Review: Suicide Squad Vol. 2: Going Sane (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

Sunday, September 03, 2017

It's my fervent hope that after the Justice League vs. Suicide Squad crossover, Rob Williams is able to loose the burdens of Suicide Squad's backup stories and start spinning Suicide Squad stories proper. Williams's stories are compelling and his take on the characters good, but the Rebirth Suicide Squad Vol. 2: Going Sane suffers many of the same issues as the previous volume: it is short and the conflict involved is very insular. Whereas most Rebirth series have spread their wings by this point, mostly all that's happened in Suicide Squad so far is that the team has stolen one object and brought it back to their base -- that's it. In ostensibly one of DC Comics's flagship Rebirth titles -- if the presence of Jim Lee is any indication -- there really ought be more going on.

[Review contains spoilers]

In Suicide Squad Vol. 1: The Black Vault, the Squad ventured to Russia, found a Phantom Zone device containing General Zod, fought with him for a bit, and brought it back to Belle Reve. In this volume, Amanda Waller extracts Zod from the device, it makes everyone go crazy for a bit and attack one another, and then Harley Quinn saves the day and it all goes back to normal. Going Sane is essentially a "bottle episode," taking place entirely within the course of an hour in Belle Reve, and Black Vault basically was as well, with a couple issues of the Squad fighting Zod in Russia. In the first volume, I disliked the extent to which Williams favored action over real plot development, but at least the Squad was on a Squad mission. Here, this kind of "everyone loses it" story could be grafted on to just about any super-team, such to make it feel even more like Suicide Squad is just biding its time.

I do of course see Williams doing some character development in the background, mainly in establishing the fun June "Enchantress" Moone and Killer Croc relationship. But that's still a small amount of lifting with, for instance, no real insights into Katana eight issues in and Deadshot largely relegated to the background. Williams's creation Hack is interesting, especially if you read beyond her basic fandom of Harley Quinn to what Williams suggests about Western influences on African culture (in the DC Universe or in general). I liked the "Rip Hunter's chalkboard"-type effect that Williams applies to Hack, though of course the re-emergence of Captain Boomerang was telegraphed since the character's "death" (I can only hope Williams shows some after-effects of this and doesn't just let it go).

Purportedly Harley Quinn goes through the biggest change here, regaining her sanity for a short time, and the end of the story perhaps suggests some new sympathy on Amanda Waller's part for Harley's sacrifice. But unfortunately a real characterization of Harley remains a moving target; we know she won't ever become permanently "sane," for lack of brand recognition, and also the sane/insane dichotomy is flimsy given Tim Seeley writing an "insane" but brilliant just a few issues and a series ago. All of this prevents us from really getting invested in Harley's struggle, and moreover it hardly seems in-character for Williams's Waller to be "going soft" for one of her prisoners this early in the series (see also Harley's apparent affection for Rick Flag, which we also know can't ever develop so far as to change the Harley character in any significant way).

The back-up origin stories are better this time, in that for one thing they provide origins for Squad's lesser-known characters who actually need them. Again, Williams's Hack story has curious intercontinental implications; I also appreciated that Williams's Croc story reconciles the berserker of his recent portrayals with the more thoughtful monster from Suicide Squad Secret Files. The Enchantress story is also good, well-drawn by Christian Ward, and actually reveals something about Enchantress and June Moone that we didn't know before. The Killer Frost story reads as rather boilerplate only because it re-introduces us to the Squad members we already know well by now, but I'm plenty excited for the upcoming Justice League vs. Suicide Squad miniseries so I admit this was still a thrill.

The book ends with the Harley Quinn and the Suicide Squad April Fool's Special, which is a mixed bag to be sure. It reads frankly like a couple unfinished stories lumped together -- a Harley Quinn/Man-Bat team-up drawn by Jim Lee, and then a cartoonish short by Sean "Cheeks" Galloway. It's all amusing but not terribly weighty or relevant -- except for the end, which suggests greater manipulations being done to Harley's mind by Waller. That seems exceptionally relevant given the conclusion of "Going Sane" proper, and the Squad being ready to kill "these capes" would seem to lead in to Justice League vs. Suicide Squad -- but in truth, the April Fool's special predates Suicide Squad: Rebirth by some months.

That makes this special's placement unfortunate and further lessens its relevance, and I suspect there's no better reason for this special's existence necessarily than to have a "Harley Quinn and the Suicide Squad" title on the stands back around movie-time -- not a bad reason, but I wish perhaps this might have been an opportunity say to draw some ties between Suicide Squad and Harley's own series.

I have read some egregiously bad Suicide Squad stories in my time, and what Rob Williams has going for Suicide Squad Vol. 2: Going Sane is that it's not bad, it's actually satisfactorily entertaining, and Jim Lee's art always brightens up everything. But two volumes in, Williams's Suicide Squad is still crawling when it should be flying, and I'm impatient for something to actually happen, now more than six months down the road of this title.

[Includes original and variant covers, Galloway pencils and layouts]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Suicide Squad Vol. 2: Going Sane
Author Rating
3 (out of 5)
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