DC Comics Relaunch: Suicide Squad #3, Deathstroke #3 & Stormwatch #3 New 52 Reviews (Harley Quinn)

Some edgy (pun intended) books from month three of the DC Comics Relaunch’s New 52 get the spotlight today!

As folks may remember, in month one I looked at the gritty debut issues of Suicide Squad and Deathstroke, and then last month I added Shade, of Starman infamy, into the review mix establishing my triple-review format. I had planned to continue to review these three week two offerings, except that DC Comics up and changed their shipping schedule. Shade #2 now comes out later in November, but seems to have been moved twice on the schedule.

However, fear not triple-review fans, due in part to the success of my ex-Robins review at the end of October, looking at Nightwing #2, Red Hood and the Outlaws #2, and Teen Titans #2, I realized you aren’t a regimented readership that sticks to calendar weeks as you may to the elusive hope of consistent continuity by the Big Two. As you may recall, the Nightwing and Red Hood issues came out in week three of October and Teen Titans came out in week four.

So, the week-breaking pattern continues today as I will not only review Suicide Squad #2 and Deathstroke #2, as expected, but I am adding a week one book into the mix with a look at Stormwatch #3!

Let me know what you think of this grouping of titles as well as my thoughts on each title.

Ok, ‘nuff said, on to the reviews…

Deathstroke #3:

DC New 52 scribe Kyle Higgins continues to fire on all cylinders in his authentic portrayal of the aging mercenary Deathstroke a.k.a. Slade Wilson. He’s also confirmed that Deathstroke no longer has the connection to the (New) Teen Titans he had pre-Flashpoint which effectively negates the classic Marv Wolfman and George Perez run. What, if any, relationship he had / has with Nightwing (another Higgins penned book) will be revealed in due time. This has caused some commotion in fandom, but in Kyle I trust. His Nightwing and Deathstroke books are two of the strongest titles in the New 52.

Deathstroke #3 opens with our titular mercenary mid-battle with new antagonist “Legacy”. It’s a rather bloody four-page sequence with Slade’s inner monologue serving as a fitting juxtaposition to the action since this new series is all about Slade’s seemingly fading reputation and his attempts to re-establish his name and how own legacy in this New 52 DCU.

We are also introduced to another member of Deathstroke Inc. 🙂 as Peabody, Slade’s weaponeer, makes his debut in a scene that certainly establishes him as equally brainy AND brawny. He joins Christophe, Slade’s handler, as part of Slade’s inner circle.

BTW, as an aside, it seems that many of DC’s heroes and villains are all about the energy drinks. In the concept sketches pre-New 52 by Jim Lee, we saw art with Green Arrow holding an energy drink, as well as a few others, and now we have Slade with a whole energy drink dispenser in his training room. No wonder there is so much tension in the new DCU: the heroes AND villains are all wired… like hard partying college kids the night before an exam. 🙂

(Higgins also continues to masterfully tease us about what is that briefcase from issue #1. Damn! I am so curious about its contents, but can’t even guess what it might be.)

In a nod (good or bad, I’m not sure) perhaps to the Occupy Wall Street and Inconvenient Truth crowds, Slade’s next mission involves the assassination of an Elmer Burnham, a philanthropist techie who, in part, repurposes military grade weaponry for the “greater good”; like Peabody’s freeze guns repurposed to slow the melting of polar ice caps. Take THAT global warming! Some of you may be a bit disappointed that Kyle Higgins has not revealed whether in the DCU global warming is accelerated by the clashes between the capes and cowls or if it is a naturally occurring phenomenon. 🙂 (I think this review has the most smiley faces when looking at “paragraph-to-smiley” ratio; I will endeavour to refrain as I complete this review and move onto the remaining two to go.)

What follows are about ten pages of combat, rather graphic mayhem in the usual Deathstroke fashion, as Slade attempts to penetrate Burnham’s Colorado compound. To Slade’s surprise, he is reengaged by Legacy – the antagonist he appeared to foil in the opening pages of this very same issue – and it seems that he has had a power upgrade which makes the Colorado combat a bit, a slight bit, more even between Legacy and Deathstroke.

The book ends with a rather satisfying cliff-hanger that ties back to a pivotal moment in Deathstroke #1. Higgins quite cleverly makes Legacy, a character that on its surface seemed generic, into one of the most complex and intriguing villains in the entire New 52 DCU. Higgins gets traditional super-hero / super-villain comic book fare, but clearly has a vision for how the medium can and should evolve; his issue #3 cliff-hanger firmly solidifies Higgins’ place as one of DC’s Top 5 writers in the DC Comics Relaunch.

