Tuesday, 21 July 2015

New Suicide Squad, Volume 1: Pure Insanity Review (Sean Ryan, Jeremy Roberts)

Um… New Suicide Squad is… good?!

I wasn’t a fan of Adam Glass, Ales Kot or Matt Kindt’s takes on New 52 Suicide Squad and I’m not really sure why DC decided to reboot the series as New 52 New Suicide Squad, but Sean Ryan’s version of this title is really surprisingly good! 

In this first volume, there are two storylines with two different squad lineups: Pure Insanity, which has Harley Quinn, Deadshot, Black Manta, Joker’s Daughter and Deathstroke; Defective, which has Harley Quinn, Black Manta, Boomerang, Reverse Flash and some ninja Manbats. Amanda Waller has a new boss called Sage who’s at odds with her over the purpose and role of Task Force X, aka Suicide Squad. 

The problems with previous Suicide Squads was the lack of character development and poor dialogue, because it’s never really about the missions - which are just excuses for the characters to do what they do and act more like background noise - but about the group dynamics. Ryan not only writes snappy banter really well, he’s not afraid to challenge the characters and make them look inside. 

For example, by introducing Deathstroke and Joker’s Daughter into the squad, it gives Deadshot and Harley not just some healthy competition, but a chance to show why they’re unique as both could be said to be derivative versions of the other. What happens to Deadshot shows us a vulnerable side to the gung ho character we’ve seen so far while being confronted by the face of Mistah J on another deranged Joker super-fangirl forces Harley to take a look at her own identity, or lack of one. 

Even Waller gets some excellent scenes as we see her sad, lonely private life and how Suicide Squad defines her existence - we get a reason to care about the character and understand her motivations. The fact that I remember Waller’s assistant’s name - Bonnie - and know something about the assistant’s private life shows the strength and effectiveness of Ryan’s writing on this title.

I’ve never liked Black Manta - until now. In Ryan’s hands, he becomes the best part of Suicide Squad, and I didn’t think I’d ever warm to this guy! Not only do we see a heroic side to Manta, his speech to Waller at the end encapsulated everything I disliked about Suicide Squad before perfectly: 

“I expected to be a part of something that had some clue about what it was doing. We’re barely given any information about our missions, the team roster changes on a whim, and, frankly, leadership appears clueless and at times in way over its head.”

Yup! It’s not the only time that Ryan hits the bullseye with his playful, self-aware script. He starts out by defining the Squad’s intent, ending with “You couldn’t screw this up if you tried!”, a little wink to the audience that could mean different things however way you choose to read it. He also has Harley and Waller echo the same line at two different points of the book: “Where else am I gonna go?” showing the emptiness of the characters’ lives or possibly a comment on the underdeveloped way they’ve been written so far. Either way, depth is always a good thing to have and it’s something that’s been sorely lacking in Suicide Squad until now. 

There are a lot of great moments in this book, like when Joker’s Daughter copies everything Harley does during a fight, infuriating her, or Sage mentioning Joker’s possible inclusion in the Squad - a hint maybe of laying the groundwork in the comics for the movie currently being filmed? 

I’ve not heard of Sean Ryan before so he might be one of several new DC hires who’ve come from a novelistic/screenwriting background and are unfamiliar with comics scripting because Tom Derenick is credited with “breakdowns”. Art-wise, Pure Insanity isn’t a bad-looking book but nothing special. There are also literally 8 artists for the 8 issues in this volume, which is never a good sign for an ongoing, though they do manage a more-or-less consistent look throughout which is laudable. 

I may not know who Sean Ryan was before but he’s on my radar now and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for anything with his name on - DC, put this guy on more of your books! Ryan’s handling of New Suicide Squad is smart, witty and very engaging. If you want to read a good comic of the team before the movie comes out, ignore the other recent Squad books out there and start here instead. NOW I understand why they rebooted it with a new Volume 1! New Suicide Squad is the best New 52 title I’ve read in some time - well done, DC!

New Suicide Squad, Volume 1: Pure Insanity

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