SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for "Suicide Squad" #9, on sale now.
"Suicide Squad" #9 takes one of the core concepts of the "Justice League vs. Suicide Squad" miniseries -- the idea that there was an earlier Suicide Squad several years earlier that Maxwell Lord has since freed -- and uses it to the title's advantage to let us see that Squad's original mission. Rob Williams, Si Spurrier, and Riley Rossmo's story not only gives us one more member of the initial Squad that we'd never seen, but in the process we learn a little bit more about several of the Squad characters.
A FISTFUL OF LOBOS
Ever since the New 52 debuted in 2011, there's been an internal, creative struggle on just what a modern day Lobo would look like. In the new continuity, Lobo first debuted in the pages of "Deathstroke," written and drawn very similarly to the take on the character that readers saw in the "Lobo" mini-series by Keith Giffen, Alan Grant, and Simon Bisley that propelled the character from a supporting character in "L.E.G.I.O.N. 'XX" to a super-star position. With big hair and a bulky body, this Lobo looked to be straight out of an intergalactic biker gang (which is exactly what the trio had aimed for). By contrast, a second Lobo appeared in the New 52 comics in 2013, with a slim-lined, groomed appearance. This Lobo was less the obvious fear-inducing burly guy glaring at you from across the way, and physically much more the quiet sociopath that would quietly charm his victims before disemboweling them. The second Lobo's introduction had him refer to the previous incarnation as an imposter, with a showdown surely imminent.
The problem with having two differing versions of Lobo was theoretically solved in "Lobo" #1 back in 2014, when Cullen Bunn, Reilly Brown and Nelson DeCastro had the two Lobos meet. The second, new rendition of the character referred to the first (original flavor) Lobo as an imposter, and in the blink of an eye, killed the original. The new Lobo proceeded to have a series that ran a little over a year, before drawing to a close in December 2015. And until this week, it was theoretically possible that the Lobo in "Justice League vs. Suicide Squad" was that second Lobo, but one who had gained some muscle and bulk and let his hair grow out.
However, "Suicide Squad" #9 makes it crystal clear that the first and only mission of this earlier Suicide Squad took place several years ago, and that at the end of that mission the entire team was immediately imprisoned. None of these Squad members were at large between their failed mission and Maxwell Lord freeing the five. Does this mean that there is a third Lobo now running around the DC Universe? Or has Dr. Manhattan and the DC Rebirth event resulted in those other Lobos being quietly excised from continuity altogether?
CYCLOTRON VS. RUSTAM
Up until now, we had been told that there was one more member of the original Squad, though their identity remained secret. A last-second addition, Cyclotron is a gold, brown, and red humanoid whose abilities remain a mystery for most of the issue. It's worth noting that the other members of the Squad are equally befuddled by Cyclotron's presence on the team, to the point that they're having their new teammate hang back during the fighting as they attempt to destroy a foreign power's technology known as the God-Engine that can create god-like beings. That ultimately proves to be a misstep, though, when Cyclotron proposes to the criminals on the team -- Emerald Empress, Lobo, Dr. Polaris, and Johnny Sorrow -- that they seize the God-Engine and use its powers to their advantage.
As the Squad prepares to enact Cyclotron's scheme, we learn several things about Rustam, Cyclotron and even Amanda Waller. First, Rustam's role as the leader of this Squad -- think of him as the one in the Rick Flag position, there to keep the criminals in control -- is firmly defined. Waller refers to America as Rustam's "adopted country" but unlike the pre-New 52 Rustam, this rendition is at the very least a U.S. resident if not citizen, and was a good guy up until Waller's imprisoning of the character. If nothing else, it opens the pathway for redemption on Rustam's part; he's not the one serving time or being blackmailed, but rather someone who clearly believed in Waller's goals.
This is also where we learn that Rustam knew Cyclotron's purpose on the team, and what Waller's original method of controlling her Squad entailed. Cyclotron's namesake is a particle accelerator, and this character's abilities are definitely in line with that. Rustam refers to Cyclotron as a bomb used to keep the Squad in line, admittedly one with a very destructive method of doing so. When Lobo takes out Cyclotron on Waller's orders (or rather, an offer for more money), the end result detonates the hapless living bomb, destroying everything but (ironically) the Squad who were saved by Dr. Polaris's abilities. The team, out cold, was easily scooped up by Waller's troops and imprisoned until the present day.
So, what now? "Justice League vs. Suicide Squad" had originally appeared to merely propel Killer Frost onto the new "Justice League of America" title, but more and more it's positioning all of its characters for bigger things in the near future. With the original Lobo back and a strong possibility of seeing much more Rustam in the future, this appears to be just the tip of the iceberg. Definitely don't count out any of these characters. Amanda Waller clearly did, and just look at the trouble she's in now. "Squad Zero," it seems, is here to stay.