Review: Suicide Squad Vol. 3: Burning Down the House (Rebirth) trade paperback (DC Comics)

First of all, yes, this is more like it. Second of all, I do wish Rob Williams would at some point write a multi-part, straight-off Suicide Squad story of the type like Sean Ryan's New Suicide Squad Vol. 2: Monsters, with the team going on and completing a complicated mission without any "abnormal" facets like betrayal at headquarters, the brain bombs being deactivated and the Squad "going rogue," etc.

But despite that Williams's Rebirth Suicide Squad Vol. 3: Burning Down the House is "abnormal" (to the extent that nontraditional Squad stories are becoming the norm), it is also fantastic, a marked improvement over Williams's first two Squad books. This is due heavily to the fact that, despite that the book supposedly keeps its main feature/back-up structure (with artists John Romita Jr. and Eddy Barrows respectively), each "chapter" is really just another piece in the same ongoing tale. Williams therefore has a lot of room to develop his story here, and it's emotional, surprising, and well-done. Coming off of Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, Williams's Suicide Squad picks up a lot of steam.

[Review contains spoilers]

The upshot of Burning Down the House is that Amanda Waller was behind it all again, which is the same as Justice League vs. Suicide Squad's final tally, among other things. I guess maybe that ought not be so surprising -- that a proper writing of Amanda Waller is that she's always behind it all -- though it felt repetitive so soon after. Still, Williams does exceptional work with Waller here, including the harrowing account of her experiencing her own death and also how Waller manipulated even the man who was gunning for her into doing her own dirty work. Notably Williams does not clarify -- or perhaps this is the answer unto itself -- whether Waller reveals her resurrection to her children, a wonderful loose end that I'll be eager to see Williams tie up somewhere down the road.

I dismissed last time around the idea of a Harley Quinn/Rick Flag relationship as too ridiculous and also obviously destined to fail. I have to say, with Williams's His Girl Friday banter between Harley and Rick in the cafe, he kind of sold it to me a little bit. This "changing" Harley is pretty far from the lead of the Harley Quinn series, but closer perhaps to the Suicide Squad movie version, and if that's what Williams is going for, maybe he'll succeed after all. I definitely thought it was Harley who had shot Amanda Waller at Waller's request -- with Waller walking past the window and all -- and given that it was not, I'm curious if Williams means something by the ten minutes Harley was missing or if it was just a throwaway line.

I also thought Williams did a fine job building up his character Hack right before her death here, and Harley's reaction, strangling the Squad's interim leader Harcourt, was moving, drawn in crazed, bloody glory by Romita. Again, this is a whole lot more caring about anyone than I necessarily identify with my idealized version of Harley Quinn, but whomever this character is that Williams is writing, she steals the show a whole bunch in this volume.

Given the extra space Williams has in this book, everyone comes off better in this volume. Deadshot is back in the fore in his morally gray glory, and it was absolutely shocking when Katana cuts off his hand for being a traitor mere pages before we understand Deadshot was working under Waller's orders. Boomerang too is excellently complex, killing Hack for reasons we don't yet understand and then instantly regretting it; I thought it was especially telling when Boomerang cuts a foe's head off with a boomerang(!) and states that it was "for Hack," when indeed Ravan had nothing to do with the people who paid Boomerang for spying on the Squad and Hack's murder.

The structure of the book supposedly sees Romita drawing the main "Burning Down the House" story and Barrows drawing the back-up stories. Despite that most of these are individually named, even, with Romita drawing numbered parts of "Burning Down the House," these are unquestionably one story -- both Waller's death and return take place in the back-ups, such that there's no way to read the "Burning Down the House" parts on their own and still get any semblance of a plot. That's strange, and I might've suggested they just make Barrows's stories additional "Burning" chapters, but hey, it worked. Romita draws a fine, weird Squad in his squarish style, only tripping up occasionally on an impossibly buxom Harley. Barrows is doing fantastic work, a superlative I wouldn't have always awarded the artist, in line with his career-making contributions to the Rebirth Detective Comics.

Burning Down the House ends with a one-shot by John Ostrander, who deserves all credit of course for spearheading the modern Suicide Squad in the first place. Indeed Ostrander too does well by his creation Amanda Waller, giving her a particularly chilling final page. The story itself has some of the "traditional Suicide Squad flavor" I'd been wanting, though comes off a little rote; equally I have a hard time believing Harley Quinn could best Green Arrow's master assassin Shado, and nor does artist Gus Vazquez do much to give the story visual oomph. Still it's pleasant to see Ostrander doing work for DC, and surely this special met its goal of having new Ostrander Suicide Squad work on the stands in time for the movie, and with a recognizable cast.

"Three" seems to be the magic number for struggling DC Rebirth series -- Flash perked up with its third volume, as did Green Arrow, and with Suicide Squad Vol. 3: Burning Down the House, Rob Williams finally delivers the kind of Rebirth Suicide Squad story we've been waiting for. This volume's cliffhanger portends exciting things to come, and I'm eager for December to see if Williams can continue this upswing. Sans backup stories next time, if I'm not mistaken?

[Includes original and variant covers]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Suicide Squad Vol. 3: Burning Down the House
Author Rating
4.5 (out of 5)


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