A new chapter in the Suicide Squad story begins with a new number one. Events segue so smoothly from the last issue of the previous run that if you didn't see the cover copy, you'd not notice. Still, if it helps sales and gets attention on the work of new creative team Sean Ryan and Jeremy Roberts, that's fine.
Because this is a pretty decent first issue. Not amazing - the final instalment of the previous volume, #30, also written by Sean Ryan, was more impressive, a rollicking good read - but there's a nice energy that could make for a compelling run. Roberts' sharp linework is an instant win - he draws the cast consistently well, and knows how to choreograph a good action sequence.
And Ryan's character dynamics are well-worked, with the scene between deposed Squad boss Amanda Waller and new team chief Vic Sage promising fireworks.
Vic Sage? Yep, it seems mysterious hero The Question has the trust of the US Government and for some reason he's acting like an ass. How this will tie into his upcoming role in the just-announced Trinity of Sin ongoing, I've no idea. To be honest, I'd rather forget the linked pasts of the Phantom Stranger, Pandora and the Question, especially the latter's current mystical nature. For now, I want to see where Ryan is going with Sage; he's apparently playing Waller, sending a new version of the Suicide Squad into Russia on a very dubious mission. As well as existing members Deadshot, Harley Quinn and Black Manta, he's added Deathstroke and the Joker's Daughter. You'll notice the repetition in the MOs of four of the five. Waller does too. Why Deadshot and Deathstroke? Why Harley Quinn and the Joker's Daughter? 'Friendly competition' says Sage. My translation: he wants one or more of Waller's team choices to get killed, to teach her some kind of lesson.
Me, I'd rather the weirdly popular 'noble assassin' Deathstroke and one-note Joker rip-off JD fell under a Russian tank, I don't want to read about either. I suspect they'll be around awhile, though - what with Deathstroke currently being on telly and JD the star of a hyped-to-success 3D cover comic - so let's hope Ryan does something interesting with them. And if he can make Black Manta more than a villain of few words, so much the better. With Deadshot being the only team member with true charisma, Ryan will need to go some to convince me this is a line-up worthy of my time.
A big wow moment, that's what this book lacks. Something of the level of Thunderbolts #1, or Avengers Academy's debut. A surprise, a reason to pay attention to the book. As an old school Squad fan, I know that an unpromising bunch can be spun into gold by a first-rate author, so I'm not writing this bunch off, but so far as debuts go, this is simply solid.
When the things that impress me most are the return of Deadshot's tache and the speech pattern of Waller's new right-hand person Bonnie, that's not good.
Sage's assignment for the Belle Reve bad guys involves disrupting the Russian government machine with a spot of easily disowned murder and mayhem. Squad missions are usually more on the metahuman side - I'm not comfortable with the US government sponsoring the slaying of civilians for some nebulous exercise in point scoring. Hopefully, Waller feels the same, although she seems so keen to remain part of the Task Force X programme that she's treating Sage better than he deserves.
I suspect I'm grumpier about this issue than it merits because of the Joker's Daughter, the worst excuse for a Batman villain to turn up in forever. The Seventies JD had wacky charm, the new version is simply a psycho wannabe who fills the pages with blood. Harley, on the other hand, has an actual personality and her own take on the life villainous, a certain crazy sexy cool.
My favourite Squad moment here sees her begin her assault on Russian values with one of the great symbols of America. Just call her Batwoman. And look at how well Roberts and colourist partner Blond represent snow.
Roberts and Blond also provide the barnstorming cover, which boasts a brilliant new logo.
If you've ever been a Suicide Squad fan, I say give this a try. It's a well-crafted, entertaining comic book. I do hope, though, that it quickly becomes something really special.