Rob Williams' Rebirth Suicide Squad has been of mixed quality, sometimes dynamic and gripping, sometimes stalled in issues-long fight scenes. Suicide Squad Vol. 5: Kill Your Darlings is one of the "up" trades, populated by twists, betrayals, surprising brutality, and a couple of guest stars that carry it over the finish line at least by virtue of the difference. Williams still stubbornly refuses to tell anything resembling a "traditional" Suicide Squad story; the conflict and "mission" are devoutly insular, and at this point Williams has been telling aspects of the same story for about twenty-five issues now. But there's a bunch of good payoffs and character work here; every time Suicide Squad goes right like this, I hope it's the start of a trend.
[Review contains spoilers]
Kill Your Darlings gets rolling in about the third of five chapters, when Amanda Waller orders the Squad to bring in the Justice League of America's Batman and Killer Frost. This is a clash that's been building since Justice League vs. Suicide Squad (as the book reminds us a couple of times) when Frost defected to Batman's team. Williams uses some flashbacks to dramatic effect, and though Frost isn't the focus, there's a good sense of how her life has improved working for Batman rather than Waller (and how bad off the Squad is in comparison). We also ultimately get characters like Harley Quinn and Katana working with Batman, which is a bunch of fun. Again, I'm not sure how germane all of this is to Suicide Squad, but it's assuredly different than what we've seen in this book so far.
At the end of the last book, Suicide Squad Vol. 4: Earthlings on Fire, Waller designated Harley Quinn as team leader, a move wrong-headed enough that surely Waller was up to something. As expected we learn here of Waller's latest plan-within-a-plan -- that she sensed given all the traitors in the Squad that she herself would be compromised, and made Harley the leader precisely so that Harley would destroy the Squad. The irony of course is that in Harley's demented way, she actually leads well -- discovering Boomerang is the traitor and nearly killing him, and ordering Deadshot to shoot Killer Croc to motivate an unconscious Enchantress (plus saving Batman). This is all the kind of brutal so-wrong-it's-right material of Suicide Squad at its best, culminating with Harley exploding the brains of a score of international Suicide Squad-ers in order to "free" them.
Though the Squad gets a mission or two here, they're mostly at the behest of a possessed Waller -- missions that aren't missions, essentially. Despite big explosions, Williams' title has a tendency to naval-gaze, never so much involving multi-issue missions like New Suicide Squad Vol. 2: Monsters as battling betrayal and dissension within. In its final tally, Darlings has an overarching structure, but it requires shifting focus and paying more attention to Waller's B-plot back story than the Squad's adventures up front. The entire situation with the rogue People group has progressed in fits and starts over twenty-five issues and Darlings presents more of the same, somewhat episodic issue by issue as the story unfolds, though the final sequences tie it all together well. I'm tired of the People as the book's threat and Director Karla's suicide seemed anticlimactic, though for better or worse it seems in the next book we'll now meet the people behind the People (with ties to Suicide Squads classic).
There's only one very recognizable artist in the book, Green Arrow's Juan Ferreyra (drawing Harley Quinn with the face of Margot Robbie). Very often populating an entire book with less-notable artists like this might suggest a title on its way out, though Squad will no doubt be a DC fixture now and Williams hasn't announced his departure yet (rumors notwithstanding). Though I recognize in both Gus Vazquez and Agustin Padilla a more sketch-like style than I usually like (reminiscent of Trevor McCarthy), the similarity between the two gives the book a pleasant consistency, and none of the art has the problems of melodrama from last time. I also thought Aspen's Giuseppe Cafaro was especially strong with facial expressions and differentiating the characters' body types in the last chapter.
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Suicide Squad Vol. 5: Kill Your Darlings is a tighter ship than the previous book, at least focused on the Squad fighting exterior threats than General Zod again. Captain Boomerang's murder of Squad-er Hack is still a question mark for me -- maybe we know he's working for the People, but the how and why are murky, so I'm glad at least that's out in the open so we can see the Squad talk and duke it out. I hoped this book would trend up and it did and -- got to love Rebirth release times -- it's just a couple months till the next one.
[Includes original and variant covers]
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