Review: Suicide Squad Vol. 8: Constriction trade paperback (DC Comics)

Rob Williams' Rebirth-era Suicide Squad ends with Suicide Squad Vol. 8: Constriction; with a second movie in the works, it's almost assured that this iteration is being cancelled to make way for a relaunch.

Williams' take has been quite good — probably among the best Suicide Squad interpretations in a while, at least given the length of time that Williams' wrote the series and not counting other writers' good single volumes here or there. It's unfortunate that Constriction lacks almost all of the series' signature punch, perhaps due — I can only guess — to the book's cancellation. Suicide Squad Vol. 7: Drain the Swamp was among the high points, and it's a shame the title couldn't have been allowed to quit while it was ahead. Constriction delivers a middling end.

[Review contains spoilers]

I had big expectations for the "Constriction" storyline. Williams' Squad clashed with the Justice League early in this title and there's been an undercurrent of animosity between Batman and Amanda Waller throughout. In Batman's last appearance in this iteration of the title, I hoped for some thematic wrap-up, either with Waller, Deadshot, or — optimally — the team as a whole. If nothing else, as former Suicide Squad star Deadshot had often flown under the radar in this iteration, a dedicated Deadshot/Batman team-up held a lot of promise.

Unfortunately, the four-issue arc is largely paint-by-numbers. Not that there's not some pleasing drama between Deadshot and Batman — the moment that Deadshot kills someone despite Batman's instructions is probably the most gripping — but the story is a straightforward trip from point A to point B punctuated by action sequences. The third part is particularly egregious, as Batman and Deadshot fight a giant snake monster, then each other, then other members of the Suicide Squad, and that's it.

Williams' Suicide Squad has never been the most serious of books, but here the Kobra figures are so overwrought and cartoonish as not to be even mildly scary. Williams has rapidly aged up Deadshot's kidnapped daughter Zoe, if I'm not mistaken, and even she is so dismissive of her captors that we're hardly worried about her. In the first chapter, artist Eduardo Pansica's facial expressions are a bit melodramatic, and the story never recovers even though (or perhaps because) each of the four issues has different artists.

I found the finale, the three-part "Rocket to Russia," equally lackluster. To his credit, Williams ties up a variety of loose ends, including bringing back Rick Flag and staging a reckoning between Flag and Waller, and also setting the story at the site of this Squad's first mission. But for an ending, Williams puts the pieces back in their places; no one's leaving or moving on and we've heard the "you're all just criminals" line plenty times before; in all this could have been the anticlimactic conclusion to any ol' Suicide Squad story. This iteration has been plenty more shocking and shown more character growth in many of its other stories more than this one.

It doesn't help that the plot of "Rocket to Russia" is overcomplicated and full of holes. Williams posits that a team of soldiers that Rick Flag thought died in a botched mission actually survived and also managed to discern that Waller tricked Flag into sending them to their deaths, even though however it is that they found out (when Flag and the rest of the world could not) left them without any concrete proof. To get proof, they infiltrate a Russian military base on their own (whereas the extra-normal Squad has to crash a plane to do so), where they're promptly possessed by an alien entity.

Now these soldier-aliens want to both take revenge on the Squad and also escape an underwater base to spread the entity across the world — which they seemingly could have done at the same time they ventured out to kidnap Waller, but instead they have to leave the base, get Waller, go back to the base, lure in the Squad, kill the Squad, and then leave the base again. Williams is trying to cover a lot of ground — Flag vs. Waller, Flag's guilt, the Russian gulag from the beginning — but it ends up so messy as not to be very engaging.

"Rocket" also sees Amanda Waller transformed into a giant hulking parody of herself with a flaming second mouth where her stomach would be. It is much sillier, seemingly unintentionally, than it is scary — whether the flaw is in concept or a bad translation of concept to page by the artist — and as with Kobra, contributes to a lack of suspense in the book.

Two bright spots in the book are a one-off spotlight of Captain Boomerang, and the Suicide Squad Annual by Cullen Bunn. Williams' Boomerang issue treats Digger as an ill-mannered James Bond, contrasting his poor attitude with his significant physical capabilities, and it's a take I'd happily read more of. Extra points that Williams brings the past-continuity second Boomerang, Owen Mercer, into Rebirth continuity.

Bunn tells the story of a substitute Suicide Squad including Secret Six's Ragdoll, Steel's Skorpio, and Scare Tactics' Scream Queen, plus Swamp Thing. That's a great esoteric cast on its own even before they have to pursue, X-Files style, a woman with a corpse surgically attached to her back with ghosts in pursuit. In classic Suicide Squad fashion, nearly everyone dies, and artist Ronan Cliquet's normative style (looking a lot like the issue's cover artist Paul Pelletier) delivers some unexpectedly gruesome moments.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Suicide Squad Vol. 8: Constriction

While I think Suicide Squad Vol. 8: Constriction was a poor representation of this run, Rob Williams has had some truly great Suicide Squad volumes, really impressive stuff. Suicide Squad Vol. 3: Burning Down the House is by far the best, a book that followed in the aftermath of Justice League vs. Suicide Squad. In addition, Suicide Squad Vol. 5: Kill Your Darlings and Suicide Squad Vol. 6: The Secret History of Task Force X are a good set, and arguably this series could've ended well after Vol. 6, too. I hadn't read much of Williams work before this, but I'd be happy to follow him again to another series.

[Includes original and variant covers]


Review Date
Reviewed Item
Suicide Squad Vol. 8: Constriction
Author Rating
2.5 (scale of 1 to 5)


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