NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for Suicide Squad #12
In the realm of costumed superheroes, it's a foregone conclusion that not every hero or villain will live forever, whether it's the long arm of the law that ultimately squeezes their life out of them, an even more terrifying villain, or in rare cases, a hero pushed too far. In the case of DC's Suicide Squad, it's officially in the job description. In fact, the relaunch of the title in DC's "Rebirth" already saw one major villain killed by General Zod... only to return to life a few issues later. But the latest casualty of the team's covert operations is a bit more substantial.
With the Justice League vs. Suicide Squad event behind them, the main members of the team had the chance to take in some shore leave. And since the massive battle all hinged on Amanda Waller's personal secrets which put the entire world in jeopardy, her own superiors determined she would be taking some forced time off, as well. Sticking with alcohol to calm her nerves, the potential loss of her job, and seeming to push her children away for the last time - thanks to the one former Squad member who remains out for her head - she followed her team to New Orleans.
Right up until the moment a mysterious figure put a bullet in her heart. And in Issue #12, the creative team doubles down: Amanda Waller is dead.
Last Issue's Shocker
We previously covered the shocking conclusion to Issue #11, with a dejected, isolated Amanda Waller heading down a dark alley before being ambushed and shot in the chest. As comic book fans, we know, like anyone else reading the issue, that these kinds of deaths are never exactly as they seem. No good hero or villain stays dead for long, and as far as antagonists to the Suicide Squad go, there is none more fearsome, ruthless, or vindictive than their own commanding officer. And there were reasons to suspect something bigger was at work.
For starters, Waller truly was unhinged before being suspended and transported to New Orleans. Disappointed or upset is one thing, but dramatically getting drunk next to a sedated General Zod is more reckless than even she is used to. Once arriving in New Orleans, she picked her way through a desolate corner of the city, ducked into an alley with no surveillance cameras, and seemed not the least bit surprised to see the shadowy figure waiting for her. Even the shooter's comment before firing - "Any last words?" - could be read a number of ways when combined with Waller's response: "Don't miss."
There was a chance that this, too, was a part of Waller's plot. That the shooter was there by her order, and whatever she had planned next, a precise shot to her heart was just what was needed to move her plan forward. But in Issue #12... well, things get a bit more complicated.
Yes, Amanda Waller is Really Dead
The suspicion that it was intentionally deceptive, meant to suggest one outcome to the reader while the truth eluded them, took a bit of a blow as the issue followed her into the operating room. The surgeons, guarded by government guards who suddenly appeared to protect Waller, confirmed that she took a fatal shot that stood a good chance of killing her. And as her heart ceased beating, her mind wasn't filled with thought of her children, but of the enemies she had left living - the people who had wronged her who would now face no reprisals or payback. That's Amanda Waller for you.
The evidence of her death on the operating table is soon confirmed by Rustam (the surviving Squad member on a crusade against Waller, mentioned earlier), as his digitized ally, Djinn, uncovers word from the hospital that efforts to save Waller were unsuccessful. The information seems accurate, since it appears Djinn is monitoring comms traffic in Washington, not New Orleans. So if Waller's death is a ruse, then it's one she's pulling on her superiors in the government, as well.
That's still not beyond what we would expect from a woman as cunning as she, but with her children gathered at her graveside for a desolate funeral... it seems a bit cruel for it all to be a trick. Even if it's for their benefit.
So... Who Dunnit?
With Harcourt - the once temporary, now permanent commander of the Suicide Squad - facing a murdered Waller, the immediate task is finding the person responsible. The simplest answer is obviously Rustam, having already tried to kill her... but his ongoing efforts to release imprisoned supercriminals across America (the world?) give him an alibi for the time of Waller's death. So the speculation must shift to the Squad itself. Which means Harcourt is treated to the headache - and fans, to the pleasure - of interrogating the squad, one by one.
Each has a substantial alibi, making Harcourt's job harder than most outsiders would predict. Killer Croc claims that if he had Killed Waller, he would have eaten the evidence. If Enchantress had done it, Waller's corpse would be consumed by "blood worms of the netherealm... and I am not licensed to own a mortal firearm." Deadshot was with his daughter, Zoe. Boomerang isn't smart enough to pull it off, and Harley, not evil enough. Which means if anyone is going to solve the murder... it's going to be the team itself.
Or at least a few members of it, as Harley Quinn sends the newest member, Hack, to acquire a copy of the autopsy report. The body is Waller. And Waller is most definitely deceased. Cause of death? A perfect shot straight to the heart. The kind of perfect that only a hired killer who boasts to "never miss his target" could actually pull off. Which leaves Harley, and the reader with one top suspect... and one top question.
If Deadshot has flipped, why now? And most worrying... who is instructing him to do it? Harley's on the case, so fans can rest easy. Yeah, right.
Suicide Squad #12 is available now.