At least for a little while in the 1980s, DC seemed to be doing what it could to do right by the Charlton Comics characters it had purchased a few years earlier. Yes, they were the basis for the heroes in Watchmen because the company famously didn’t let Alan Moore use them, and I guess that someone who has only read that work and nothing else of DC in the late 1980s would have faulted DC for that in a way (I don’t know why, but people are always bringing up stuff like this as if it was a mistake the company now regrets it the same way they assume that Tom Selleck–who has had a long-lasting television career–constantly sits around and thinks about how he wasn’t Indiana Jones). But really, if you look at the Charlton characters, a number of them were used quite a bit in the late 1980s. Yes, it didn’t necessarily last into the Nineties, but … of course, the Nineties.
Anyway, this is all to say that what we have here is a three-parter that focuses on Nightshade, whose origin had been related in a then-recent issue of Secret Origins (one I read a while ago) and continues in here with a storyline called “The Nightshade Odyssey.” It is probably the most “superhero” that we’ve gotten with Suicide Squad at this point, as they head to the rather dark place where Nightshade got her powers and wind up fighting various beings of dark magic, including her own brother who is now corrrupt. This coincides with the ongoing struggles of June, whose alter ego is The Enchantress and who has been fighting with the fact that the when the witch comes out, she’s hard to control.
There is some sort of resolution to both of these as a result of this storyline and we also get the return of Shade the Changing Man to the DCU, another character (along with Black Orchid) who has appeared in this book but also would wind up being significantly changed by a mature readers/Vertigo title. It’s a solid character exploration by Ostrander, even though Luke McDonnell’s art isn’t entirely up to the task for the mystical/weird stuff. I personally would have been interested in seeing another artist tackle the mystical stuff while he stuck to the subplots that involved Amanda Waller trying to keep her control over the Squad and dealing with meddling politicians. The slight departure in story and tone works for three issues, but I’m glad to see that The Jihad will return next issue and we’ll be back to international intrigue.
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