Comic Review: Suicide Squad: Black Files

Published: November 7th, 2018 – April 3rd, 2019
Written by: Mike W. Barr, Jai Nitz
Art by: Phil Briones, various

DC Comics, 260 Pages

Review:

I didn’t really know what this miniseries was going to be about when it came out, I just knew that it was full of a lot of characters, many of whom were new to the Suicide Squad.

What this is, is a miniseries where each double-sized issue is broken into two halves, telling two six issue story arcs. Although, they are somewhat joined as this serves to closeout the Suicide Squad team that’s been around for a few years while introducing the readers to a new team, who seem to be in line for an upcoming series of their own.

While this series was going on, the regular, monthly Suicide Squad comic came to an end with it’s 50th issue.

The two stories here were pretty decent but nothing exceptional. Between the two plot threads, I preferred the one centered around the newer team. So I guess that’s good, considering that they seem to be taking over as the primary Suicide Squad soon.

But I don’t know if this miniseries was enough to entice me to buy the new team’s books. I may give it a whirl and see how I feel about it after a few months but I was getting burnt out on the regular Suicide Squad title before it even got to it’s 50th issue finale.

If anything, the new team feels kind of like the Suicide Squad equivalent to the Justice League Dark. I’m kind of getting bored with Justice League Dark too, even though it started with a mighty bang.

Ultimately, it just feels as if a lot of the DC titles seem aimless, as of late. I don’t know where any of them are going and I’m not sure that there’s much of a cohesive plan by editorial.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: the regular Suicide Squad series before it and I’m assuming an upcoming Suicide Squad Black series to follow up with the events here.

Comic Review: Red Hood and the Outlaws, Vol. 3: Bizarro Reborn

Published: April 24th, 2018
Written by: Scott Lobdell
Art by: Joe Bennett, Tyler Kirkham, Dextor Soy

DC Comics, 188 Pages

Review:

Out of all the volumes of the Red Hood comic that focus on the trio of Red Hood, Artemis and Bizarro, this is my favorite.

Man, this story was solid as hell and it was also a pretty emotional due to how we see Bizarro die, come back to life as a super-genius and then find out that he is still going to devolve into a dumb brute again.

For long-time fans of Jason Todd, this is especially emotional, as we see him finally find a sense of family that has eluded him for so long. He’s no longer alone, he’s with people he loves but you get the sense that it’s all going to be taken away from him in the near future. Re-reading these issues now, it certainly adds more context to his more recent stories.

Scott Lobdell has done such a fantastic job with this series and even though my pull list from my local comic shop keeps shrinking, this is a series I just don’t want to give up. It’s much better than the industry standard in modern times and it is awesome that there is top tier talent working on a book that mainly features B or C level characters.

This volume actually collects three short story arcs, which see cameos from a lot of cool characters like the modern Suicide Squad, Nightwing, the modern Bat-family, Lex Luthor and others.

I’m also now a big fan of Dexter Soy’s art style. I didn’t know much about him before this series but the issues he works on just look fantastic.

Red Hood and the Outlaws is one of the best DC Comics titles of the last few years. I wish more people would read it, even if the most recent stuff is a bit different due to Jason Todd being alone, once again. But I feel as if that’s leading to him reuniting with his Outlaw family.

With DC cancelling a bunch of titles in the very near future, I really hope that this isn’t one of them.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the other Red Hood and the Outlaws collections post-Rebirth. Also, the recent Bat-family titles: NightwingBatgirl and also the current runs on Suicide Squad and Deathstroke.

Film Review: Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay (2018)

Release Date: March 23rd, 2018 (Anaheim premiere)
Directed by: Sam Liu
Written by: Alan Burnett
Based on: Suicide Squad by Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru, John Ostrander
Music by: Robert J. Kral
Cast: Christian Slater, Billy Brown, Liam McIntyre, Kristin Bauer van Straten, Gideon Emery, Tara Strong, Vanessa Williams, C. Thomas Howell, Greg Grunberg

DC Entertainment, Warner Bros. Animation, DR Movie, 86 Minutes

Review:

“I know I’m going to Heaven – anyone who can put up with Mr. J deserves a break.” – Harley Quinn

It seems as if these DC Comics animated movies are getting better and better. Pretty much most of the stuff that Sam Liu produces and directs is top notch. Also, I love that these are for an adult audience.

While I pretty much hated the live action Suicide Squad movie, I’ve been a fan of the comics for some time. This animated feature does a pretty good job of capturing that magic in a way that the live action film completely missed.

The voice cast in this was really good too and I especially enjoyed Christian Slater as Deadshot. I hope he plays the character more in the future and if this spawned its own series, I’d watch the followups.

This movie is violent but it works, as this film is presented in a grindhouse style. Now the look of it is crisp and clean like other DC animated films but it has that modern grindhouse edge to it in it’s credits sequences, editing style and musical score. While the modern grindhouse thing really peaked with Tarantino and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse movie over ten years ago, it’s interesting seeing that style in this format.

