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: Batman: Knightfall, Book I

Published: 1993-1994
Written by: Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, Alan Grant
Art by: various

DC Comics, 634 Pages

Review:

I’ve put off reading the Batman: Knightfall saga for so long because of two reasons. It’s spread out over three massive books and each of those books is pretty pricey. However, Comixology now has the first book available for free to Unlimited subscribers and they just had a big sale on the other two books. So I was able to get this whole thing for about $8.

So now that I have this series in my possession, I can start reading all 2000-plus pages of it. Yes, it’s a real monster – big enough to rival the mass of Bane on the cover.

Over the years, I’ve acquired a few of the issues within this massive saga but it started to come out as I was going into high school and I moved to a much smaller town where I couldn’t buy comics. So I never really got to read it, even though I’ve come to know the story fairly well.

The story, mostly penned by Doug Moench and Chuck Dixon, is quite good. There are a lot of layers to this massive story, as there should be due to how much material it has between its covers. However, some things do feel a bit rushed, as there isn’t much build worked in to the major plot developments.

For instance, Batman is broken pretty quickly in this saga. And then Azrael is given the mantle of Batman and immediately, he acts like a psycho in how he fights crime. He’s a dick to Robin, he almost lets a kid die to pursue the baddie and he retrofits the Bat-suit with claws and spiky, metal shit. I think it would have enriched the story to show Azrael slowly slip into this aggressive new Batman.

Still, that doesn’t hinder the book very much, as there are so many other characters and situations to track through this volume’s 634 pages.

I was surprised to see Azrael actually defeat Bane in this book, as it is only the first third of the saga. So I don’t really know what that means going forward and I was pretty sure that Bane’s fall would be at the end of this huge saga.

This is absolutely quintessential ’90s Batman though. And that’s really what’s so great about it. Bane is the perfect villain for this era and Azrael is a very ’90s twist on heroism. I even enjoy Azrael’s cringeworthy Bat-suit because despite its awfulness and nonsensical design, it fits the era.

Additionally, the art in every issue collected in this giant piece of work is damn good. I’ve always been a big Graham Nolan fan and his work here is some of his most memorable.

I’m glad that I finally read this. It exceeded any expectations I had for it, even if I thought the narrative was choppy in parts. But I also attribute some of that to this story being a big crossover with multiple writers.

If you haven’t read Knightfall, you probably should.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: the other books in the Knightfall saga, as well as pretty much any Batman story from the ’90s.

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.

Comic Review: Batman: White Knight

Published: October 9th, 2018
Written by: Sean Murphy
Art by: Sean Murphy

DC Comics, 224 Pages

Review:

Spoiler alert: this gets a perfect score.

The reason why this gets a perfect score is that you just don’t read comic book stories this great anymore. It almost feels as if we don’t deserve something this good in this day and age. And, I guess, one could say that maybe its greatness is magnified by an industry that is struggling to put out exceptional work but I don’t think that it is. I think that White Knight, regardless of what era it came out in, is a true masterpiece of the comic book medium.

Sure, time will tell how this holds up over the years but I don’t need time to tell me that this most certainly will be held in the same regard as Batman classics The Long HalloweenThe Dark Knight Returns and Year One. In fact, I would say that this beats two out of those three.

Sean Murphy weaved a tale that exists in its own continuity but at the same time, he wrote a Batman story that was respectful to the franchise and all the characters within it. I love when someone can find a way to utilize all the major villains and Murphy did just that, without having this become a convoluted mess. His idea in how to include them all here was actually kind of genius.

This also does a fine job in breaking down the dichotomy that is Batman and the Joker and asks the question, “Is there even a dichotomy?” Delving deeper than just that, this examines the Joker, Batman and Harley Quinn’s psyche in new ways that really make this book smarter than the average bear while making these old characters feel fresh. Basically, Murphy found a way to explore these well-known characters and brought something new and intriguing to the table.

Finishing the story, it’s hard to pinpoint who the big bad is here. Is it the reformed Joker? Is it Harley pulling strings? Is it the new villain: Neo Joker? Is it Batman? Is it the GCPD? Is it Gotham City itself? There is a lot to interpret here and there isn’t a clean answer any which way you could go.

Murphy also gives back a lot of fan service in including certain characters from other mediums and beloved Batmobiles of yesteryear, among other things. But it’s never fan service just to get brownie points, he created the right sort of situation where all of it just works really well.

I loved the idea of the GTO (Gotham Terrorist Oppression Unit) and how Nightwing and Batgirl were used. I loved how the story worked for the entire Bat-family, especially the stuff regarding Alfred. All the Mr. Freeze material was also wonderful. There is just so much to digest and dissect here but all of it is good.

Sean Murphy also did the art and I loved his work. All in all, this really is his creation and it’s a damn fine creation at that.

This limited comic series is pretty close to perfect. There’s nothing I would change or alter about it and frankly, I want to read it again.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the best of the best classic Batman stories: The Long HalloweenDark VictoryYear OneThe Dark Knight Returns, etc.

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: Dark Nights: Metal

Published: June 12th, 2018
Written by: Scott Snyder
Art by: Greg Capullo

DC Comics, 204 Pages

Review:

I didn’t read this as it came out. I also was much more frugal about how much I spent on comics at the time. I’m less frugal now, as I’m spending more time reviewing them. And to be honest, while this is $30 for the collected edition at my local comic shop, I found this on a brief Comixology sale for $5.99. So at that price, I figured I’d give it a go. If I ended up really liking it, I would’ve gone back to buy the single issues. But I didn’t really like it all that much. I’ll explain.

To start, I typically like Scott Snyder’s writing, especially in regards to anything with Batman in it. As far as Greg Capullo goes, he is one of my favorite artists of the last few decades. So seeing them reunite for this was definitely a selling point, even if what I knew about the project’s story didn’t peak my interest.

The biggest problem with Metal is the same problem with most mega events in comics, it is chock full of so many characters that the plot loses fluidity and the story seems to placate more to wedging in as many cameos as possible, as opposed to keeping the train on the rails.

This wasn’t a bad idea for a story but it should have been kept fairly simple. People just kept showing up on nearly every page, though, and it becomes distracting. New twists and turns are thrown in as often as characters and this just loses its focus. It also introduces a whole horde of villains, most of whom will just be one-offs in this story anyway. But this reads more like a sketchbook than a coherent story. What I mean by that, is that this feels like Capullo trying to fit in every cool design that he wasn’t able to wedge into Spawn throughout his run on the book in the ’90s.

Another thing I didn’t like was how wordy this was. While there are good action scenes, sometimes these characters felt like they weren’t surrounded by villains but instead, were surrounded by word balloons, trying to wedge their way into the panels and asphyxiate the characters. The word balloons were the real villains of the story. At least, that should be a twist whenever this gets a sequel.

I did like how the ending looked into the future as a way to tell you what stories would be coming out from DC Comics over the following year. But, at the same time, this was disappointing to some degree, as a main reason why I picked this up was to see the introduction of DC’s “New Age of Heroes”. I always see mentions that this is where they debuted but their appearance here is limited to one panel where we see into the future.

Anyway, this at least kept my attention over the six issues, even if they felt like twelve due to the dialogue and having so much detail to drink in. I wouldn’t say that this is a waste of time and I can see where this will be a lot of people’s cup of tea. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, really. But I also don’t regret reading it simply because I liked seeing Capullo have fun and get really creative with the art and character design.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Any other DC Comics mega event of the last decade or so.

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.