Today, see how Amanda Waller outsmarted Batman.
This is a feature called “Nothing is Better,” where I spotlight aspects of classic comic books that have particularly impressed me.
A way to give you a sense of just how deep and nuanced the writing was in Suicide Squad, you’d have to see how the storyline in Suicide Squad #10 (by John Ostrander, Luke McDonnell and Bob Lewis) was set up in stories over a decade earlier. Mark Shaw had become the new Manhunter during the days of DC’s First Issue Special, but he then realized that he had been duped by an evil organization of androids known as the intergalactic Manhunters and he turned on them in Justice League of America #141 (by Steve Englehart, Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin) and seemingly killed the Grandmaster who had chosen him to become the Manhunter, but, of course, it was an android, do no one could hold him to the “crime.”
He then showed up as a new superhero calling himself the Privateer two issues later. Batman, though, didn’t trust him, even though he seemingly proved himself to the rest of the League. He teamed up with the League again in Justice League of America #149, but then it turned out that the villainous Star-Tsar that he and the League were fighting against in the issue was actually the Privateer in disguise (well, he was working along with The Key, so sometimes the Star-Tsar was the key, but mostly it was Shaw)! He was arrested and sent to prison.
Okay, fast forward a decade and Mark Shaw was chosen to join the Suicide Squad in Suicide Squad #8. This was right before the Millennium crossover (which was written by Englehart, spinning out of that story back in Justice League of America #140-141), so it was logical that Mark Shaw would be the one who would betray the Squad (the twist of the crossover was that each book saw its heroes betrayed by someone secretly working with the Manhunters, the androids who had recruited Shaw all those years ago), but in Suicide Squad #9 (by Ostrander, McDonnell and Lewis), it turned out that Karin Grace, the Squad’s doctor (and former member of the Squad in their old days when it was just a bunch of non-powered adventurers led by Rick Flag) who was pat of the Manhunters and she had fallen in love with an android pretending to be Mark. So she believed that the Privateer WAS part of her plan, but he was not and so he took her down. She was so disgusted at how she had been used by the Manhunters that she volunteered to sacrifice herself by driving a giant bomb to blow up a Manhunters headquarters (despite being betrayed by Karin, Flag had to be knocked out to stop him from keeping her from completing the mission). Before all of that, earlier in Suicide Squad #9, Batman was questioning what happened to the Privateer, as the Squad had mostly avoided using Batman villains prior to this point.
Meanwhile, during Millennium, in an amazing quasi-crossover between a number of titles, where we learn that a whole bunch of different characters were all in the same area without having direct connections with the other titles besides a few cameo appearances here and there, Batman met Karin before her bomb went off in Detective Comics #582 (by Jo Duffy, Norm Breyfogle and Pablo Marcos) and she mentioned the Suicide Squad. Ruh roh, Suicide Squad.
In Suicide Squad #10, Batman infiltrated Belle Reve prison disguised as Matches Malone and then broke free. He broke into Waller’s office and downloaded all of the information behind the Suicide Squad, with the intent to reveal it all. The security was a bit better than Batman expected, though, and so they knew someone was in the prison downloading their info. When they discovered who it was by seeing him on the security cameras, we get an iconic shot by McDonnell and Lewis…
WOW. How cool is that?
Batman has to fight his way through the prison and easily gets past Deadshot (and not so easily past Duchess, the former Apokoliptian Female Fury who had amnesia and so was working with the Squad), but it is Rick Flag who tackles him. Flag admires Batman, but his job is to slow Batman down, so he has to do so. The two have a major fight. Batman would probably eventually win, but before he can do so, it gives Waller time to arrive with a whole pile of backup.
Batman is cornered, but he had a great line about how he could still escape…
Waller and Batman have a quick back-and-forth about why he shouldn’t reveal the Squad’s secrets, while he insists that he must. Waller notes that HE acts in secret, too, but he counters that he isn’t paid for with taxpayers’ money. Waller, though, then drops the bomb. She now has his fingerprints from when he was disguised as Malone (before he changed into his costume, which was sent along in an evidence bag), so she threatens to reveal his secret identity if Batman exposes them…
Batman reluctantly agrees, deciding to take her down some other way.
Rick Flag is disgusted that he has to work with these villains instead of alongside Batman, but at the same time, the other Squad members are all impressed that Waller made Batman back down…
Waller is impressed, too, that Flag was able to carry out his mission despite his obvious respect for Batman and disgust for his teammates, so she reinstates him as team leader.
Amusingly, as I wrote about last week, Batman would later admit that there was a need for the Squad and helped Waller rebuild it.
Okay, folks, this is a feature that is a BIT less conducive to suggestions (as it really is about stuff that speaks to me, ya know?), but hey, feel free to still send suggestions for future installments, to email@example.com! Maybe you and I have the same take on things and I’ll use your idea!
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