After impressive runs supporting Batman: Urban Legends this year, Matthew Rosenberg, Eddy Barrows and company return to Gotham with the darkly funny Task Force Z. It’s a pitch that could only come from the mind of Rosenberg, whose over-the-top Grifter stories were a highlight of Future State. Red Hood leads a team of undead villains to take down some of Gotham’s other notorious criminals (and also Crazy Quilt).
SPOILERS AHEAD for Task Force Z #1!
Killed in the A-Day attacks, and resurrected via Lazarus Resin, Bane, Man-Bat, Arkham Knight and Bloom are the unlikely comrades of Red Hood. They’re unwieldy fighters, and in the opening scenes, they need to be reined in by Red Hood as they go after their target. The team dynamics are fun thanks to Rosenberg’s knack for writing quick-witted protagonists.
As its namesake implies, Task Force Z treads a lot of familiar territory to Suicide Squad. Most prominently are the closed-off handler archetypes we see as the team returns to base and gets assigned their next mission. They tell the reader just enough to raise suspicions of their motives and justify the adversarial relationship they have with Red Hood. Task Force Z has some work to do to create an identity of its own.
Barrows, inker Eber Ferreira, and colorist Adriano Lucas do here what they do best, evoking a sense of foreboding darkness on each page. It may not hit the high highs of the team’s Detective Comics run, but they are a perfect match for Rosenberg’s playfulness. Fight scenes are visceral and dynamic, with panel layouts transforming from page to page.
In Task Force Z’s second mission, they’re sent out to take down Mr. Freeze. As Man-Bat swoops down to attack Freeze, he’s caught in the line of fire of the villain’s iconic ice gun. Freeze takes up the foreground of the entire page, and the whole sequence takes place in panels running across Freeze’s arms, torso, and legs. And as Freeze’s ice engulfs our “heroes”, the borders of the panels go from straight lines to a rough icicle-like shape.
Task Force Z #1 releases alongside the first issue of DC vs. Vampires, a similarly toned book from Rosenberg, James Tynion IV, and Otto Schmidt. The former is an in-canon, ongoing series while the latter is outside of canon and a 12-issue limited series. Aside from being fun, spooky reads to get you into the Halloween spirit, they’re an interesting double-feature because of their very different formats.
Vampires taking place in an alternate timeline essentially strips it of the editorial rules that Task Force Z will be limited by. And on the flip-side, Z is ongoing, which means it can evolve with the shifting Bat-canon as we enter 2022. But as far as this first issue is concerned, the longevity of Task Force Z is unclear. I was hoping to be surprised by this first issue, but it doesn’t stray further beyond that initial pitch we read in the solicits months ago. But maybe my tune will change after the first arc wraps up.
Task Force Z #1 is a fun read thanks to Rosenberg’s quick and quippy dialogue and the art team’s brutal, dynamic action sequences. The next task for this series is to create a unique identity outside the shadow of Suicide Squad and justify why its insane premise ought to be an ongoing series.
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