For a mini-series that has been steeped in past controversy, ‘Suicide Squad: Black Files’ fires on all cylinders.
Suicide Squad: Black Files has a clear delineation between the two narratives that encompass the issue. The first of which is a more personal story, focusing on Suicide Squad’s resident soul stealing ninja threat, Katana. The crux of the story is the duality of Katana’s stoic outward exterior in comparison to her responsive inner turmoil. The second story explores a new chapter in the Suicide Squad lore, Suicide Squad’s Black team. A group of mythical ne’er-do-wells from across the DC Universe brought together to stop an occult threat. The enjoyment of the issue is derived from how well both stories cater to any fan; those that enjoy a more personal story and those who look for bigger action-oriented escapism.
Written by Mike W. Barr, “Revenge of the Kobra” follows Katana as she infiltrates a secluded base run by the Cult of Kobra. Things take an explosive turn as she is joined by her fellow Task Force X members in bringing down the structure and the branch of Kobra with it. The opening salvo is clearly meant to set the stage for what’s to come while bringing new readers up to speed. Post mission, Kobra’s very soul is trapped within Katana’s aptly named blade, Soultaker. Phillipe Briones’ art services the story well. His line work is excellent, and he manages to add little details in the background, adding personality to members of the squad without any dialogue.
Following the intense introduction, Barr takes readers to a more intimate setting within Tatsu Yamashiro’s home. Tatsu has taken young metahuman Halo under her wing, forming a new family of sorts. However, within the soul realm of the blade itself lurks Kobra’s lover, Eve. By mystical means Eve makes her escape into the natural world while placing Katana squarely into the sword. Readers are left waiting for events to unfold. Barr’s writing provides a deeper insight into Tatsu’s world. Despite the restrictions of the blade, Tatsu remains in contact with her husband, Maseo. The talk about the family they have lost and the new one Katana is forming with Halo. The relationship is a juxtaposition for the tainted romance between Kobra and Eve. The story is the first chapter in what looks to be an insightful narrative exploring Katana’s personality.
Rota Fortuna dives into a new Suicide Squad experience: the magical unknown. DC has a well-established market when it comes to magic. Rota Fortuna delivers on all fronts; relatively lesser known characters are brought to the forefront of the story, the action and story are well paced, leaving readers with an excellent reason to come back, and new characters are introduced to DC proper. The story hits the nail on the head, and the art works in concert to deliver a pleasurable reading experience. However, the elephant in the room should be acknowledged.
The issue introduces two new characters, Aladdin (yes, that Aladdin) and Dr. Thaumaturge, a non-binary manipulator of reality. Dr. Thaumatage was initially named Doctor Endless (ring a bell?), whose appearance was based on the Endless of the Sandman. The issue lies in the fact that Neil Gaiman was left in the dark about the new character. Gaiman maintained control over the Sandman, the character jeopardized plans for The Endless’ Metal appearance and future run of comics. Suicide Squad: Black Files was canceled, then later pushed to its current release date. Controversy aside, Dr. Thaumaturge is given little introduction — the assumption is the character will be given a more grand reception in future issues.
The remainder of the story introduces an exciting new beginning. A team of dark arts users has been strewn together by Amanda Waller to take on Sebastian Faust. Sebastian has taken control of Project Blackroom, a warehouse of magical objects. His goal? To end all magic as we know it. Lead by El Diablo, the new team (Gentleman Ghost, Dr. Thaumaturge, Snarlgoyle, and Alchemaster) find themselves in the heart of enemy territory. It’s Black Hawk Down meets DC mysticism. The team is overwhelmed by Faust’s army of darkness, and the name “Suicide Squad” has never been so appropriate. Thankfully, Aladdin intervenes and reluctantly saves the motley crew. Writer Jai Nitz provides Aladdin more face-time; the character is already impressive enough to warrant more backstory. Waller grudgingly fills the team with additional DC mystics prophesized by Klarion the witch boy: Juniper and Azucar.
One of the primary plot devices at play is the game of cat and mouse between Klarion and Waller. This tumultuous union has been made in blood and is already worth readers’ attention. The new team is diverse, dangerous, and compelling. The pacing is tight, without sacrificing story or ever forcing readers to glean insight from incidents that occurred off panel. Nitz juggles many characters in Rota Fortuna, but with some exception (Dr. Thaumaturge). It rarely feels as if someone is being neglected. Scot Eaton’s pencil work is noteworthy as well. Facial expressions are diverse and understandable, the details are sharp, and every panel — big or small — appears to be given his proper attention.
For a mini-series that has been steeped in past controversy, Suicide Squad: Black Files fires on all cylinders. Readers are provided with new insights to established characters, the compelling team dynamic of the Squad’s members is alive and well, new characters are introduced, and the stories being told are unique yet immersive. The book works by allowing only two dominant narratives over 41 pages, allowing as much space as your typical single issue. Suicide Squad: Black Files is a worthy entry to add to your current pull-list.