Just in time for the movie later this week, the DCU’s comic reboot, Rebirth, finally reaches the Suicide Squad. While early reviews suggest Suicide Squad might be one of the worst movies of the summer (if not history), Suicide Squad: Rebirth #1 isn’t half bad.
While James Tynion IV’s Detective Comics remains the gold standard of DC’s team-up books, writer Rob Williams is off to a good start here. Though he–inevitably–had to spend must of the issue introducing the characters and explaining the concept, he does it with such flare that you barely notice he’s just giving you information you already know. Beginnings don’t get much more memorable than Amanda Waller, the mastermind behind Task Force X, manipulating a slightly exaggerated caricature of President Obama.
Speaking of the art, penciller Philip Tan’s line work is detailed and heavy, with a somewhat outdated aesthetic that feels like it’s from a comic book from the ’80s or ’90s. Where Suicide Squad the movie feels modern and gritty in a calculated way, Suicide Squad: Rebirth #1 feels organically grimy—from the throwback-y art to the moral bankruptcy of its characters. If nothing else, the issue proves that Amanda Waller is a master manipulator and the team she leads is an amoral mess unafraid to cross any line. Still, the comic doesn’t feel quite as free-wheeling and unpredictable as Williams perhaps hopes.
In the same way that the Suicide Squad trailers try so hard to seem transgressive, what happens here seems like a transparent attempt to shock. While Harley gleefully shoots someone in the head, Captain Boomerang sings a silly song from his childhood and Deadshot kills a hostage because it’s easier than saving him. It’s all so gleefully, predictably unheroic and can feel like the book is trying to hard to remind us these are bad guys. That said, those moments are an expedient bit of character work that tells us exactly who these characters are in a short amount of time. However, while they’re featured on the cover, the villainous members of Task Force X aren’t really the focus here. Rather, it’s wrongfully-imprisoned war hero Rick Flag with whom we spend the most time. Well, him and Amanda Waller.
What’s always made the Suicide Squad an interesting concept is the moral questions it raises. And while Williams doesn’t have much time to play with those questions in this first issue, he does set up some promising stuff for the series going forward. Flag–an essentially good man–may join the team here just to get out of prison, but it’s only a matter of time before he starts to push back against Waller’s demands. Maybe that moment will be good enough to make us forget Suicide Squad ever happened.