Loyal readers know I'm a Checkmate fan. And Checkmate fans, run, don't walk, to pick up Suicide Squad: From the Ashes.
John Ostrander, 1980s Suicide Squad-writer and general comics writer extraordinaire, returns to the title in this volume that generally reads like Checkmate volume three-and-a-half. Amanda Waller, ejected from Checkmate after the events of Fall of the Wall and now fully in control of Task Force X, mounts a Suicide Squad mission with personal repercussions for Squad member Colonel Rick Flag.
Of everything new coming from DC Comics in the Infinite Crisis/One Year Later era, I've found myself most enjoying DC's new "intrigue" set: Checkmate, Outsiders, and now Suicide Squad. While Suicide Squad contains less real-world politicking than Checkmate, there's plenty of betrayal, backstabbing, and divided loyalties here. Amanda Waller is played as the "bad guy" in Checkmate, but in Suicide Squad it's good to be bad, and this volume delivers plenty of fiendish fun.
From the Ashes does double-duty as a tale for both old and new Suicide Squad fans. The first few chapters are set firmly in the past, relating the end of the previous Suicide Squad series and catching up with the main characters from there. Then, the series jumps past a couple of DC Universe events, including Infinite Crisis and 52, to pick up with the modern-day Squad. I especially liked how Ostrander reconciled two incarnations of General Wade Eiling--former Captain Atom-series nemesis and current Justice League bad guy "The Shaggy Man"--in a way that worked with the themes of the series as a whole.
It's Rick Flag's journey that ties together these two eras of the Suicide Squad. As someone who did not read the series previously, I was unsure how much of what we learn here is new information and what had been established earlier. Despite my confusion, I still found Flag an interesting protagonist, seemingly a lone good man able to work with a team of villains and still keep his conscience clear. Ostrander suggests toward the end that Flag may not be who we think he is, but--despite the ties to the book's theme of family--I'm not quite sure what this adds to the character; Flag is far more interesting as Flag than as someone else (just as Captain Atom became far less interesting in Extreme Justice when it seemed he was not Nathanial Adam). I'd be curious to see Ostrander follow up on this revelation elsewhere, to see what else can be made of it.
I've never been much for military comics, but Suicide Squad: From the Ashes deftly mixes the military, politics, and evil super-villain in a way that's very, very engaging. Checkmate fans, this is a must-have for your collection.
[Contains full covers.]
We'll stay on the darker side of super-heroics next with Batman and the Outsiders: The Chrysalis and then maybe some more Countdown tie-ins from there. Don't miss it!