Not to go unnoticed, penciler Joe Bennett and inker Art Thibert’s softer art style really renders a beautiful ballet of action and mayhem throughout the issue as well as effectively conveying the emotions needed in the non-action panels, PARTICULARLY in that amazing cliff-hanger I have been raving about. And, what more can be said about iconic artist Simon Bisley’s cover for issue #3 than… “wow”?

I understand that mayhem may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Kyle Higgins’ Deathstroke is a more authentic and unflinching take on the life of a mercenary than what we’ve seen in the past from DC Comics.

Deathstroke #3 is a really gritty, engaging, and highly entertaining adrenaline rush… with or without an energy drink prior to reading.

Suicide Squad #3:

Writer Adam Glass continues his high octane concerto of mayhem (there’s that word again) with Suicide Squad #3. He also gains his third artist in three issues, with Cliff Richards coming on board. (As an aside, I wonder who will win the office pool around which book will get an actual ongoing artist first: Adam Glass’ Suicide Squad or Eric Wallace’s Mister Terrific?) 🙂 (Ooops, there I go with the smiley again.)

Suicide Squad #3 opens with the team having escaped their grid iron prison from last issue. The ragtag team is holed up in a diner of all places; doing their best to be incognito with a baby – literally a baby, right down to the swaddling wrap – in tow, trying to stay alive within a symphony of bullets conducted by new villain “Mad Dog”. (I hope Mad Dog’s appearance doesn’t mean we won’t see Wild Dog at the some point in the New 52; THAT was a cool character from back in the day, but with no relation to anything Suicide Squad related.)

Adam Glass uses an engaging story technique by counting down to the team’s extraction by Amanda Waller’s other operatives. We start the issue being 21 minutes from evacuation, but then flip to a few hours earlier and from there readers learn how our team got into the bullet riddled diner in the first place (a place called, interestingly, “Last Call Dinner”… I like the last call part, but wonder if the extra “n” in Diner refers to…. oh, hell, there’s no joke to be made here; I just wonder if it was an error or not. If so, “eh”, it happens; I saw this more as an Easter Egg anyway. It didn’t distract from the action, but was worth a quick mention).

There are some funny bits peppered into the action and mayhem that go hand-in-hand in Adam Glass’ Suicide Squad: seeing firebug priest El Diablo and Joker hanger-on Harley Quinn try to go incognito with their complexions was a bit of a hoot.

I also know many a fan are buzzing about the “moment” between team leader Deadshot and Harley… clowns need cuddling after all too, don’t they pudd’n? Listen, I have very specific views about DC Comics’ pre and post Flashpoint portrayal of Harley Quinn. In my view, DC did a HUGE disservice by sugar coating the real trauma, mental and physical, that “Mister J” did to Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel that turned her into the homicidal maniac Harley Quinn. Not only that, with hindsight being 20-20, in the New 52, she SHOULD be displaying some elements of battered spouse syndrome which does explain why she would have this “moment” with Deadshot in the first place.

In addition, IMHO, when Harley initially moved into comics from animated TV, DC should have done more to portray her as a character trying to overcome her victimization, but despite her efforts still always being drawn back to the Joker (not just the simplistic pre-Flashpoint Mister J fixation).

(Legit concerns over her costume put aside for the moment, all you people that think Harley SHOULD be with the Joker, give your heads a shake. She SHOULDN’T be with him. In real life, you would NEVER counsel your sister, mother, friend to go back to an abusive partner. So, why would you do it in comics? The answer: you shouldn’t.)

It was also a nice surprise that El Diablo and another hero-turned-villain in Black Spider actually discover what really happened to departed teammate Voltiac at the hands of Deadshot last issue; through the internet as they gather their incognito threads.

We end the issue, back where we began. Harley has a rather strong moment threatening Mad Dog and his crew by booby-trapping the gas line to the kitchen so that any bullet fired by Mad Dog would blow everyone up in the Diner. Now THAT was quite a strong Harley Quinn moment for her new and old fans! (As an aside, everyone is after the baby that the Squad is trying to keep alive; its genetic code holds the key to the deadly techno-zombie virus we encountered last issue; a virus that may have infected Deadshot.)

King Shark also has a nice moment at the end of the issue that is humorous on one hand, but very deadly on the other. I like his sparing yet significant moments in each issue thus far.

