Review: Suicide Squad Most Wanted: Katana trade paperback (DC Comics)

Mike W. Barr’s Suicide Squad Most Wanted: Katana pales slightly in comparison to its Deadshot co-feature. Artist Diogenes Neves’s work is more chaotic than Viktor Bogdanovic’s, and Barr writes a more straightforward action tale than Brian Buccellato’s psychological thriller. At the same time, Barr has a steeper hill to climb in having less of a basis from which to launch the miniseries; a miniseries about Deadshot in and around the Suicide Squad has a lot of the premise and character relationships built in, whereas Barr has to create much of his story whole cloth. The result is not ground-breaking but neither is it poor, especially in comparison to Ann Nocenti’s recent, frenetic, short-lived Katana series. This book gains a step especially when Barr, Katana’s co-creator, gives a nod to other notable aspects of his own work.

[Review contains spoilers]

It’s a cute touch when, at the outset, Mike Barr sets Katana in Markovia, historical home of Prince Brion “Geo-Force” Markov, another one of Barr’s co-creations with Jim Aparo and one of Katana’s teammates in Barr’s Outsiders. This quickly becomes more than just a nod, however, when additional Outsiders characters make the scene for the first time in the New 52 continuity: long-time Outsiders ally Dr. Helga Jace, Markov himself, and Violet Harper, who ultimately merges “again” with the alien Aurakle to become Halo. If as a Katana story or a miniseries in general, this Suicide Squad Most Wanted tale is just average, then as Barr taking the first steps to resurrecting his Outsiders, it’s a lot of fun.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

The difficulties come, some understandably, in Barr not writing for DC all that often of late and for his style perhaps being somewhat of its time. There is some repetitive dialogue here, especially Katana’s apparent trademark declaration that “my name is that of my blade” and also such tics as characters saying “hafta.” Barr includes both a small child and a stray cat in the plot, which are maybe meant to be cute but come off as silly. Barr is writing his original Katana, which is fine and probably better than Ann Nocenti’s Katana, but everything from her origins to speech patterns to her relationship with her Soultaker sword are out of sync with current continuity; Barr references a friendship with Green Lantern, which is only marginally true, and Barr suggests that Lantern is Hal Jordan when it ought be at that time to be Simon Baz, betraying holes in Barr’s (and his editor’s) current knowledge.

Barr also doesn’t have quite right the book’s pièce de résistance, the presence of the Suicide Squad. I am glad that the Squad is here and this isn’t just a Katana miniseries under a Suicide Squad banner (and I’d be doubly thrilled if Rob Williams references this story in Rebirth), but Barr’s conception of the Squad hews not nearly as close to Sean Ryan’s and Tim Seeley’s of the time as Buccellato’s did. Cleverly Barr also brings back one of his creations, Battleaxe, but more startling is the inclusion of Enchantress, who – movie synchronicity notwithstanding – we haven’t seen much in the New 52 and certainly don’t know as a Squad member. Barr’s Harley Quinn is daffier than her current depictions, Deadshot rather laughably in confident charge (“With me, Squad”), and Captain Boomerang his loyal right-hand man (“Standing right be’ind you, Deadshot”), all of which is fairly different than normal.

Still again, Barr writes a likable, capable Katana, and if this whole thing weren’t about to be overhauled by Rebirth, I’d have been happy to see Barr follow up with the further adventures of Katana, Markov, and Halo; hopefully Rob Williams treats Katana in the Rebirth Suicide Squad equally as well (I think Barr did follow up with a sequel but I haven't read it — ed.). Barr also writes a notably egalitarian (but villainous) Kobra organization here, with Katana battling her way through a significant amount of female soldiers as well as male over the course of the proceedings. Suicide Squad Most Wanted: Katana does not have quite the depth of some of its Most Wanted compatriots, but it’s good to see Barr and Katana together again.

[Includes Katana covers from the Deadshot/Katana miniseries]


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