Review: Suicide Squad: Bad Blood hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo are clearly a force to be reckoned with. The best news of all is that they’re sticking together into a new Nightwing run, letting alone that we might see more of the characters from Suicide Squad: Bad Blood from them again.

That Bad Blood works so well right from the start is a testament to the creative team, given what becomes apparent not long into it — that this is not a Suicide Squad book at all, that really Taylor has used the “Suicide Squad” name and mainly just Deadshot and Harley Quinn in order to introduce his team of all-new characters under the radar. It works magnificently, and what loose threads this story has are wholly overshadowed by the prowess of writing and art. Separate from the Squad, whether Taylor can defeat the market aversion to new characters remains to be seen, but I’d be happy to watch him try.

[Review contains spoilers]

Four pages in, I could see Taylor and Redondo had this story under control. The irreverent “Revolutionaries” kidnap an Australian general and try to convince him to evacuate his nuclear subs of soldiers before the team destroys them; when he refuses, team member The Aerie drops him to his (very bloody) death. There is humor right off, there are Taylor’s anti-heroes who make tacit attempts at peace but don’t shirk from sudden violence, and there is Redondo’s art, clear and crisp throughout but with no small amount of mature readers gore.

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And that’s all before any number of things in the first issue alone, including the arrival of the actual Task Force X and four more deaths. We’ve known these characters only a short amount of time, but Taylor makes the murder of the Atlantean Scale in front of his brother Fin exceptionally wrenching in just a few small panels. It’s clear from the start that, unlike recent previous Suicide Squad runs, this is a book where characters are actually going to die, and where Taylor’s going to make it hurt.

By the middle of the fifth chapter, and certainly by the end of the sixth, the audience recognizes there’s been a bait-and-switch both within and without Bad Blood. The Revolutionaries did not, as it originally seemed, get captured and forced to work for Task Force X; rather they let themselves be captured with the specific intention of taking down the Squad from the inside. This was not, as it seemed, Tom Taylor’s new take on the Suicide Squad; rather this was only a Suicide Squad book in absentia, a book about the Revolutionaries trying to dismantle the Squad, with Deadshot and Harley Quinn along for the ride. But by then, of course, one is invested, and Bad Blood’s place in the annals of Suicide Squad history becomes not so important.

I exaggerate here only slightly; Bad Blood does offer a Suicide Squad story, just as long as your definition of the Suicide Squad begins, continues, and ends with Deadshot Floyd Lawton. We saw no small amount of Deadshot’s misgivings about his assassin’s life and his care for his daughter Zoe since Suicide Squad was relaunched with the New 52, up to as recently as Rob Williams' Suicide Squad Vol. 8: Constriction. In this way, Taylor’s Bad Blood feels nicely of a piece with what Squad was already dealing with (not to mention Deadshot and Harley’s precious friendship). I am exceptionally sure, given that we didn’t see the dispensation of the seemingly-dead Deadshot’s corpse, that Deadshot is not gone for good, not to mention the presence of at least one Fourth World deity around this story’s edges.

I don’t believe I’ve seen much of Bruno Redondo’s art previously (I think I left off on Injustice just before he came on), but I was very impressed. The art in the book is consistently clean and clear, and the characters all realistically drawn and differentiated from one another in body type (inasmuch as the duties are divided, I think Redondo did better individualizing the characters than Taylor did explaining how some of their powers differ). There were shades of lots of fine artists in Redondo’s work, distilled into a good final product — Scott Kolins, in the action sequences but not in the least when the book dealt with speedsters; Aco, in some of the wild paneling; and Kevin Maguire, in a variety of the comical facial expressions and right where it counts, in the appearances of Blue Beetle Ted Kord. All of this should do wonders on Nightwing.

That Bad Blood is so much fun — funny and surprising and action-packed — helps smooth over a variety of little things (none of which couldn’t be explained in a sequel). For one, unless I’ve wholly overlooked developments in a “Year of the Villain” special or something, Taylor seems to have given Black Mask a big power and capabilities upgrade; not that Roman Sionis isn’t a fine sadistic villain in his own right, but I’d have never thought he had the capability to take over the Suicide Squad (I even wonder if the book’s plan was Sionis all along, or if there had been plans for Max Lord or the like to be involved). Letting alone where his minion Lok came from, letting alone why Amanda Waller simply stepped aside here. Also, though I’m always intrigued to see the Black Racer, his appearance was a literal deus ex machina that I’d call foul on if the book otherwise weren’t so good.

4.0

Rating

We know already there’s a new Suicide Squad on the way, with Peacemaker in a lead role in a bit of movie synchronicity and appearances by Superboy Kon-El(!). All of that, plus writer Robbie Thompson, who delivered a fine Teen Titans alongside Adam Glass, makes me optimistic about the Squad’s future. In the meantime, Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo’s Suicide Squad: Bad Blood was a fine interstitial, which again among other things simply makes me all the more eager for the team’s Nightwing to come. Things have seemed rocky at DC of late, but surely there’s some creators on the titles coming out of Infinite Frontier that make me optimistic.

[Includes original and variant covers, character sketches]

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