“Suicide Squad” #20 is the first issue by Ales Kot and Patrick Zircher, and on the whole I think it holds a lot of promise. For those who read Adam Glass’ issues, though, there’s no denying that the transition between writers is a little rough in spots, to the point that it makes you wonder why editorial didn’t have Kot arrive one issue earlier.
“Suicide Squad” #19 was in the middle of a storyline when the issue had come to a close; Amanda Waller was unconscious while trying to track down Regulus and Kurt Lance, Harley’s personality of Quinzel was reasserting itself, Voltaic was still little more than a walking zombie, the Unknown Soldier had just shot Deadshot, and troops found a frozen O.M.A.C. in New Zealand. The reason why all of this is mentioned is because almost none of this is present in “Suicide Squad” #20. Aside from Deadshot’s condition being explained, Kot has wiped the board clear. Harley’s other personality is nowhere in sight, the mission to find Regulus and Kurt Lance is forgotten, Voltaic is chatting and playing Scrabble, and O.M.A.C. has been forgotten. It’s a jarring transition for anyone who read the previous issue, and it doesn’t show much respect for the readership to so blatantly events from one issue prior. I understand the idea that these were clearly story elements that Kot perhaps wasn’t interested in, and as the new writer he’s got every right to dump them; doing so in a more elegant manner, though, might have worked a bit better.
The good news is that if observed in a vacuum, Kot’s script shows some promise. It’s definitely a brutal issue; every character goes through the wringer here, and most of them involve some form of violence. It’s more than just senseless beat-downs, though, and you can see where both Kot and the characters in question are heading. “Suicide Squad” #20 is as much of a mental thrashing as a physical one for the team members; I don’t think anyone really ends up unscathed as they’re all reeling from the bad situations that Waller and her new assistant place them in.
So far the only addition to the cast is the assistant, although there’s no doubt that Kos will bring in more team members before long. The assistant is a creepy one, though; as a pre-existing character there’s a lot of baggage that comes with this one, and since it’s clear that Kos is going for as much a psychological thrill ride as a physical one, it’s a smart addition.
Also a good addition is Zircher, fresh off of “Shadowman.” When Zircher draws Voltaic being hit by the Unknown Soldier and tiles fly everywhere, the individual letters are a wonderful touch (forming an unofficial sound-effect but also helping show the level of that first strike). There’s a Joe Kubert vibe coming off of these pages, and not just because of Kubert’s co-creator status with the Unknown Soldier. The lines on Deadshot’s face and the pried-opened eyes in particular bring Kubert to mind, even more so when we get the close-up on Harley’s face when the Joker visits her. Add in some good storytelling in general from Zircher, and we end up with a nice looking package.
Once you get past the rough transition from the previous issue, “Suicide Squad” #20 shapes up into a good start from Kot and Zircher. Will I be back next month to see where they go from here? Absolutely. Now that they can start charting out their own territory, I think the sky’s the limit.