This week the Suicide Squad gets the DC Rebirth treatment, and Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are back with Kill or Be Killed!
Suicide Squad Rebirth #1 (DC Comics)
You may or may not know, but the Suicide Squad movie hits this week. So what better time to roll out Suicide Squad Rebirth, the latest DC Rebirth special to grab new readers? DC is well aware of the added interest on the Suicide Squad now, and they’ve tapped Rob Williams and Phillip Tan to write and draw the new series. Legendary artist Jim Lee (yes, that Jim Lee), will be handling the regular issues as well, but let’s be honest, asking him to handle the Rebirth issue and the first issue was never going to happen (I’ll be amazed if he’ll be able to handle the first issue to be honest).
Much like the other DC Rebirth titles, Suicide Squad Rebirth is very much a set up issue. Using Amanda Waller’s recruitment of Rick Flag as a framing device, this issue finds the squad (this time consisting of Harley Quinn, Deadshot, and Captain Boomerang-the “holy trinity” of the Squad) attempting to rescue a scientist from China before his research on Metahumans can be used for their gain. It’s a good framing device that gets the job done, and even though it doesn’t do anything really special, Rob Williams’ script is solid on character. I already like his takes on Boomerang and Deadshot, and the scenes where Amanda Waller is explaining the use of ‘Task Force X” to President Obama are really great as well. Hell, I even like the way he writes Harley, and I’m very particular in how Ms. Quinn is treated by creators.
Where Suicide Squad Rebirth stumbles though is in the art. Phillip Tan is s serviceable step in for Jim Lee, and he mimics Lee’s style pretty well in the first few pages. But somewhere in the middle of the book his art starts changing. Everything becomes looser, and at times the body shapes and styles of characters varies wildly. By the end of the issue, I had to check the credits to see if there was a fill-in artist who jumped in to help out (there wasn’t). It’s a big blotch on an otherwise solid book.
Despite this, the Rebirth of Suicide Squad seems to be on the right track. With Jim Lee jumping in for the art, there’s no question that the actual start of the book will look great (even if we’ll have to wait a little longer for issues). This one issue is already better than the last 8 issues of New Suicide Squad, and if you can look past the wonky art, it’s worth reading to give you a primer for the movie.
Kill or Be Killed #1 (Image Comics)
Honestly, I shouldn’t even have to review this book to convince you to buy it. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips should be reason alone for you to purchase this. The hit team of The Fade Out, Fatale, and Criminal is back with a brand new Image series Kill or Be Killed, which has the superstar creative team taking on vigilantism in modern day, but with a supernatural twist.
Brubaker and Phillips’ latest focuses on a grad student who, after attempting suicide, is visited by a devil and told that he must kill one person a month in exchange for staying alive. He can’t just kill anyone though; it has to be someone really bad, who really deserves it. It’s a weird twist that I’ll admit I didn’t see coming, but the more I think about it, the more I like it. Brubaker and Phillips’ work has always had a touch of the Supernatural about it, from Fatale to even some aspects of The Fade Out and Criminal. This series looks to be taking a more direct approach in the Supernatural, but at the same time, I’m still not convinced that our lead isn’t completely crazy and imaging the whole thing to give him an excuse to murder thugs and lowlifes.
Brubaker’s script isn’t has seedy or noir as his previous work, but it’s a good change of pace for the writer. It’s nice to see him deconstruct this kid who now has to struggle with the decision to kill someone in exchange for his own life, and how he’s going to find a way to accomplish that without alerting his roommate. Brubaker’s script starts off with a literal bang, but when he pulls back and gives us the necessary back-story it’s just as gripping. Kill or Be Killed feels different from Brubaker’s other work, and it adds to his strengths as a creator.
What can I say about Sean Phillips that hasn’t already been said? His work is phenomenal on its own, but when it’s paired with a script like Brubaker’s its dynamite. When the demon visits it’s downright chilling. He emerges out of the shadows in such a great way that you’ll be looking through the other panels after he appears to see if you can spot him. The sense of dread and paranoia builds throughout the issue, and that’s in large part to Phillips’ artwork.
If you’ve read Criminal, The Fade Out, or any of the other Brubaker and Phillips collaborations then you already know that this comic book is worth your time. But if you’ve never given these guys a shot (which is baffling to me), Kill or Be Killed is an excellent book to grab to see just how good Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are together. It’s been said before, and it’ll be said again: Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips are the best team working in comics. Period.