It’s a year later. Amanda Waller still sits in a jail cell. The Squad is, effectively, dead. And a body of former notorious Eastern Block government official has landed in Gotham. Batman is on the case, but so is Sarge Steel, who decides to visit Waller in jail so that he they can take care of massive unrest in Vatlava (the aforementioned Eastern Block country). So begins “The Phoenix Gambit”, the four-part storyline that is very much a opening salvo of what promises to be another great season of the Squad.
I swear that John Ostrander could have written this as a television show because he does exactly what you would have expected him to do, which is spend much of the first half of the story tracking down each of the team members and getting them all back together and then sending them into to take on the threat. That threat is partially Count Vertigo, who has gathered some sort of revolutionary force and is actually being controlled by Poison Ivy; it’s also metshumans who are working to maneuver for power. In the end, the Squad is back in action with a few costume changes and significant character development.
The book went on for two years after this, so I don’t know if this story was intended to bring in new readers as part of what would be a ratings grab for a flagging series or if it was just another four-parter in a very strong book. If it was the former, it worked very well, and the time jump served to refresh the book. Even having Batman in the book worked well, because Ostrander writes him in a way that reminds me of the Denny O’Neil stories I’ve read from the 1970s. I know that some fans will probably tell me that “spy adventure and government intrigue Batman” isn’t “real” Batman, but I really like this interpretation of the character. Plus, if we didn’t get this Batman, we wouldn’t get his adversarial relationship with Amanda Waller and a great back and forth with Deadshot (a perennial foe of his).
The art continues to be outstanding as well. At this point, Geof Isherwood has taken over the book (though Mark Badger does ink one issue) and it’s the type of “street-level” style that is exactly what the series needs (is that a style?). My only complaint, to be honest, is that the paper the book is printed on is of rather poor quality. I ‘d have to go back to my early 1980s books to see if there is a significant difference, but it seems like these books–which were published in 1990–have flimsier covers and the artwork looks really muddy because the paper is almost too newsprinty, so I hope that the trade paperbacks might be easier to read.
So my experience with the Squad goes on. And with about twenty issues to go, we’ll see where this takes us.
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