Written by Tom Taylor, with pencils by Daniel Sampere, inks by Juan Albarran, colors by Adriano Lucas and letters by Wes Abbott, Suicide Squad #4 out this week from DC Comics starts doing some explaining. The creative team behind this mysterious series, take a moment to provide some answers. Though some of the exposition seems slightly clunky, this team is working off of so much good credit; they’re allowed a couple of necessary evils.
Taylor writes in a rather uncharacteristic way in this issue by bringing readers into the know. The Squad briefly steps off the grid, which becomes an opportunity to catch us up. And though the issue is very explanatory, Taylor’s exposition makes sense and is delivered believably. It’s cushioned by witty banter and fueled by Harley’s need to be kept in the loop. Perhaps the answers aren’t necessary, as the questions are satisfying as is, but Taylor quickly adds more questions to fill the void. Taylor’s charm is that he only provides answers when absolutely necessary. He knows mystery is a reader’s motivation, and some answers aren’t even needed. Some of these answers about Task Force X seem premature. But the pattern of this series suggests this issue is a brief rest stop on the road of subtlety.
Sampere and Albarran amp up the “Kevin Maguire” effect they’ve used in past issues for the Squad. Harley’s overly expressive face cuts the tension in each scene without fail. When the backstories get grim and gritty, one look of perplexed reaction brings us back down to earth. Sampere and Albarran essentially divide the characters into two camps. The goofy, loveable ne’er-do-wells and the dramatic, mercenaries who take themselves a little too seriously. Sampere and Albarran’s depiction of these characters creates balance in each issue. The overly dramatic scenes are eased with jokes, the jokey scenes are interrupted by badassery. The approach creates a kind of symmetry for the whole series.
Lucas’ coloring is the barometer of this issue. With the slightest changes, Lucas can make a scene serious or fun. At the beginning of the issue, a boomerang causes bloody mayhem. The silhouette of the unlucky victim is red against a black background. It’s like a Tarantino overture (I know I bring QT into it a lot but man, the similarities!). Later, the same thing happens but the colors are swapped. Black silhouette on a red background. Suddenly it doesn’t feel like “fun” violence. It’s disturbing. Lucas makes the moment feel slightly more real. His mastery of color creates a tonal rollercoaster in this Suicide Squad run. Who doesn’t have fun on a rollercoaster?
Abbott has got to run out of fonts at some point. It seems like he creates a new font for every sound effect. His variety is just fun. You’d think a head exploding and a car exploding would look exactly the same on the page. But Abbott creates slight variations so that nothing feels recycled. Each sound effect is also given a very particular level of visibility. Some moments feel big and gaudy, like tires screeching or glass breaking. But Abbott often creates sound effects that blend into their surroundings. A drowning man’s cries blend into the water. It takes a couple of reads to even notice they’re there. But this gives the sense that he can’t be heard. Abbott visually shows us what sounds blend into the white noise and what sounds stand out.
This issue is a little out there for this creative team. The Suicide Squad seems to be sharing more than they have in the past. But, having set the stage well, and having placed exposition amid hilarity, the issue still works. This creative team is responsible for a great series, but adding a lot of new characters to the DC Comics universe can be difficult. Perhaps out of fear of losing the readers, this issue gets a little more heavy-handed than the rest. But the job’s been done. We’re up to date. Let the chaos of the next few issues ensue. It’s going to be great.
Pick up DC Comics’ Suicide Squad #4 this week at a comic book shop near you. Find local comic shops at comicshoplocator.com. Or if you’re a local in the Halifax, Nova Scotia region, head over to Strange Adventures.