"New Suicide Squad" has been plagued with some artistic inconsistency ever since its relaunch, so it's a pleasure to see Sean Ryan joined with a new regular artist in the form of Philippe Briones. With the constant switching of art teams hopefully behind the comic, "New Suicide Squad" #9 lets the series get down to business. In this case, it's telling a story that feels much more influenced by current headlines, and that's a tactic that holds great promise.
Ryan's plot for "New Suicide Squad" #9 straddles the world of the DC Universe and our own, as the Squad is sent to infiltrate a splinter group of the League of Assassins that is blatantly taking over territory in the Middle East with open attacks on cities and their populations, forcing them to live under their ideology. Sound familiar? It's a smart tactic, but one which Ryan keeps from making it a little too real by using part of the League of Assassins and by adding in the wrinkle of this group finding black market technology normally used by super-villains. If "New Suicide Squad" continues to run the angle of our world filtered through the DC Universe, this could end up being very effective.
Along those lines, Ryan's cast choices show great restraint; with just Deadshot, Black Manta and Captain Boomerang being sent in (with Harley Quinn, Reverse Flash and Parasite in reserve as an extraction team), it's taking the idea of placing members within the League to take it down from within with a healthy amount of respect and believability. Ryan in particular has been using Black Manta well in this series, as the one character who seems genuinely invested in the Squad succeeding; it's been a setup that has provided the closest thing to a voice of sanity, something that's desperately needed in a book that is often populated with multiple crazy voices. It also gives Black Manta one of the most dramatic moments in the issue as part of the cliffhanger, showing both how far Manta will go to make the mission succeed even while still giving him a soul.
Part of the impact of that moment is thanks to Briones, who sells it not only with Manta's decisive action but also the expression on his face. It wouldn't have worked half as well without it; the horror washing over him as the chips fall (so to speak) gives us a good look into just how horrible a moment it is. On the whole, Briones does a good job; the opening three-page sequence in particular shows how much potential he has, able to take a quiet moment and instill a certain amount of dread as the perspective pulls back and lets us see just what bad shape the setting is in. Some of the scenes at Squad HQ feel a little cartoonish, although Manta's visual disdain for his teammates ultimately sells those scenes.
"New Suicide Squad" #9 feels like a book that's found its footing; with the setup for this storyline taken care of, it feels like it can start building up some momentum in the chapters to come. For the moment, though, this feels like a good first step.