With the regular misfits of Suicide Squad off on a mission to Atlantis, Suicide Squad Annual #1 gives readers a completely different kind of an adventure with a different cast of inmates as it leans into the horror genre. It's exactly what Suicide Squad needs in many ways as it allows for the story to retain some of the classic hallmarks of the series—specifically Amanda Waller and her almost villainous ways—while also giving readers a surprising emotional center in Swamp Thing.
That's not to say that this is a perfect book. It's not, but what works, works extremely well. Written by Cullen Bunn, the book's horror elements are expertly done. The first five pages of the book alone are a perfect, unsettling mix of dark, terrifyingly bloody, and sufficiently creepy—and that's without the art. The horror the characters experience as a mysterious patient rises off of the operating table and escapes is tightly contained right in the text. When you add Ronan Cliquet's sharp, realistic art to the mix the fear practically leaps off the page which is exactly what you want in a story as dark as this. In order to apprehend this escaped "inmate", Solomon Grundy, Rag Doll, Merlyn and more are sent into the swamp surrounding Belle Reve. It's there that they encounter Swamp Thing, but they also encounter something far more terrifying than the avatar of the Green.
That, perhaps, is what is the best part of this issue. Swamp Thing is often portrayed as being focused on nature and human interaction with it, but the character also has a deeply human side and it's that side that is on display here. Swamp Thing's genuine concern for the escaped inmate and her predicament is an incredible, sharp contrast to Waller's lack of concern for anything beyond her own agenda. Somewhere in that contrast is, as is in all good horror stories, a question about who the monsters really are and it's pretty clear that in this case, it's Waller.
She is, in many ways, the real monster in Suicide Squad. Pushing people—albeit, not necessarily great people—to do her bidding against their will, to abandon the idea of compassion, and then to kill them when they've outlived their usefulness or questioned her authority makes her very much a villain and even with the malevolent spirits that factor heavily in this issue, she's the real bad guy. While that's not ever been a secret, Bunn's writing really fleshes out this idea out. It's the most on-point and coherent any Suicide Squad story has been in a while and serves as a solid reminder of how good things can be when the plots aren't weighed down with campy, irritatingly ridiculous characterizations of characters such as Harley Quinn the way the regular Suicide Squad title frequently is.
Overall, Suicide Squad Annual #1 delivers a solid story with well-done, fitting art and is absolutely worth the read—as well as the questions it will leave you with as to just who the bad guys are and what real monsters look like.
Published by DC Comics
On August 22, 2018
Written by Cullen Bunn
Art by Ronan Cliquet