The story is also good and it sets up a situation where these characters have a sort of loophole to work around the protocols the government has in order to control these villains forced to do good. There is a lot of back stabbing, twists and turns.

This also features a ton of villains whether they are members of the Suicide Squad or not. And while a lot of characters are crammed into this 86 minute picture, everything flows well.

This is solid. It’s one of the better DC Comics animated features to come out.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other recent DC animated features for adult audiences.

Comic Review: Aquaman/Suicide Squad: Sink Atlantis!

Published: August 8th, 2018 – September 19th, 2018
Written by: Rob Williams, Dan Abnett
Art by: Jose Luis, Vicente Cifuentes

DC Comics, 128 Pages

Review:

Did you ever want a crossover that features the Suicide Squad and Aquaman? Well, you’ve got one! And while it didn’t start off all that strong, it ended up being a lot of fun and I enjoyed this short four-issue crossover.

The story takes place in Suicide Squad issues 45 and 46, as well as Aquaman issues 39 and 40.

The Suicide Squad team is a bit different after a key member has died, as well as a slight roster shakeup. The important members in this story are Harley Quinn, Deadshot and Killer Croc. We also get Lord Satanis, who ends up being a villain with his own agenda. On the Aquaman side, we get action from him and King Shark. Mera is also heavily involved in the story.

The real highlight of this entire event though, is the battle between Killer Croc and King Shark, a fight I never knew I wanted.

For the most part, this turned out better than the first issue led me to believe. The story was a bit weak and the threat, while somewhat large, was perpetrated by a very minor villain that most people won’t even remember.

I thought the art was good and most of the dialogue was decent.

Now had Harley become Queen of Atlantis, that would have been more entertaining.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: The Suicide Squad and Aquaman story arcs that led up to this.

Comic Review: Suicide Squad: Constriction

Published: May 9th, 2018 – July 11th, 2018
Written by: Rob Williams
Art by: Eduardo Pansica, Julio Ferreira, Adriano Lucas, various

DC Comics, 103 Pages

Review:

I haven’t read a Suicide Squad comic in awhile but the idea of Batman teaming up with Deadshot peaked my interest. I’ve also liked DC Comics much more than Marvel, as of late, and their titles that deal with former or reforming villains have been really solid. The other comics I’m referring to are Deathstroke and Red Hood and the Outlaws and maybe even The Silencer fits in there, as her backstory doesn’t paint a heroic picture.

The premise for this is great. Batman breaks Deadshot out of Amanda Waller’s prison. The two then go on a road trip in an old pickup truck in an effort to stop a snake cult that has abducted Deadshot’s daughter. Also, the Suicide Squad is in hot pursuit. What’s not to love?

I liked the art and the character design in this arc. I also thought that the story was well-written and it made some good connections between the characters of Batman and Deadshot. Mainly, Batman, whose son was raised by a cult, doesn’t want to see the same fate befall Deadshot’s daughter, who the Kobra cult are trying to use to be a vessel for their dead leader.

Amanda Waller is pissed about the prison break and knows Batman was involved, even though there is no proof of it. She unleashes Harley Quinn, Captain Cold and Captain Boomerang to bring him in dead or alive.

My only real complaint is how the comic portrays Harley. She is made to be a dumb character for comedic effect and while I don’t blame this specific writer, I blame DC for downplaying her actual intelligence all the time. It was fine for Batman: The Animated Series but in the comics she shouldn’t be a goofy caricature. The Joker is a clown but he’s not an idiotic buffoon, he’s super intelligent and that makes him scary and formidable. This version of Harley Quinn would never be put on some special forces task force used by the government. I mean, she doesn’t even know the difference between a helicopter and a submarine. I haven’t really read anything with Harley since the DC Rebirth started but I had hoped that she was more like her live action film counterpart and less like her cartoon version. It’s time to make her something better than DC’s version of Squirrel Girl. I mean, she was a professional psychologist for fuck’s sake.

But moving on!

This was an entertaining and badass read. I hope this means that Deadshot is going to continue down some sort of path to redemption. DC is doing this with Deathstroke and I like how that’s gone so far. I wouldn’t mind seeing Deadshot also evolve into a character that isn’t just a throwaway assassin type to toss randomly into a story whenever one is needed.

After reading this arc, I had Suicide Squad added to my pull list at my comic shop. So we’ll see how it goes moving forward. But if the quality dips too far below this, I’ll cancel it and move on.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: The current runs on Deathstroke, The SilencerRed Hood and the OutlawsNightwing and Batman.

