Don't Try Suicide1 of 12
A new Suicide Squad ongoing series is in the works at DC - with a film sequel/reboot also in progress under the eye of writer/director James Gunn.
To mark the return of DC's dark-ops anti-hero team, we're counting down the best, most essential Suicide Squad tales (including seminal stories for the team's members).
Suicide Squad: Kicked In The Teeth2 of 12
While it was initially received as one of the "New 52"’s most controversial debuts thanks to its divisive character designs, Adam Glass and Frederico Dallocchio’s Suicide Squad: Kicked in the Teeth proved to be the structural basis for the first film.
Featuring the inclusion of Harley Quinn and El Diablo as members of Amanda Waller’s off-the-books team of indentured supervillains, Suicide Squad had sex, violence and a willingness to rack up the body count (RIP, Voltaic and Yo-Yo).
This series elicited more than its fair share of outcry thanks to the dramatic change-up to Harley Quinn’s costume, but was a steady sales gainer through much of its early run — chances are, if you’re looking to get a sense of the Suicide Squad movie franchise’s tone, this should be the place to start.
Batman & The Outsiders3 of 12
While Batman and the Outsiders first introduced the political environment that would spawn government-affiliated super-teams such as Suicide Squad and Checkmate, Batman and the Outsiders was also crucial in introducing a future member of the Squad, the sword-swinging superhero known as Katana.
The first arc of Batman and the Outsiders features Batman disavowing his Justice League status after Wayne Enterprises’ Lucius Fox is kidnapped overseas, forcing the Dark Knight to assemble a team of quirky superheroes who are willing to cross international borders to mete out justice.
Katana, who is on her own quest for vengeance, initially complicates Batman and Black Lightning’s plans, but as the series continued, Mike Barr and Jim Aparo soften Katana’s edge, giving her a maternal dynamic with the naive and amnesiac Halo.
While Katana has struggled in terms of supporting her own ongoing series, her origin in Batman and the Outsiders is a perfect entree to learn what made the character so beloved in the first place.
El Diablo4 of 12
The 2008 series El Diablo put a new spin on an old DC western hero, bringing him into the present with a supernatural superhero twist.
Taking a similar page out of the Ghost Rider playbook, Santana was a Los Angeles gang lord who was hospitalized after being attacked by hitmen — where he then shared a hospital room with the comatose former El Diablo, Lazarus Lane.
Burdened with a curse to serve as a spirit of vengeance, Santana is imbued with flaming weaponry and the ability to commune with the spirit world, portrayed to great effect by Hester’s angular linework.
While El Diablo came and went with six issues and little commercial success, Santana came back to the spotlight during the "New 52" era of Suicide Squad.
Batman: Broken City5 of 12
If you’re looking for a standout story featuring Suicide Squad’s Killer Croc, it’s hard to top Batman: Broken City. Featuring hard-boiled narration from Brian Azzarello and some lushly shadowed artwork from Eduardo Risso, Broken City gives major prominence to Waylon Jones as one of Batman’s most vicious enemies, possessed of a ravenous appetite for human flesh. “You’re hungry,” Batman tells Croc, cornering him in a rainy alleyway. The response is chilling: “Starving, is what I am.”
Yet Croc isn’t just a bruiser, as he winds up leading the Dark Knight down a winding plot over the death of Elizabeth Lupo. With DC having rereleased the story in black and white as part of its Noir showcase of Eduardo Risso, Broken City is one of the all-time best stories featuring the Squad’s cannibal Croc.
Checkmate, Vol. 26 of 12Greg Rucka and Jesus Saiz’s criminally underrated Checkmate series stands as the other side of the coin to Suicide Squad, featuring plenty of backroom dealings with Task Force X mastermind Amanda Waller.
Described as a mashup between The OMAC Project, Watchmen, and James Bond, Checkmate put Amanda Waller in her element, having to navigate delicate international politics and manipulating foreign agendas using a new iteration of the Suicide Squad.
