Today, Mikyzptlk and Shelby are discussing Suicide Squad 21, originally released June 12th, 2013.
Mikyzptlk: Ales Kot completely blew me away with issue 20 of Suicide Squad, giving fans of the original series a taste of what made it so great, while completely reinvigorating the New 52 version of the book. With issue 21, Mr. Kot has blown me away again (along with a few security guards) and has delivered another absolutely thrilling entry. Best of all, Kot manages to continue his course correction of the character Harley Quinn by brilliantly using her to fix yet another troubled character of the New 52: Amanda Waller.
Things have gone…not well for Amanda Waller. Harley Quinn, through a combination of her own badassery and a mysterious security hack, gains the upper hand by taking Waller hostage. She then releases Deadshot and invites him on over to the “party.” Along the way he runs into Unknown Soldier and A Battle Ensues. Actually, Deadshot takes Soldier out quite handily, but is himself stopped by James Gordon Jr who meets up with Harley in his stead. At this point, Waller being her lovely self orders JGJ to shoot Harley. Fortunately for our villains, Harley has another idea entirely and renegotiates the Squad’s deal with Waller. In less than a year, the Squad goes free.
Yes Cheetah, seriously. Oh, and yeah, Cheetah’s on the team now it seems. The above shot takes place roughly two and half weeks after the main events of the issue. The Squad is fighting a giant creature composed, disgustingly, of dead bodies. However, while we don’t learn too much about that mission in this issue, it’s certainly a tantalizing preview of the things to come in the next issue. That being said, let’s turn our attention to the “present” of issue 21.
First of all, this is easily the BEST characterization of Harley Quinn I’ve seen since they put the “New” into “52.” Get this, she’s actually funny again. Funny in the kind of way that you know you shouldn’t be laughing because what she’s actually doing is almost always fairly horrible, but you laugh anyway because damn it it’s too much fun!
Ales Kot portrays her as highly effective and extraordinarily deadly, but he also does something that I haven’t seen in awhile, he plays on Harley’s history as a trained psychiatrist. Once Harley has Waller tied up, she immediately begins to analyze her. Now, Waller refuses to play along, but it seems clear to me that Harley has her pegged.
I’m not saying this absolves Waller of anything, but it is the first step to where I think Kot may be going with the her. The thing is, everyone hates Waller around the old Retcon Punch office and I can’t really blame them. The New 52 has turned this once highly intricate character into a supervillain, and I get the feeling that Ales Kot wants to remedy that. Take a look at this last pic.
I believe that this is the first time that anyone has called Amanda Waller evil in The New 52 and I think this is a BIG DEAL. You know how they say the first step to recovering from a problem is by admitting you have one in the first place? Well, Amanda may not be admitting she has a problem, but I do believe that Ales Kot is. Most importantly, I have a feeling that we’ll be getting back to Waller’s true characterization before all is said and done. Amanda Waller is a character you are supposed to love to hate, not just hate, and I think Kot is the guy to get us back to that point with the character.
There are so many great character moments in this issue that I simply don’t have room to get to them all, but I have to get into James Gordon Jr. I’ve liked the stories I’ve seen him featured in before, but I absolutely love him in this. To put it simply, he just fits. Kot has JGJ slipping from panel to panel in a characteristically creepy, yet absolutely devastating way. More than once, he quietly swoops in to accomplish his goal and swoops right back out again. At the moment, he’s working for Waller, and is easily her greatest ally. However, knowing the character, I wouldn’t be surprised that working for Waller is simply part of some much grander plan he’s got cooking up. Perhaps a plan involving his sister?
I’ve officially posted too many pictures, but damn that was too good not to share! Seriously, that line gave me shivers the first time I read it. I simply love his characterization in this and if Kot keeps feeding him lines like this, I’ll be in comic book heaven.
All right Shelby, what did you think of this issue? I know that you are an avid hater of Waller, so I’m curious to know what you think about where Kot might be going with her. I know it’s early on, but I’m extremely hopeful for Waller’s character while, at the same time, I’m completely hooked on this series. I don’t believe you were as wowed with issue 20 as I was, so have your feelings changed at all with this latest installment?
Shelby: I am definitely an avid hater of Waller, but this issue has done a lot to remedy me of that. The reason I’ve hated her so much is that she is not only unnecessarily cruel, but also respected. To the rest of the world, she’s still one of the good guys: a total bitch, but definitely not a villain. That has not sat well with me since we first encountered her, I believe in the Team Seven zero issue. This issue began to even out that imbalance; we saw Waller called to the carpet (sort of) for her treatment of the Squad, and we saw her lose some of her authority over the team. Moreover, Kot is showing us what I would have wanted from this title all along: complexity. A group of villains forced to do good for their lives and freedom? That is some complicated storytelling right there! Already in these two issues, Harley has become a more complex character than I’ve ever seen her. Mike, you are absolutely correct in your characterization of her here; Kot has managed to highlight both her insanity and her extreme intelligence to great effect.
Harley and James were really the stand-out characters this issue. I am very curious as to James’ motives for brokering this new deal between Waller and the Squad. I could speculate on various nefarious plots and schemes, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he just thinks it’s interesting. By setting himself apart from Waller he establishes himself as the Scientist observing his Test Subjects. He’s not working for Waller like the Soldier is, he is controlling her like he’s controlling everyone else in this test scenario. Giving him any sort of authority is extremely dangerous; I think Waller may have bitten-off more than she can chew with this one.
Last month I had to begrudgingly admit the new team on this series was pretty good. The Death of the Family issues had left a really, really bad taste in my mouth and Waller was still a problem for me, but the quality of the work was obviously better. This issue, though, has convinced me that Kot not only has a clear vision for these characters, but also he’s got a vision I can get behind.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?