Doors Close on Amanda Waller
It's not easy to take Amanda Waller out of action, but in the current DC Universe, she's done it to herself. In the first issues of the Squad post-Rebirth, a mysterious character arrived calling herself simply 'Harcourt' and issuing orders to Waller, It was later revealed that Harcourt is a high-ranking servant of the NSA, whose actual direct superiors are even more cloaked in secrecy than she (not a bad idea, considering they're the ones telling Waller what to do). And when the Maxwell Lord/Suicide Squad/Justice League fiasco became too large to ignore, Waller was put on operational leave.
The suspension follows some family troubles for Waller, using her standard level of blunt, uncompromising strikes to remove her children from danger - one of Lord's soldiers, Rustam, remains at large (with a serious grudge against Waller). The children turned their back on their mother for what may not be the first time, and with no professional purpose to serve, Issue #11 finds her drowning her sorrows in the company of the only other tyrant currently muzzled in Belle Reve: General Zod of Krypton.
Harcourt steps in to reprimand Waller and accuse her of having a death wish, and a desire to bring her ruthless existence to an end. Waller doesn't reveal how accurate Harcourt may be, but instructs her escort to take her to New Orleans - where the Suicide Squad is enjoying their days off from the front line.
A Trip to New Orleans
This bit of the story has a strong air of mystery about it, since Waller's exact purpose for visiting New Orleans is unclear. Harley Quinn and Rick Flag enjoy a cup of coffee together, with more than a slight implication that a romance - or at least romantic chemistry - may be building between the two. That is, until Amanda Waller walks past their window apparently unseen... and Harley excuses herself. Elsewhere, Floyd Lawton takes the opportunity to visit his daughter, Zoe, for the first time since he murdered the men who kidnapped her, landing him on the Squad.
Writer Rob Williams makes a point of singling out these two famous members of the Suicide Squad, and the reasons they may have for wanting Waller killed (and the opportunity, since she's walking among them). There's no dialogue or internal monologue as Waller picks her way through dark streets, or ducks into an alley, so it's impossible to know what she's truly up to. But when she comes face to face with an unseen, silhouetted figure with twin pistols in that same alley, she returns to her usual stoic self.
Asked if she has one last message to deliver before the shooter executes their plan, Waller gives a predictably Waller-esque answer. But if her proximity to the Squad, or the simple fact that she is Amanda Waller implies she actually is unkillable... what happens next is a certified bombshell.
That's right, the unseen shooter puts a bullet square into Amanda Waller's chest, in a deserted alley in New Orleans. And as the blood spills out, Waller has just one thought: that Harcourt was wrong, and that Waller (presumably) wasn't ready for oblivion. That's a tragic note, if this is indeed the death of Amanda Waller, and even tragic if it's simply the closest she'll wind up coming to it. It's a mystery above all else, with readers now tasked with identifying the intentionally anonymous outline of the shooter. What we can say for sure, is that it doesn't appear to be Rustam (the character currently on a mission to kill her).
The obvious suspects are Harley Quinn and Floyd Lawton: one without an alibi, and the other with serious motive. Unfortunately, fans may not see this mystery solved immediately. If we were gambling on the shooter's plot, the isolated location makes sense to both surprise Waller, and minimize the odds that she could be discovered and rescued. Still, how did they pick that exact alley? How could Waller ever survive a bullet direct to her chest? And, since this is Amanda Waller we're talking about, is it possible this is all a part of her plan?
Those certain that the scene is merely a fakeout, and just another cliffhanger ending teasing a major character's death may not be wrong at all. It's hard to believe Amanda Waller would be replaced in the story and the DC Universe by Harcourt. That being said, it isn't like Waller didn't have it coming to her. But until we see an autopsy completed... don't tell her we ever said that.
Suicide Squad #11 is available now.