Comic Review: Batman: The War of Jokes and Riddles

Published: December 19th, 2017
Written by: Tom King
Art by: Mikel Janin

DC Comics, 200 Pages

Review:

I haven’t been too keen on modern comics from the big publishers: Marvel and DC. I’m not wholly opposed to reading them, as there are a few titles I still like. However, modern writers seem to be trying to reinvent and alter things too much. Then there is the whole SJW movement in comics that are forcing change in a bizarre and unnecessary way, as oppose to creating new characters that can stand on their own.

The Batman Rebirth stuff doesn’t seem to be full of SJW meddling but it does make some drastic moves and alters the narrative in ways that don’t feel organic.

My biggest issue with this story, is that the Riddler, one of the main characters, is pretty much a murderous, blood thirsty psycho that carves question marks into his flesh and plays more of a mob boss with a penchant for green suits than the classic villain we all know and love. Also, he has sideburns, looks attractive and wears his dress shirts wide open like some sort of douchebag.

The Joker seems pretty much normal, even if he is drier and more bland than what one is used to. But his story starts with him not finding anything funny anymore. Sort of like the kid that takes his ball and goes home because the bigger kid keeps tackling him to the ground. The Joker has no energy here but I guess that’s the point of the story and how it plays out. Still, in no situation whatsoever, can my mind even imagine this sort of version of the character.

Then there is the relationship between Batman and Catwoman, which sees Batman turning a blind eye to Catwoman’s crimes as long as she grinds on his junk once in a while. Besides, she’s not a “sick” criminal. Regardless, Batman’s code seems to be thrown out the window as long as he gets to play “hide the churro” every few dozen pages or so.

And speaking of Batman’s code, he tries to kill the Riddler in cold blood, unprovoked in the moment, with a machete to the face. No, seriously. This is something that happens in this tale.

The problem with this story arc is maybe the same problem I have with modern comics. The writers and the creators either don’t have respect for the source material and want to put their own spin on things or they just don’t understand or know the source material. I’ve been reading Batman comics for over thirty years and this is the most un-Batman story I have ever come across.

The writer doesn’t understand these characters, tries to throw way too many into the story and then doesn’t even weave a good or engaging enough plot to give this any sort of point. The entire plot revolves around the Joker feeling gloom. The big reveal at the end shows that this was all an elaborate ploy by the Riddler to solve the biggest riddle of all: why won’t the Joker laugh.

I’ll tell you why the Joker won’t laugh. It’s because he’s lived for nearly eight decades and never has he been in a story as dull and as dumb as this one.

I really wanted to like this because it has been a long time since I’ve cared about Batman. Yes, I still read older stuff on a regular basis but the series has just been lost to me ever since the end of the Grant Morrison era.

On the positive side of things, the art is pretty damn good. I don’t like some of the new character designs but the book still looks nice.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Probably other Batman stuff in the Rebirth line but I doubt I’ll read anything else from this era.

Video Game Review: Batman: Arkham Origins (PlayStation 3)

*Written in 2014.

*I played the PlayStation 3 version. The game is also available on Xbox 360, Wii U, Windows and OS X.

Having beaten Batman: Arkham City last week, I immediately wanted to jump into the next game in the series, Arkham Origins. This game is a prequel to the Arkham series of Batman video games and the third title, with the fourth to be released next year.

This game is incredibly consistent with the previous entries in the series and that consistency is why these games are so great. The first game worked so well, that they haven’t deviated from it too much and only tweak a few things here and there. When playing these games one after the other, the transition is seamless and it all meshes perfectly together like they are all just big beefy chapters of one big interlocked tale. In essence, that is what they are.

The thing that sets this game apart is the fact that it puts a lot of emphasis on some of the lesser known villains in the Batman mythos. Black Mask and Anarky are two villains that are a major part of the story. The Riddler is simply known as E. Nygma, which was a nice touch. Deathstroke, Deadshot, Firefly, Shiva and a bunch of other characters show up that aren’t as recognizable as some of the more famous villains. To whet the palate of the less initiated Batman fan, there are appearances by the Penguin, Bane and the Joker. Mr. Freeze also shows up in bonus content and the Mad Hatter takes Batman on a psychedelic Wonderland adventure.

Additionally, half of the massive Gotham City map is the same as the map in Arkham City. In fact, all the landmarks are still there except being that this is a prequel, they are pristine and nice and not completely overrun by henchmen and street trash.

This game gives the player a unique backstory on the Arkham series and establishes how Batman met the Joker and how the Riddler started out. It also gives one a sense of how things were when Batman was still a newbie and the bigger villains hadn’t shown up in Gotham City yet. It is a very mob driven town, a little less crazy than what it becomes but the introduction to the Joker brings a serious tonal shift to the game and pulls the player back into just how insane this ride would become for Batman.

I don’t know which game in this series I like most. They are all like really stellar seasons to a really amazing television show. They are different yet they are the same. Each is almost devoid of weakness and they all have their own unique strong bits that set them apart but make them all equally spectacular.

Rating: 9/10