Review: Task Force Z Vol. 1: Death's Door hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

 ·  1 comment

After the disappointing Joker Presents: A Puzzlebox, I’ve been pleased to enjoy a few works by Matthew Rosenberg lately — his co-writing with James Tynion on The Joker proper, and now the first volume of Rosenberg’s solo miniseries, Task Force Z Vol. 1: Death’s Door. This “Suicide Squad with zombies” is delightful, the whole creative team seemingly making it their job to serve up irreverent fun, but neither forgetting a good helping of heart nor forgoing deep roots in the DC Universe.

Red Hood Jason Todd is assuredly the hard-luck hero tailor-made for this story. While Jason compares himself unfavorably in this story to another Robin who made it big, Nightwing Dick Grayson, the seeming ubiquity of Jason across the DCU and his “aw shucks” reliability in stories like these continue to demonstrate him as no slouch as a leading man too.

[Review contains spoilers]

Jeremy Adams and Fernando Pasarin’s Future State: Black Adam (in the Future State: Suicide Squad trade) is a recent story that comes to mind as being, in the best possible way, “a lot.” Black Adam, the Justice League One Million, Gold Beetle, the future versions of a pantheon of DC’s mystical characters, and Mitch Shelley, the Resurrection Man. I was put in mind of this about the time Rosenberg and artist Jack Herbert (subbing for series artist Eddy Barrows) also brought in Resurrection Man, Herbert with a style similar to Pasarin’s.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

And Rosenberg’s Task Force Z is also, in great ways, “a lot” — Bane and Mr. Bloom (a villain with a lot of potential that simply fell off the map), Cheshire and Deadshot(!) and the fantastic reveal of Two-Face, plus Resurrection Man, Geri Powers, and Detective Comics' Madame Crow, for gosh sakes. As it is, Task Force Z could as easily have been a Suicide Squad comic, but this is exactly what we want from Suicide Squad, weird and wild cameos from across the darker parts of the DCU.

It is rather astounding — happily, from my perspective — how this story builds on Scott Snyder’s New 52 Batman Vol. 8: Superheavy and Batman Vol. 9: Bloom. I was pleased to see that Mr. Bloom would be in Task Force Z, but I didn’t expect the late-book reveal of Geri Powers as being behind some of this, drawing a straight line from the last time we saw Bloom until now. Rosenberg’s story gets nicely complicated toward the end (the halfway point of this miniseries), as we come to understand something of a vast conspiracy orchestrated by Bloom, playing a variety of sides against one another. It’s a brilliant return for a villain that subsequent Bat-writers haven’t overused in the interim.

The first volume of Task Force Z reprints the backup stories from Detective Comics Vol. 2: Fear State leading in to the mini, and then the first six issues. There’s a time jump between those two parts, during which Jason Todd is ensconced and seems to have come to terms with his zombie partners. That jump is a little off-putting, but also suggests what turns out to be (always) true, that Jason is undercover here to determine the who and why under Batman’s orders. I was glad to see the often-overdone drama between Batman and Jason was for show, though Rosenberg can’t help but put them at odds later in the book — thinly, I thought. That Batman wants to pull Jason out of the situation simply, it seems, because Jason’s working with bad people seems more short-sighted than Batman would be, except for the dramatic needs of the plot.

I thought Rosenberg did do well, however, with a mid-book confessional from Jason both following up on Chip Zdarsky’s Jason story from Batman: Urban Legends Vol. 1, and also addressing the big elephant in the room, that Jason’s working with the resurrected corpse of Bane, who murdered Alfred Pennyworth. I’ve been impressed that, however well thought out (or not) Alfred’s murder was from a storytelling perspective, the various Bat-writers who followed have certainly made it count, Alfred’s death being an inciting incident in Joshua Williamson’s Robin, as well as heavily driving Tynion’s Joker after a fashion. Jason’s revenge-killing(ish) of Bane here is a significant moment, well-rendered by Barrows, that perhaps deserved even more of a pause than it got, except perhaps due to the extenuating circumstances in another book.

I was surprised that, despite the very obvious reasons Jason Todd might be right for a book about zombies and resurrections, including that his weapon of choice now is an electric tire iron, we never specifically get a Death in the Family flashback, no “I remember the void,” etc. Perhaps just as well; we’ve seen that kind of thing before (Suicide Squad: Get Joker, for instance). But Rosenberg has an interesting conception of Jason, and perhaps of who knows what in the DCU writ large — Two-Face makes a reference to Jason “stealing hubcaps,” which is awfully specific even if Harvey does know that Bruce Wayne is Batman these days (while Jason’s father working for Two-Face, some continuity ago, goes unremarked). Deadshot, too, calls Red Hood “Jason” and seems to know he’d once been resurrected; I’m not sure on what Rosenberg is basing all this familiarity, though I can forgive it given this book’s other great twists and turns.



Task Force Z Vol. 1: Death’s Door includes “created by” credits that are hilariously silly each time, from “some people who should know better” to “the support of viewers like you.” I’m not sure why Matthew Rosenberg and company wouldn’t want actual credit, if credit can be given for creating a Suicide Squad sub-team, but it’s the exact kind of levity this book needs, along with clone doctors playing chess with a monkey and no small amount of zombies trying to eat friend and foe alike. We’ve seen really irreverent Suicide Squad titles before, to the point even of meanness, and this isn’t that — Rosenberg’s Task Force Z is funny and horrific, but with a core of Red Hood Jason Todd trying to do good, and he’s more compelling than Peacemaker or Rick Flag recently in the same roles. I wouldn’t blink at Rosenberg on a “regular” Suicide Squad title when all of this is over.

[Includes original and variant covers, character sketches]

Comments ( 1 )

  1. 2.5? The review led me to believe it'd have a higher score than that.

    I'm not the guy for modern DC but someone urged me to read this and let me borrow theirs and I enjoyed the hell out of it. Ended up buying this and volume two. You can count the number of collections of mainstream DCU books in the last 12 years on two hands.


To post a comment, you may need to temporarily allow "cross-site tracking" in your browser of choice.

Newer Post Home Older Post