The book ends with the next issue set up and the return of a fan favourite from the Suicide Squad of olde. I won’t spoil it for you, but fans of the Flash and the Suicide Squad should be quite happy. And the way that this fan fave character tries to take centre stage to end the book is priceless. It is a WTF moment, akin to the cliff-hanger in issue #1, and has me wishing Suicide Squad #4 was out much, much sooner!

Adam Glass delivers another authentic tale of characters who are anything-but-heroes fighting for their lives, but also grudgingly doing good by their country. They are slaves to the government, and every time they get comfortable, their true nature as hamsters on a treadmill are reinforced; in this issue that’s with the cliff-hanger.

The art is majorly upgraded in this issue by Cliff Richards over last issue, and with Ken Lashley’s cover art, but I hope an ongoing artist is nailed down soon.

Suicide Squad is a dark tale, about dark characters, with some cracks of sunshine getting in. The action, drama, and sparing use of humor sets this book apart from others on the shelves in a good way. Suicide Squad #3 is highly recommended. Sophisticated and authentic storytelling by writer Adam Glass; accept no substitutes.

BONUS REVIEW: Stormwatch #3:

I am really enjoying Paul Cornell’s Stormwatch book. For folks curious about the roster of the team, check out my team analysis from the previous issue.

Stormwatch #3 opens with the team in disarray, again. Most of the team is in Moscow with Apollo and Midnighter seeing the chaos of the group they have not joined (yet) in Technicolor action.

The whole team is questioning Adam One’s leadership (again) while Jack Hawksmoor (the “city talker”, literally) is in a zen like state chatting with the metaphysical representations of the City of Paris (a majestic blonde beauty), the City of Metropolis (a hooker, maybe?), and the City of Gotham (a Gargoyle – now THAT was nice to see). Jack is trying to understand why the monster-seed meteor that erupted from the moon last issue was aimed at “Nowhere, Colorado” (a place that isn’t a city, or is it? If it was clearly a City, Jack would be speaking to a representation of it, but he can’t). See… this is a VERY DIFFERENT and entertaining New 52 title written by the ever capable Paul Cornell. Oh, and Gotham’s Gargoyle fears the madness of Nowhere, Colorado… now THAT is intriguing.

As this is unfolding on the Earth, on the moon Harry Tanner, the Eminence of Blades, continues his battle of wits of with the giant, sentient, alien eye…. and brings his brawn to back up his brain… with a rather graphic outcome.

As we turn back Earthward, Apollo takes the skies to prevent further meteors from wreaking havoc on Earth; while he’s not a Stormwatch member, he does this deed because of his noble calling to protect the innocent . Apollo has several moments where his almost limitless powers are displayed; this guy might even be stronger than Superman. Yowza.

The book ends with most of the team reunited in Colorado (except for Apollo and the perception altering Projectionist) and being outmatched by the grotesque spawn of the monster-seed meteor.

This book also has an amazing cliff-hanger – like the other two books reviewed today – that sets up the next issue’s action well. Can one man do what the whole team could not next issue? We’ll soon find out.

The art of Miguel Sepulveda is beautiful and ugly, both deliberate, throughout the book. He is also getting his grove with the Stormwatch characters and we’re seeing a more consistent portrayal from panel to panel.

I am so enjoying the unique characters, unique plot points, and unique tone of Stormwatch. This is a very different kind of New 52 comic book that has loads of potential at the hands of writer Paul Cornell and artist Miguel Sepulveda.

This is one CRAZY FUN title in the New 52. Go pick up Stormwatch #3!

Closing Thoughts:

All three of these month three New 52 books – Deathstroke, Suicide Squad and Stormwatch – have amazing cliff-hangers. All three portray non-heroes in an authentic, gritty light, that in some cases does make you want to look away…. but then you have to come back to turn the page and see what’s next.

If you want standard super-hero fare, these aren’t your books.

However, if you crave thought-provoking, intelligent, dynamic, and non-conventional storytelling, these are the books for you. You WILL be entertained.

And, as I’ve said before: “Remember, this is the part of the DC Universe they call the “Edge”. This isn’t the Johnny DC line. These books are for more mature readers, teen plus, so no need to make any points by reading it to your 7-year old kids.” 😉 If you want Johnny DC, check out the fun book to the right.

‘Ta-ta, till next time.

Staying Connected:

(1) Please follow me on twitter at BabosScribe.

(2) Kindly friend me at Facebook too at BabosScribe.

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