This year, Harley Quinn did something bonkers, even for her: She calmed down. In Rob Williams’s acclaimed run on Suicide Squad this year, the former Arkham Asylum psychiatrist-turned-Joker-obsessive regained her sanity for a brief period while everyone else around her lost it. In this week’s issue #8 (which contains a prologue chapter of Justice League vs. Suicide Squad #1), Quinn has to save the day when Belle Reve is in flux, Captain Boomerang is a digital ghost, and Zod — yes, Zod! — is about to wake up with his Kryptonian powers at max.
For Williams, who jumped aboard the hottest DC Comics series just as it released a major Hollywood movie, knew what he had to do when there’s so many eyes on him: Flip the script. “It’s one of the easiest tricks in the book, but you get interesting things sometimes,” he told Inverse. “So much of the Suicide Squad concept is that they’re all crazy to one degree, so if you enhance that, the one truly insane character in the book would be flipped.”
Changing a cemented attribute of a comic book character is a daring move, one some fans consider offensive, like an act of war (This year, Marvel fans were furious when Captain America revealed himself to be a mole for HYDRA). But Williams thought other questions were more pressing. “What does that mean to her?” he describes talking about Harley’s turn to sanity. “Is that something she wants? I thought that was an interesting position to put her in.”
Harley’s personality change doesn’t last long, not enough for a whole arc, but it was a thought experiment Williams was grateful to explore in a mainstream book. It also echoed Williams’s vision, which he says was shaped by the chaotic trailers for David Ayer’s blockbuster. “Those trailers are so much fun,” says Williams. “Going into it, I thought thats what the book should be: high-paced, irreverent, anarchic. From a writer’s view that’s exciting.”
As for Zod, who functions in Suicide Squad #8 as a horror movie monster in the middle of the chaos, will be a crucial question for Task Force X director Amanda Waller in future Suicide Squad issues. “His powerset is Superman’s, he’s been in the Phantom Zone physically warped, he’s grown in size. That’s like a neutron bomb in the middle of the story,” which in the hands of Amanda Waller could be catastrophic. “He’s temptation for Waller,” says Williams. “She uses the Suicide Squad to get what she wants, and suddenly she’s offered the biggest weapon in the DCU. If she chooses to use Zod, can she control him?”
Williams won’t take on the crossover event Justice League vs. Suicide Squad in January — that’s The Flash writer Joshua Williamson’s honor — but Williams did pen the prologue in which super cool meta-human Killer Frost comes to Belle Reve. The CW’s The Flash has ushered an unexpected popularity for Caitlin Snow, but her still underutilized presence made her a good foil for exposition. “I thought the easiest way to [introduce her] is ‘Rookie’s First Day’ in Belle Reve,” explains Williams. “You see it all through her eyes. In the collection, the prologue will be the first thing people read. It’s just a short, fun way of introducing the Suicide Squad.”
2016 was the year Suicide Squad “sort of flew into the public eye,” according to Williams. “It’s the biggest book of my career by some distance. You just have to sort of be inspired by that.”
Suicide Squad #8 is available now.