Review: Suicide Squad Vol. 2: Basilisk Rising trade paperback (DC Comics)

Monday, March 11, 2013

Suicide Squad Vol. 2: Basilisk RisingThis may come as a shocking confession, but inasmuch as I didn't like Adam Glass's Flashpoint entry "Legion of Doom", when I finally got around to reading Glass's Suicide Squad: Kicked in the Teeth, I actually liked it quite a lot. The book starts roughly, with the infamous page after page of torture, but even this has a purpose; once the story starts rolling, there's an authentic "hard luck anti-heroes" vibe to the book that echoes, indeed, the efforts of Gail Simone, Greg Rucka, and John Ostrander before them.

[Review contains spoilers]

Glass's followup, Suicide Squad: Basilisk Rising, is more of the same fun. Glass left the team in a troubled place at the end of the last volume, and the first issue is a striking collection of character moments dealing with "The Hunt for Harley Quinn" -- with very little "shoot 'em up" -- before the story gets underway. Amanda Waller gets the focus as Glass demonstrates how she bullies, cajoles, manipulates, and perhaps even shows mercy (but probably not) on the Squad members. The last two chapters of the book are especially Waller-centric, too; the cover of the included Zero Month issue, with Waller in the forefront and the Squad behind her, is another reminder that this book stars Waller just as much as it does Deadshot, Harley Quinn, or the rest.

The next issue is taken up with a Resurrection Man crossover (plus an issue of Resurrection Man). As with the second volume of Justice League International, the crossover feels thin, though Glass improves on the JLI/Firestorm crossover in that in Glass's story, Waller and Resurrection Man's Director Hooker know one another, the Squad faces off against Resurrection Man's Body Doubles, and so on -- the two titles are more connected and share a better sense of community than the JLI just happening to stumble over the Firestorms. Glass suggests that Waller may do more with a certain item she liberates from the Resurrection Man, though that doesn't manifest in this book, at least.

(This will be interesting to watch and compare, I'm realizing, over the course of all the New 52 Vol. 2s. The issue #6-12 era of the New 52 was marked by crossovers -- not just the big ones like "Night of the Owls" and "The Culling," but JLI/Firestorm, Suicide Squad/Resurrection Man, Stormwatch/Red Lanterns, Blue Beetle/New Guardians, and so on. I'll be curious to see which writers make the best use of these, as Glass does, or which just hang there, as the one from JLI did.)

The crossover feels thin mainly because it's "just" as Suicide Squad story, before the main event, the Basilisk four-parter. This starts out rather better than it finishes -- the Squad are sent to capture the lieutenant of the evil Basilisk organization, whose taken an entire corporate board hostage. In true Squad fashion, they find the hostages all to be criminals themselves and execute them so as to diffuse Basilik's bargaining chip; they come to find, however, that the situation is a ruse and that Basilisk soldiers are stealing data elsewhere. A mystery traitor on the team kills the lieutenant, and it all becomes suddenly, wonderfully, violent and paranoid, the kind of mission gone wrong that the Squad is known for.

The second part, however, has a strange diversion in that Basilisk blows up the Sqaud's plane and they're marooned for a while on an island with a Mayan civilization that time, apparently, forgot. The resultant conversation about whether or not the Squad should take the opportunity to slip Waller's reins is equally good and paranoid, though the Mayans-out-of-nowhere (who turn out to be cannibals) is such a ludicrous idea, even in the DC Universe, that Deadshot even comments how ludicrous it is, which is when you know you have a problem.

Ultimately I didn't find Regulus, Basilisk's leader, so compelling, more of your average villainous cult leader and visually similar, especially in Ken Lashley's covers, to Ra's al Ghul. Glass's use of Captain Boomerang again, however, is great stuff -- again, the reader sees how far ahead Glass is planning with Boomerang's appearance playing off his disappearance last time; also the animosity between Deadshot and Boomerang, bordering on friendship, continues to be a lot of fun. And most compelling, the Squad entirely aside, is Basilisk's attack on Waller in her home and how she deals with it.

Indeed this Suicide Squad volume has its down moments, which may discourage some. Again, neither the Mayan warriors nor the Resurrection Man crossover are prize-winners, and Basilisk seems a poor enough re-do of Kobra that hopefully that's where Glass is headed with them (in the same spirit, his nod to the origins of Deadshot's trademark pre-Flashpoint mustache is a great bit). At the same time, Glass does great work with these characters and this is largely where Suicide Squad succeeds -- visually, Squad member Iceberg looks so silly as to be destined to be killed off, but Glass counters appearances by making Iceberg a brilliant scientist with a troubled past; equally Glass's King Shark with his shifting intelligence steals every scene he's in.

So, you'll be as surprised as I am to hear me say I'm enjoying Adam Glass's Suicide Squad a lot, and Suicide Squad: Basilisk Rising is rather less violent and more action-packed than the previous volume in a way that might appeal to Squad fans. Glass leaves the team in disarray at the end again and I know the Joker's just around the corner; I'm looking forward to the next volume.

[Includes original covers, Fernando Dagnino sketchbook, cover sketches by Ken Lashley]

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  1. I liked this volume, too, and am looking forward to the next. If I had to compare, though, I'd have to say that I liked the first one a tad better. Hopefully the next volume concludes Glass' run on the title (which ends with #19).

    Can anyone tell me something about his successor, Ales Kot? I never read anything written by him.

    1. I think this volume had a similar difficulty as with the two volumes of Catwoman; this second volume seemed "gun shy" after the backlash over the first. Perhaps we need not have so much torture, but cannibal Mayans? It got to be like something out of Justice League International (the Giffen version!) for a while.