Rick Flag is dead. That's leading the Suicide Squad for you. With the threat of the People imminent, Amanda Waller needs a replacement, so she looks at the in-house candidates. This makes sense; when someone new comes to Belle Reve penitentiary she doesn't know how far she can trust them (see the traitorous, now dead NSA agent/People double agent Amanda Harcourt). With the likes of Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang and co, though, she had a good idea of just how treacherous, double dealing and ultimately manipulable they are. Better the devil you know, and all that.
Not that all Suicide Squad members are incorrigible inmates. Sword-wielding superheroine Katana has shown the most loyalty to Waller, and wants the job of leader.
Then there's the awful Australian Captain Boomerang. Psychiatrist turned psycho Harley Quinn. How about Killer Croc (the clue's in the name), or his unlikely girlfriend June Moone, the Enchantress? Perhaps assassin-for-hire Deadshot wants a shot? Living Looney Tunes Cosmonut?
This is my favourite Suicide Squad issue of DC's New 52 era. I enjoy the regular brand of mayhem, with the team trying to grasp victory from whatever disastrous mission they're on, but this is all character work. Writer Rob Williams slows things down and uses the space to remind us who the members are today, what they want.
It's madly entertaining, with the highlight being the sweet romance of June and Croc, set against the backdrop of a New York that's for lovers. Well, most lovers.
The fact that amid the madness her life has become, June manages to hang onto her dream of making it as an artist, well, that's just so touching. And who knew the demonic force that possesses her would be the very definition of supportive?
As for who finally gets the job of Squad leader (wage: one poisoned chalice), I'll leave that for you to find out. Along the way, as well as Williams' smart, witty words you'll be able to pore over the lush illustrations of Stejpan Sejic - I didn't realise the new Aquaman artist was on this issue, so talk about a lovely surprise. Every page is a delight, full of beautifully composed and finished images that work together to tell the story. Sejic is able to provide a painted-style finish without the result seeming stiff, as in Katana's fight with some Belle Reve training robots.
Occasional flourishes such as a playing card frame for Harley add to the reading experience where in other hands they could break the flow. And who would expect a picture of a crocodile man and a reluctant witch to exude such tenderness?
Suicide Squad #20 is a brilliant team effort, and that includes the excellent letterer Pat Brosseau and editors Andy Khouri, Harvey Richards and Brian Cunningham.
The cover by Green Arrow artist Otto Schmidt has a wildness that suits Harley, while illustrator Whilce Portacio (when was the last time we saw him at DC?) and colourist Alex Sinclair's variant is a well-done Harley headshot ... I just wish it didn't seem to be all Harley, all the time.
Whether you're a Suicide Squad fan or not, try this issue - it's just a brilliant superhero comic.