Rucka portrays Waller as the most complex of antiheroes, whose personal philosophy seems to be the ends justifying the means. Leading into the limited series Salvation Run, in which Waller spearheads the deportation of dozens of supervillains off-planet, Checkmate is the perfect place to learn what the Suicide Squad’s leader is made out of.
Batman: Endgame7 of 12
While The Killing Joke or The Dark Knight Returns might be considered to be the most iconic Joker stories of all time, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo’s Batman: Endgame might just be closest to the mark in terms of the Suicide Squad film’s Clown Prince of Crime.
Featuring a Joker who is as menacing as he is malevolent, Endgame is a story that’s fueled by years of rage boiling over. Endgame begins with an attack by a Jokerized Justice League, and it only ramps up from there, with hordes of laughing civilians and a final fight that ultimately claims both the Joker and the Dark Knight himself.
Snyder is in peak form with this arc, veering away from more comedic takes on the Joker and instead tapping into a dark source of horror.
Suicide Squad: From the Ashes8 of 12
Following Amanda Waller’s dismissal from Checkmate, she led a newly reformed Task Force X in Suicide Squad: From the Ashes, which featured the return of Rick Flag, Jr., who sacrificed himself years ago to stop a nuclear weapon.
Written by seminal Suicide Squad scribe John Ostrander with art by Javier Pina, From the Ashes bridges the classic era of the Squad to a more contemporary age, bridged by Flag himself (the twist ending notwithstanding). The series also contains a murderer’s row of supervillains, including Bane, Captain Boomerang, Count Vertigo, Nightshade, and the return of JLA villain (and Flash TV guest star) General Wade Eiling.
Deadshot: Beginnings9 of 12
Spinning off the main Suicide Squad series, Deadshot: Beginnings took a closer look at Floyd Lawton, and whether his death wish ran as deeply as he might imagine. John Ostrander and Kim Yale, along with artist Luke McDonnell, give Floyd a desperate mission, as he learns his son has been kidnapped.
Given Deadshot's previous characterization as a man who doesn’t care if he lives or dies, Ostrander and Yale succeed in giving their already complex antihero some new wrinkles, particularly when we meet Marnie Herrs, the mother of his child. Digging deep into Floyd’s history and psyche, Deadshot: Beginnings is a classic, one that solidified Deadshot's status as one of DC’s most arresting villains.
Harley Quinn: Mad Love10 of 12
Billed on the cover as “psychotic, mass-murdering clowns and the women who love them,” Paul Dini and Bruce Timm created an origin story for the ages with Harley Quinn: Mad Love. Looking back at the Joker’s deranged courtship of his psychiatrist, Dr. Harleen Quinzel, Mad Love took what had originally intended to be a walk-on character from Batman: The Animated Series and made her a DC icon.
Dini’s funny, sad, and altogether humane look at Harley’s twisted relationship with a monster earned Mad Love an Eisner and a Harvey, while Timm’s classic style kept the tone of this daring story on a light but even keel.
John Ostrander's Suicide Squad11 of 12
Though Robert Kanigher might have come up with the name, you don’t have a Suicide Squad without John Ostrander. Tapping into tropes from The Dirty Dozen and Mission Impossible, Ostrander’s Squad brought together villains such as Deadshot, Captain Boomerang, and Bronze Tiger, and had them fight for their lives during classified missions for the government. (Indeed, the Suicide Squad’s body count began early, with team member Blockbuster dying during their first mission.)
Yet Ostrander also took a revolutionary approach with his villain-centric series, delving into their previously black-and-white characterizations, while also utilizing real-world political figures like Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, and eventually tying the Squad with Checkmate, Manhunter, Firestorm and Captain Atom with the 11-part crossover “The Janus Directive.”
Spanning 66 issues, Ostrander’s Suicide Squad set the blueprint for the role the Squad occupies in the DC Universe.
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