Suicide Squad Annual #1
“For the Wicked, No Rest”
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artist: Ronan Cliquet
Colors: Jason Wright
Letters: Pat Brosseau
Cover artists: Paul Pelletier & Mick Gray
Editors: Katie Kubert & Mike Cotton
Publisher: DC Comics
Price: $4.99 US
As a longtime fan of the Suicide Squad concept that John Ostrander introduced in the late 1980s, I was absolutely elated with this self-contained story. However, this was far from a perfect Suicide Squad comic, as it was highly inaccessible and featured interpretations of characters that really didn’t stay true to the characters’ histories. I was of two minds about this annual, but ultimately, I came away pleased. I hope that DC takes the same approach with future Suicide Squad annuals, using them to introduce alternate teams and to stay true to the dangerous and fatal appeal that its title would suggest.
With Task Force X occupied with critical mission in Atlantis, Amanda Waller is forced to select a backup Suicide Squad roster in Belle Reve after a weird and dangerous prisoner/patient escape from the prison’s confines. Led by the archer Merlyn, this new Squad will be taken off-guard when it discovers it must contend with their prey’s protectors: the Swamp Thing and macabre apparitions that would rend anyone asunder who would threaten the vulnerable and confused target.
Ronan Cliquet offers up artwork that’s very much in the vein of traditional super-hero genre visuals, and his work here reminds me of the style of Paul Pelletier (fitting, since he provides the pencil art for the cover) with a hint of Scott McDaniel thrown into the mix. There are also some panels that reminded me of the work of such artists as Mike Norton and Alan Davis. I’m surprised the editors opted for such a straightforward, familiar style for this story, given the supernatural and eerie nature of so many story elements. Something more distorted — in keeping with the style of the late Bernie Wrightson, for example — really would have added a lot to the story. Mind you, while colorist Jason Wright brings some bright, primary colors to the “protagonists” (such as they are), he brings an eerie green glow to the phantasms generated by the threat the prisoners have been dispatched to recapture.
DC has so many forgotten and discarded characters — especially villains — from throughout its long history that it makes for greater fodder for the Suicide Squad concept. Writer Cullen Bunn assembles a colorful and obscure array of sacrificial lambs here, and I was thrilled to see them. Tao Jones and Baby Boom from Helix, a team of forgettable villains from Infinity Inc. in the 1980s? Scream Queen from Scare Tactics? It felt at times Bunn was writing this comic just for me, but therein lies part of the problem. While I was familiar with several of these deep cuts, it seems unlikely the majority of the audience would be. Furthermore, Bunn writes Cadence Laramie, the desperate and disturbed young woman whom the backup Squad hunts in this story, as though she’s got an extended backstory, or that the dead man to whom she’s artificially conjoined, Dennis gaines, does. I wasn’t able to find anything about them in a web search, but I felt quite out of the loop in regard to that character/those characters. Bunn’s script could do with a lot more exposition and introductory information.
I was also a little disappointed with how Bunn portrays some of these characters. Gail Simone did such wonderful characterization with Rag Doll in Secret Six, but he’s very much a one-note, serial-killer-type of character here. I was also disappointed with how Scream Queen has been transformed into a villain here; she was one of the title heroes in Len Kaminski and Anthony Williams’ Scare Tactics title in the late 1990s. Merlyn is portrayed very much as a standin for Deadshot in this team roster, and his personality is almost indistinguishable, but given both characters’ portrayals as expert marksmen and assassins, that stands to reason.
Bunn’s story is far from subtle. This is a story about monsters – Swamp Thing, the ghosts generated by the Frankenstein-esque antagonist, the members of the bench-warming Suicide Squad — but the writer’s ultimate point is that Amanda Waller is the worst monster of them all. Bunn portrays the Squad’s handler as a bit more malevolent than she has been previously, but that edge has always been there to some degree, especially in the DC Rebirth incarnation of the character. 6/10