Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #3
Written by Joshua Williamson
Art by Jesus Merino, Andy Owens, Alex Sinclair and Jeremiah Skipper
Lettering by Rob Leigh
Published by DC Comics
‘Rama Rating: 3 out of 10
After an action-packed second installment, DC’s top super-teams fall prey to the deadliest enemy of all - exposition - in Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #3. With the Justice League in the hands of Amanda Waller and her team of arch-criminals, you might expect a daring escape from DC’s finest heroes, but unfortunately, this issue plays it so straight it might get off on early parole.
It’s a classic superhero formula to have two heroes fight over a misunderstanding, then come together to tackle a common enemy - but I’d argue that the premise of Justice League vs. Suicide Squad at its heart should avoid these kinds of time-tested arcs. The Justice League, at their core, are heroes; the Suicide Squad, at their basest, are still bad guys, no matter what good they’ve been shanghaied into accomplishing. Yet writer Joshua Williamson loses the momentum he picked up from the last issue, which had the League and the Squad going head-to-head - instead, the captured League only gets a panel or two each trapped in their own specialized cells before they’re effortlessly set free by Amanda Waller herself.
While Williamson’s game plan is to get both teams united in order to fight the forces of Maxwell Lord, the lengthy exposition of characters like Doctor Polaris, Emerald Empress and Lobo saps this issue of almost all of its tension and energy - indeed, neither the League nor the Squad actually get much of a chance to show off their individual skills and talents, because Williamson is spinning so many plates trying to give everyone even a little bit of screen time. (Poor Wonder Woman gets about one line of dialogue in the entire issue, while Green Lanterns Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz only appear in two panels total.) Even the Squad is reduced to simply jeering at their fallen foes, which doesn’t feel like the most active of choices to propel the story forward - ultimately, this issue is in desperate need of a twist to move things forward and to showcase the iconic teams headlining this book, but the focus on Max Lord slows everything down to a crawl.
The story also doesn’t provide a ton of wiggle room for Jesus Merino to really cut loose - while the issue opens with some fun imagery of Batman being wheeled down a hallway in a straightjacket and face mask (with an impressive seven-panel action sequence quickly following), much of the rest of the issue is punctuated with crowd shots, which doesn’t give readers a lot of exciting visuals to work with. Additionally, Merino’s anatomy occasionally feels a bit too uniform across the board - the women feel preternaturally skinny even for a superhero comic books, while characters like Deadshot and Batman have the same hulking physiques as Superman. Ironically, Merino’s best pages feature Max Lord and his gang of uber-villains, but these brief bursts of action aren’t really establishing the vicious nature of this group, but rather trying to jolt readers’ interest with at least some forward movement.
Given that this issue is reaching the midpoint of the series, I can understand the impulse to lay down the exposition now to get the League and the Squad on the same page - but I’d also argue that this was the least dynamic path that Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #3 could have taken. There’s a super-fun premise just in the title of the book, and DC probably could have laughed their way to the bank at Marvel’s expense if they played the team-versus-team premise as well as they could have, showing the League’s counterattack in the heart of the Suicide Squad’s territory. Even the introduction of Maxwell Lord and his gang feels like we’re being spoon-fed a story rather than being thrown many surprises or twists. It’s perhaps not surprising that a third issue of a six-issue miniseries might show signs of bloat, but here’s hoping that with this exposition out of the way, Justice League vs. Suicide Squad can pick up a bigger head of steam moving forward.