Top 10 Best Suicide Squad Single Issues

This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on September 1, 2016.

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Suicide Squad is 66 issues and two annuals of character-building bliss. It’s the rare series that delivers consistently smart, high-quality content, in both art and story. No one at DC Comics had ever done anything like this, and I doubt anyone expected it could be done so well. It’s a lot of comics without a single loser in the lot. Talk to any fan of the series and they’ll have their pet issues and arcs that make them rave.

That makes it difficult to settle on which issues to start with or revisit. We at Comics Bulletin conducted a poll to discover what the best issues of Suicide Squad truly were. No two lists were even close to being alike, but there were some universally high performers. You can find our top picks below in an order I believe is fair. But I know in a series this excellent we still missed some favorites, so make sure you tell us YOUR list in the comments below!

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1. Suicide Squad #10 “Up Against The Wall”

“We just made the high and mighty Batman back down!” – Deadshot

How couldn’t Suicide Squad #10 be a fantastic read when you have Batman make a cameo and an ass of himself in a failed attempt to outmaneuver The Wall? The brooding vigilante sneaks into Belle Reve as his undercover identity, Matches Malone, to find evidence of the Suicide Squad’s existence, and out the covert group. However, the Squad and their leader aren’t having it. Luke McDonnell, Bob Lewis, and Julianna Ferriter’s art reigns supreme and offers dynamic visuals as well as multilayered storytelling. It’s the issue you give to your friends to get them hooked and can be held up as one of the best (if not THE best) in the series. To quote Birdman, “put some respeck on it”. –Ardo Omer

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2. Suicide Squad #31 “Acts of Contrition”

“Amanda’s toughness has taken her a long way.” – Father Craemer
“It’s taken her as far as it can.” – Dr. Alice White

This Secret Files issue has stuck with me since I first read it. Told from the vantage of Father Craemer, he does a mix of counseling and consulting; it’s time well spent with a character of compassion and grace. He’s liberal by the standards of the Catholic Church (my personal headcanon is that he’s a Jesuit, they’re usually the cool rebels), and he wears his beautiful bleeding heart on his sleeve. He’s approached by Amanda Waller’s sister, Dr. Alice White; Dr. White is worried that Amanda is a rubber band about to snap. She tells Craemer the story of Amanda’s childhood, and her horrible adulthood in the Cabrini-Green Projects of Chicago. John K. Snyder III captures so much emotion in each panel, you’re left speechless. You also have a picture of The Wall you’ve never seen before: a woman who has lost, and will not lose again. – Alison Baker

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3. Suicide Squad #39: “Dead Issue”

“Get out. Get away. We’re finished.” – Amanda Waller

If you were to divide Suicide Squad into halves, then Suicide Squad #39 is the climactic breaking point. This is the issue where Amanda Waller loses everything. Still recovering from the loss of her niece Flo and others on Apokolips, The Wall learns that the Squad has been exposed in the press once again. Facing the disbandment of her team and a probable prison sentence, she does not go quietly. Instead, she leads a few team members looking at prison themselves on one final mission. It is a brutal revenge on a drug cartel threatening to zombify all of New Orleans. The Wall ends the threat of the cartel, upholds her promise to the felons by her side, and then willingly goes to prison. It’s a powerful statement to both her willpower and strong ethical code. Hard times expose a person’s soul and Suicide Squad #39 shows Amanda Waller’s to be made of steel. – Chase Magnett

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4. Suicide Squad #66: “And Be A Villain”

“I touch people, and they die.” – Amanda Waller

When the final issue of Suicide Squad arrives there’s not much left to be done. There is a climactic battle against a similar group to save a small island nation, but most characters’ arcs and fates have already been resolved. The fight is exciting, but there’s more interest in how than whether they will win the day. Suicide Squad #66 is a denouement that provides a satisfactory conclusion for the surviving Squad members most important to the series, including The Wall, Deadshot, Nightshade, Bronze Tiger, and Captain Boomerang. The only question mark in the team is Count Vertigo, a comparative late-comer to the Squad. In the final pages he confronts his own mental illness and the promise of a painless suicide offered by Deadshot. Werner Vertigo, robbed of his nation and wealth and tormented by internal demons, makes his final decision. That choice provides the perfect conclusion to Suicide Squad. – Chase Magnett

