Review: Justice League vs. Suicide Squad (Rebirth) hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Reading the Rebirth Justice League vs. Suicide Squad put me in mind of DC Comics's New 52 Justice League: Trinity War. These were each the first major events of their respective eras, and there's similarities in the stories' plots and structures, too. But Justice League vs. Suicide Squad has clearly learned from Trinity War's mistakes; the latter book is eminently better put-together and satisfying as a story. This marks a DC Comics trending upward, and I'm eager to see what comes next.

[Review contains spoilers]

As the Justice League uncovers a covert rival organization -- with involvement, no less, by Amanda Waller -- Justice League vs. Suicide Squad feels very familiar, and again when they all end up at a secret base together, and again as the groups pair off and again when half the team is mind-controlled. But Justice League vs. Suicide Squad is exceptionally more cogent than Justice League: Trinity War in its plot by Joshua Williamson; each issue serves to deepen or reveal another level to the story; and the tie-in issues contribute wonderfully without making the story feel padded or bloated.

Trinity War committed the dual sins of revealing the Pandora conflict to be not at all what it seemed very late in the book, partially off-screen and somewhat incomprehensibly, and also of leading with a cliffhanger directly into another story. Justice League vs. Suicide Squad is more straightforward, though not without nuance -- Williamson sprinkles clues throughout as to the true puppetmaster behind the events, as if you couldn't guess. And while the story does lead into other stories -- this being comics, of course -- it's much less heavy-handed; not only do we immediately get an issue of Suicide Squad that explores one (minor, in the grand scheme) consequence, but the story otherwise concludes even as we're given to know that we can follow the various threads into Supergirl, Justice League of America, and Green Lanterns, among others.

In some respects the consequences of Justice League vs. Suicide Squad are rather mild, though the fact of DC completing well its first Rebirth crossover is to some extent consequence enough. That Amanda Waller has three children -- a "sub-consequence" of the book, as it were, revealed in a tie-in -- is interesting if Rob Williams runs further with it in Suicide Squad, but is not DC Universe-shattering; ditto given that main League writer Bryan Hitch was not involved, we'll have to see if the Justice League title really does anything with the Squad now being a "sanctioned" entity of sorts by the League. Probably the book's biggest after-effect is the Emerald Empress now on the hunt for Saturn Girl, but this dissipates so swiftly in the middle of the book and is so tertiary to the story that it's hard to even call it a consequence; the same is true of the "blink and you'll miss it" mention of a certain "Society."

But irrespective, again, sometimes a good story is just a good story. I had some nervousness about Joshua Williamson getting such an important responsibility given my hesitations about his initial Rebirth Flash stories, but he handles both the League and the Squad with aplomb. I appreciated the book's cinematic start, and again how Williamson continually casts his net wider -- from the League vs. the Squad, to Suicide Zero, to Max Lord, and then finally to Eclipso himself. The book boasts a stellar series of artists, from Jason Fabok appropriately up front to Tony Daniel, Fernando Pasarin, and JLA's Howard Porter bringing up the rear, plus a tonal difference on the tie-ins with artists like Batman: Night of the Monster Men's Riley Rossmo. I had equally worried about Justice League vs. Suicide Squad's decision to change art teams per issue, but it works, and much better issue-by-issue than having two or three artists interrupt one another in the same issue (switching by issue seems to be working well throughout Rebirth, even).

This is far from a criticism, but notably Justice League vs. Suicide Squad includes I believe one of the first instances of "double dipping" in the Rebirth era; Suicide Squad Vol. 2: Going Sane includes the Killer Frost back-up "prelude" story, as does this book. I can't argue with that a bit; we're talking about eight pages in the span of 300, which do definitely belong at the start of Justice League vs. Suicide Squad. Arguably that story does not belong at the end of Going Sane, but surely Frost will show up back in the Squad title at some point (in the fourth or fifth collection, I expect), and including it in Squad Vol. 2 did enough to whet my appetite for this crossover that I can't be bothered to fuss.

I had been expecting maybe a Mr. Oz appearance before Justice League vs. Suicide Squad ended, but indeed this story is not quite so universe-rending as I presume Superman Reborn or Batman/Flash: The Button will be. Still, undoubtedly another goal here is simply to get a book on the stands with these two movie-recognizable teams' names on it, and the fact that there's an enjoyable story between the pages is perhaps just gravy. Justice League vs. Suicide Squad is another feather in the cap of DC Comics's Rebirth, and I'm hoping this upward momentum lasts for a while.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Justice League vs. Suicide Squad
Author Rating
4.5 (out of 5)
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4 comments:

  1. I can't wait to read this! But, I'm slowing myself by trying to buy JL vol 1,2 and SS vol 1,2 before this so it feels linear (even though that doesn't matter).

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    1. I don't blame you. It doesn't totally matter, but at the same time the crossover does lead directly into Suicide Squad Vol. 3, so you might as well have Vol. 1 and 2 under your belt first. If you didn't read the Suicide Squad Most Wanted: Amanda Waller mini, you might consider that too.

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  2. No Mr. Oz, but there were two (admittedly oblique) references to Watchmen: Max Lord's "I did it!" and a quotation of Shelley's "Ozymandias" by the same.

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    1. Hmm ... how oblique is oblique? Do we know "I did it" was a nod and not coincidence?

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