Justice League vs. Suicide Squad is a good comic book.
Warning: This comic book review contains spoilers for Justice League vs. Suicide Squad written by Joshua Williamson.
As legend has it, the character of Batman was an inspiration of equal parts Zorro, a Leonardo da Vinci sketch of a bat-winged glider and Sherlock Holmes, arguably the greatest literary character of all time. The latter’s influence might be the most intriguing. Sherlock is a brain, whose vast mental aptitude stymies opponents, solves the impossible and dazzles consumers to this day. When Batman is referred to as “The Dark Knight Detective,” in any form of entertainment, that’s a nod to the genes of his tri-parent. Part of the reason Batman is somewhat relatable, in addition to his street-level capers, is that his smarts star in some of his greatest stories, and anyone can theoretically study enough to rival Batman’s inferred intelligence.
That’s actually a subject that Neal Adams and Denny O’Neill tackled in the early 1970s when they introduced Ra’s Al Ghul as a new foe to Batman. Initially, Ra’s was meant to be the Moriarty to Batman’s Sherlock; however, over time, Ra’s has devolved into an immortal plot-hole dumpster, a service character that no longer carries the intellectual gravitas Moriarty did (and still does).
With Justice League vs. Suicide Squad, a six-issue mini-series that concluded with today’s release, author Joshua Williamson seized upon the opportunity to establish a new character as an intellectual foil to Batman.
Amanda Waller, the conductor of Task Force X — the Suicide Squad, or in essence The Dirty Dozen, but comprised using b-level comic book super villains — revealed in the final pages of the last issue that she orchestrated every action taken over the course of the book’s events as a reaction to Batman discovering the existence of the Suicide Squad, previously a secret to the Justice Leaguers who regularly apprehended the Task Force’s usual cast. Waller was one-upped, and then she one-upped the Bat, turning his skepticism of the Squad into support. On top of that, Batman still isn’t privy to Waller’s machinations; her intentions were outed during a private conversation with the book’s chief big bad, Maxwell Lord, a villain that pre-dates Netflix, but displays the recognizable traits of Jessica Jones’s Killgrave and Stranger Things’ Eleven.
In pro wrestling, when a character is given more important storylines and an increase in screen time, it’s referred to as a “push.” Waller’s push here by Williamson and DC Comics doesn’t come as a surprise. Played by Academy Award-nominated actress Viola Davis in the film incarnation of SS, Waller is now a viable female character for DC. It makes sense to give depth to the complexities of Waller, especially if the character is being primed for a major heel turn, to borrow more pro wrestling vernacular.
As Waller shifted from a space in the ethical gray area closer to bad, Killer Frost transitioned to something closer to good.
Frost, formerly known as Caitlin Snow, a laboratory doctor that was turned into an ice-wielding killing machine, is the newest member of Waller’s Squad, but one displaying the most empathy for her would-be victims. Her powers — she can steal a person’s life force, including Superman’s — are the most enhanced among the group. It’s her powers that neutralize and capture the Leaguers at the story’s midway point and it’s those same powers that tip the scale in the good guys’ favor, once the League and the Squad are on the same page, toppling the mighty Eclipso during the final showdown.
Her moral shift to the side of the angels comes in step with the development of her portrayal by Danielle Panabaker on The CW’s The Flash, one that painted her as altruistic before she developed meta-human abilities that blurred her ethics in recent episodes. Panabaker’s cheery Snow is popular among fans, and a full-on move to the dark side doesn’t feel true to the portrayal. It’s likely that, with Frost’s intentions now altered for the better in the source material, she’ll remain a glowing cog for good on the television screen.
As is usually the case with big team-up books, there is a ton of whiz-bang battle imagery shoehorned into the plot; however, the two central female characters resonate in spite of the mandatory eye candy. Topical in that the empowering of females has never been more relevant in American culture, this book is a reminder that power emboldens and corrupts equally, its trappings ultimately gender-blind. In the end, both characters got what they coveted; Waller out-maneuvered the great Batman on the chessboard, while Frost earned an invitation into the latest iteration of the Justice League of America, a new ongoing book by Steve Orlando hitting shelves in February. How their desires shape them going forward differs wildly, and creates storyline ideas for future writers.
JL vs. SS was a good comic book by a scribe gaining some serious juice in the comics industry — Williamson’s current day job is bringing the fun back to the pages of The Flash — and while it hits all the usual event book beats, the steps taken by its complex star characters separate it from the herd of stories that usually fail to match the manufactured hype.