Following Red X’s sudden but inevitable betrayal at Teen Titans Academy, Amanda Waller’s newest iteration of the Suicide Squad catastrophically failed to apprehend their latest target: Bolt. With an incapacitated traitor in hand and their tails between their legs, Task Force X fled the scene. Thankfully for the team and their precious gray matter, Waller thinks their newest “recruit” will be a perfect addition to Task Force X. However, when it becomes apparent that the hero has staged his own capture, the Suicide Squad finds themselves questioning his agenda. His answer is simple:
“I want you all to be free…”
SPOILERS AHEAD for Suicide Squad #4!
Although the title of this book is Suicide Squad, make no mistake, Red X is clearly the star of the show. Writer Robbie Thompson and artist Eduardo Pansica use this issue to demonstrate the character’s overall level of badassery. (Spoiler: He demolishes the team like a wrecking ball smashing through a Lego skyscraper.) Thompson’s focus on Red X is Suicide Squad #4’s greatest strength and a massive selling point for fans of the Teen Titans cartoon, like myself. Unfortunately, the attention given to Red X is a double-edged sword as it also proves to be this book’s greatest weakness.
Witnessing one of your favorite characters systematically dismantle a team of supervillains is always satisfying. Early in the narrative, Waller describes Red X as a “Batman-level intellect in the field.” Suicide Squad #4 provides instant payoff of Waller’s assessment when X breaks free from his restraints and turns the tables on his captors. Eduardo Pansica’s artwork with Prado and Ferreira’s inks and Marcelo Maiolo’s colors do an excellent job conveying Red X’s formidable physical prowess in combat. The action in this series continues to be cinematic and a pleasure to pore your eyes over. However, I think it’s more impressive that the character uses his words to psychologically disarm his opponents before combat.
This strategy deftly illustrates Red X’s Batman-level intellect as it shows his preparedness in battle. X is always one step ahead, and, as a result, he quickly dispatches his opponents. What makes Thompson’s work here so enjoyable is how he weaves Red X’s psychological combat into the larger mysteries within the series. X’s revelations regarding each character push the narrative slightly forward in a matter that has me excited to see how things unravel for each character in the series.
My favorite development in Suicide Squad #4 involves Superboy’s confrontation with Red X. In the past, I have speculated that Waller is using various forms of kryptonite to manipulate Superboy and his behavior. Before jumping in, I think it’s important to note that this theory is best described as pure speculation at this point. Throughout the issue, Thompson provides some interesting dialogue regarding Conner. At one point, Peacemaker says, “Thanks to Nocturna, we know Superboy is a prime example of Waller withholding intel…” Later in the issue, Red X explains to Conner that he wants “… all of you to be free. Especially you.”
On the surface, it appears that X is expressing concern for a fellow Titan. However, Thompson’s emphasis on the word prime when explaining that something is wrong with Superboy evokes memories of Infinite Crisis’s supervillain: Superboy-Prime. Is it possible that Thompson is subtly hinting that this character is actually Superboy-Prime? Red X’s desire to free Superboy could support this notion by serving as an allusion to the time he spent imprisoned in the paradise dimension. Unfortunately, the rest of the dialogue contradicts this theory.
When Red X affectionately refers to Conner as “clone wars,” he seemingly confirms that the character is Conner. This nickname is a reference to the fact that Conner is a clone of Superman. This effectively decimates my Superboy-Prime theory as he is not a hero’s clone but rather Kal-El from another world. Although this theory was definitely a mental stretch from the beginning, and the dialogue contradicts the idea, I thought Thompson’s use of these words was too coincidental to not mention in this review.
“You want order. Which you see as freedom. I want true freedom. I want to cut everyone’s puppet strings. I want to set everyone free from the limitations the world puts on them.”
My largest complaint with this issue is how reliant it is on the crossover with Teen Titans Academy #3. Although you will understand the broad strokes of Suicide Squad #4, you might feel like you’re missing some essential pieces of information if you did not read the previous issue in the crossover. Robbie Thompson does a good job of helping the reader understand Red X’s modus operandi. However, you never get a sense of why you should care about his mission because it’s unclear if X will continue to muck things up for Waller. As a result, this issue feels more like a commercial enticing the reader to check out Teen Titans Academy.
Although the title of this book is Suicide Squad, Red X is clearly the star of the show. Thompson’s focus on Red X is Suicide Squad #4’s greatest strength, as he and artist Eduardo Pansica expertly demonstrate X’s overall level of badassery. Unfortunately, the attention given to Red X is the issue’s greatest weakness as the book feels like a commercial begging the reader to pick up Teen Titans Academy. This is a shame because I don’t want to see Suicide Squad become a vehicle that serves only as an introduction to other titles within DC’s publishing line without pushing its narrative forward. Thankfully, Thompson alleviates my fears for the time being with Red X’s reveals for each character.
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