Today, Shelby and Mikyzptlk are discussing Suicide Squad 23, originally released August 14th, 2013.
Shelby: How do you say good-bye? If you’re a regular person saying good-bye to another regular person, you would probably do it with a wave, or maybe a handshake or a hug. Tonight the 4-year-old daughter of the owners of my LCS said good-bye to me by jumping up and down and shouting; come to think of it, I think Patrick has said good-bye to me the same way. Like I said, these are all perfectly legitimate, regular person ways to bid someone adieu. If you’re comic book writer Ales Kot saying good-bye to Suicide Squad, however, the best way to do it seems to be with sociopath’s musings on the meaning of love, followed by a battalion of missile-wielding drones and some pie. Not a bad way to go.
Amanda Waller has got it all figured out. John Lynch, from her Team 7 days, is behind everything: the Belle Reve hack job, Mother and anarchoterrorists, and now shady dealings with a dictator. Waller sends in the team, and they do a surprisingly good job neutralizing Lynch, the dictator, and the team of supers Lynch had working for him. Deadshot shoots Lynch, and then takes out Amaze with some weaponized pheromones, King Shark throws Lamplight into the ocean, Harley hits Crow Jane in the face with a landmine pie (just like in Injustice, you guys!), and Cheetah clears out Impetus with some killer bees. Oh, and Unknown Soldier was disguised as one of the dictator’s guards all along. Despite being shot in the head, Lynch is fine, until Waller calls in the cavalry.
The team flies off into the sunset, while back at Belle Reve James Gordon, Jr., ruminates on the true meaning of love, “…that’s some of the true measure of love…not falling in love, but staying in it. Regardless of what comes.”
With this being his last issue of Suicide Squad, Kot definitely decided to go out with a bang. The crew makes a bunch of jokes, and manages to work together well and get the job done, plus Waller blew a new crater in whatever desert they’re in. It’s a shame Kot is finished with this title; he seems to completely get the complex moralities of a team of bad guys acting as good guys (kind of) under coercion. I looked up the crew of supers Lynch had on his side, and almost all of them were a part of Stormwatch at some point. They are, in a technical sense, “good guys,” and yet we see them fighting on the side of a cruel dictator. As the Suicide Squad started fighting these guys, I realized that I was basically seeing every team fight I’ve ever seen, just from the other side of the coin. This was basically the first meeting fight, when the good guys are unorganized and easy to beat; it’s not until later, after the team splits up, reunites, and has a training montage, that they’ll have what it takes to beat the bad guys. Or, in this case, good guys. Maybe. Kot not only shows us the complicated definitions of good and bad we’re dealing with here, he addresses it head on.
With all this meandering through the garden of what is good and what is evil, you’d think this issue would get bogged down by it’s message, but it’s actually a lot of fun. I absolutely adore centered, Zen-like King Shark; he reminds me of a character on Portlandia, bemoaning the fact that meat doesn’t even smell good anymore and inviting Deadshot out for kombucha. It’s not every day you see a mutated shark man advising his adversary to “find [his] inner compass.” The juxtaposition of pretentious vegan nature and…uh, shark is handled just lightly enough to be silly and fun instead of eye-rollingly stupid and forced. Likewise, I love the way Kot has handled Harley’s particular brand of crazy; he highlights her nonsensical and (seemingly) air-headed attitude without making her ineffectual. Honestly, if I was going to be a villain, I think I’d be a villain like Harley: adorably non-sequitur and completely terrifying.
Brief as it was, I’m glad for Kot’s run on this title. You all know how much I love a complex, shades-of-gray anti-hero, and there’s nothing more gray and complex than a group of psychotic villains forced to play nice. Kot has a great knack for addressing that complexity without losing the nutty voice of these characters, and I’m sorry to see him go. Mik, how are you holding up with the departure of Mr. Kot? Last month you mentioned Kot’s character work wasn’t quite up to par, probably due to his impending last issue, do you think this issue was a character-appropriate good-bye?
Mikyzptlk: Last month, I felt that Kot didn’t quite dive into his characters as much as he did in previous issues. That said, there was still plenty of charm to be found. This month though? Kot absolutely nailed what I’ve come to enjoy so much about his Squad. To answer your question Shelby, I’m still super bummed to know that this is it for Kot and the Squad, especially with how much he’s improved the title in such a short amount of time. Not only that, but I was really looking forward to where Kot was going with these characters, especially those that haven’t been treated so well in the New 52 so far. That said, it seems like Kot has not only given us a goodbye, but he’s also given those characters one last push in a positive direction.
Shelby, you’ve already gone over how wonderfully Kot has treated King Shark and Harley during his run. Since their debut in the New 52, both characters had seen better days. Similarly, Amanda Waller had been treated, well, to put it kindly, horrendously. I considered it Kot’s biggest challenge to try to repair the considerable damage done to her character since the DCU was put back together again. Shelby, you’ve already laid out how Kot questioned the simplicity of the definitions of good and evil. I think that was definitely a major point that Kot was making with his run, but I also think that kind of thing should be inherent in a series involving villains and anti-heroes. I think Kot had a great grasp on that, but more importantly (to me at least), he had a great grasp of the complicated, and often conflicted, nature of Amanda Waller.
I think that Kot was just getting ready to take her (and the audience) on a journey through the concepts of good and evil, and I think we would have all been a lot better off for it. I also think that a major component of that exploration would have been James Jr. In Kot’s final issue, we see Waller and Jr. begin to develop a much chummier relationship than we’ve seen before. In the image below, we even see them munching on popcorn together as they monitor the Squad’s mission. Almost like a date.
I’m not saying that anything would have ever happened between these two, or if the feelings of “love” that James Jr. has towards Waller are romantic in the same sense that non-sociopaths consider it to be. Regardless of whatever kind of feelings that James Jr. may or may not have had towards Waller, what is more striking to me is that Waller seems to be enjoying the time she’s spending with James Jr. Waller may be misguided, but she’s not psychotic. I think there would have been a time, probably not long from now, when Waller would recall that her best new bud is a murderous lunatic. I think this realization would have started Waller down a path to some serious soul-searching. And I think it’s a shame that we aren’t going to see Kot finish this story. I guess now all I can say is that I’m glad that Kot was able to do some course-correcting at least, and I just hope that the new writer picks up where the series has been left off.
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?