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5. Suicide Squad #48 “In Control”

“I am in charge here!” – Amanda Waller

In the first part of this two-part story, former Squad psychologist Simon La Grieve asks Amanda Waller to help stop the newest Thinker, Cliff Carmichael, from killing Oracle. It was hard to choose between this and #49, but #48 won out because it was the first time we got an issue that gave us a Barbara Gordon story post-The Killing Joke (#23 first mentions Oracle & #38 is the first time we find out she’s Barbara). While The Killing Joke discarded Barbara Gordon, Kim Yale and John Ostrander resuscitated her as Oracle. What I love about this issue is watching Barbara regain power over her life and trauma, as it runs parallel to Amanda Waller, who momentarily loses herself in power and reasserts her control over it. It’s about two women exercising choice and agency in their own narratives. – Ardo Omer

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6. Suicide Squad #22 “Final Round”

“Bullets first.” – Deadshot

Nearly two years of bubbling subplots make Suicide Squad #22 a magical waypoint. This seminal issue threads together its three most prominent characters to create a supreme moment  that forever impacts the legacy of the series. John Ostrander’s superb long-game scripting rolls together Amanda Waller’s political waltz, Deadshot’s familial dramatics, and Rick Flag’s tragically bullheaded vendetta into a remarkable sequence at the Lincoln Memorial, an inarguable classic moment in comic book history. Leaning heavily on the mighty character work of Ostrander and artist Luke McDonnell, “Final Round” centers on the group “hunting” one of its own, a scenario that causes every interaction and exchange to sizzle with animosity or anxiety. The issue encapsulates how great characters make great plot; through the dissident Bronze Tiger, the mumbling Deadshot, and The Wall showing her cracks, we discover the uniting theme of the issue — the inevitable danger and futility of life on the Squad. – Jamil Scalese

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7. Suicide Squad #36: “In Final Battle”

“Mortals have slain gods before.” – Count Vertigo

Suicide Squad #36 resolves a subplot from the series third issue as Lashina completes her return to the Female Furies. It starts with half of the Squad arriving on Apokolips to rescue those taken by Lashina, and together they battle Darkseid’s most trusted lieutenants. This issue presents the most dire odds ever faced by the Suicide Squad as they confront literal gods. Those odds clarify one key element: Suicide Squad is an underdog story. Count Vertigo manages to kill Kanto, a New God, while bleeding out. The Wall stares down Darkseid himself. Many team members manage to survive the impossible, but there is still a cost. Waller loses her niece Flo and Doctor Light is killed in a tragicomic moment. This story serves as a powerful reminder of what mere mortals and losers may achieve, but doesn’t let us forget the steep price to be paid in achieving the impossible. – Chase Magnett

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8. Suicide Squad #44 “Grave Matters”

“Let’s go where we’re loved. Back to Momma Waller.” – Captain Boomerang

Ostrander and Yale spent 43 issues shaping Captain Boomerang – oaf, drunk, racist, gimmick – into an essential and compelling character. With “Grave Matters,” the team drives it home. Captain Boomerang goes Down Under for his mother’s funeral; Lawton silently observes as he revisits his past and the things that led him where he is. The picture isn’t pretty. Raised in poverty, alternately witness to and subject of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse, George Harkness seemingly never had a fair shake at a decent life. The bleak, isolated setting of Kurrumburra – even in Harkness’s own memories – delivers some incredibly sad context for a character mostly used as a joke. His origins are retold with a new twist – the truth of his parentage – and his entire identity is uprooted. Lucky for our boy Digger, he knows who he is: he’s Captain Boomerang, and proud of it. Still, I’ve never looked at him the same way since. Alison Baker

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9. Suicide Squad #47 “Choice of Dooms”

“We will walk hand in hand through the gates of hell.” – Ravan

At its best, Suicide Squad merged real-world concerns with intense super-hero action. Few issues display that dichotomy better than issue 47. As it begins, the evil Kobra has convinced a sentient computer named Dybbuk to destroy the Temple on the Mount and thereby trigger a war in the Middle East. The only people able to save him are a ragtag team of Suicide Squad members – an underpowered Atom, a hypnotized Count Vertigo, and a furious but brilliant Ravan. The issue gets some of its power from the desperation of the battle and the realism of its events. But the heart of the issue is a lovely meditation on the concept of divinity in a sentient lifeform. When Ravan asks Dybbuk the simple question “have you considered whether it is right to do this?” the tale achieves transcendence, providing readers with a kind of Talmudic fable that lingers in the mind. – Jason Sacks

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10. Suicide Squad #51: “Fractured Image”

“Bang.” – Deadshot

Deadshot’s descent into madness sprawls across much of Suicide Squad. The coolest head on team is slowly revealed to be a self-loathing figure with a death wish and fractured personality. Losing his son Eddie and revisiting his tragic family origins exposed Floyd Lawton as a irreparably broken man. After trying to commit suicide by cop inSuicide Squad #22, Deadshot is given another opportunity to confront himself in Suicide #51. His costume has been stolen by a French assassin who is making good on Floyd Lawton’s reputation. The suit is a part of Lawton’s identity, though, and having to confront it transforms his metaphorical problems into literal ones. It is the climax of one man’s journey, one that had to end in death. Suicide Squad lays bare the inner workings of one of the series’ most demented protagonists and delivers an untoppable showdown between Deadshot and Floyd Lawton. – Chase Magnett


Honorable Mentions: 

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Suicide Squad #6 “Hitting the Fan”

“Anybody got a plan? Or are we winging this as we go?” – Nemesis

The issue opens with an explosion, insubordination, and a political prisoner who wants to stay in her homeland.Ostrander’s clever reversal is a shock and the adversity reveals the mettle of Deadshot, Flag, Nightshade, Nemesis, and the Penguin. The tense, haywire plot succeeds in forcing you to like a bunch of cretins never intended to be likable. Of all the early issues Suicide Squad #6 is arguably the best showcase of Luke McDonnell’s talent as a comic-maker. The pages are loaded with panels, six or more on just about every one, and the pictures inside them tell a cohesive, nuanced story crammed with action, darkness, and verve. No one needs words to see that despite lethal accuracy Floyd Lawton is a loose cannon or to recognize Eve Eden’s courage in the cold. This issue is the first bold indicator the series was set up for infamy. – Jamil Scalese

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Suicide Squad #52 “The Death and Life and Death and Life and Death and Life of Dr. Light”

“Perhaps those two tormented souls could provide you amusement, Mister Biff?” – Toadie

A Dickensian morality tale by way of Looney Tunes, this issue is a hard left turn from what we’re used to in Suicide Squad. Dr. Light keeps dying, and a Devil named Mr. Biff keeps sending him (and the partner he murdered) back to Earth for another go, only for him to die again and land back in Hell. It’s the kind of dark, whimsical wit that Ostrander and Yale are great at; it’s formed the backbone of the series from the get-go. The book has a history of occasionally trying weird stuff (The Nightshade Odyssey, anyone?); the book also has a history of nailing it. In this case, the credit goes to penciller Jim Fern and inker Bob Campanella, whose cartoonish faces execute the comedic timing of this Faustian lark perfectly. – Alison Baker

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About chasemagnett

Chase is a mild-mannered finance guy by day and a raving comics fan by night. He has been reading comics for more than half of his life (all 23 years of it). After graduating from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with degrees in Economics and English, he has continued to research comics while writing articles and reviews online. His favorite superhero is Superman and he'll accept no other answers. Don't ask about his favorite comic unless you're ready to spend a day discussing dozens of different titles.
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