Suicide Squad: 5 storylines you should read before the movie

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Thanks to a somewhat forced release of the Suicide Squad Comic-Con footage, we now know what the cast of Warner Bros./DC’s Suicide Squad looks like. But what if you don’t know your Captain Boomerang from your Deadshot? Or your Harley Quinn from your Amanda Waller? While the movie should work on its own merits, you would be advised to check out our character primer here, and track down these comic-book titles to help prepare you for the film…

Baptism Of Fire (Suicide Squad Vol. 1, 1-2)

The first volume of the 1980s titles, written by main Squad man John Ostrander, brought characters that had largely been used in the 1950s into what was then the present day. This story sees Task Force X go up against the Jihad, a group of state-sponsored terrorists from the rogue nation of Qurac. The Squad, alerted to the Jihad’s existence and the fact a former member of the team (Jess Bright) had helped bioengineer the initial group, infiltrates their HQ and kills many of the members. It establishes the rivalry between Jihad leader Rustam and Rick Flag, Jr.

The Coils Of The LOA (Suicide Squad Vol. 1, 37-39)

One of the titles that Suicide Squad writer/director David Ayer has referenced as his research material, the Coils storyline finds the Squad on the verge of being disbanded thanks to overseer Amanda Waller's (Viola Davis in the film) lone wolf tactics during a previous mission. Ravan, a former member of the Jihad, since recruited for the Squad, Deadshot (Will Smith in the movie) and Poison Ivy (who will not appear in the film), are sent to assassinate members of the LOA, who are hatching a plan to create a zombie army. Naturally, they have to be stopped, though things go a little wrong for Waller when the three Squad members – who had been promised early release from prison in exchange for their service – go on the run after the job, leading to Waller’s arrest. Naturally, she’s soon able to weasel her way out of any trouble.

Suicide Squad: From The Ashes (Vol. 3, 1-8)

Despite the popularity of the villains, it’s not all that simple to track down older issues of the comic book, which give some insight into the team. Hopefully DC will remedy that before the movie arrives next year, but you should get hold of this title, which is available, and collects the first three issues of Ostrander’s return to the title after several years away. Here, he pulls of the tricky task of addressing Rick Flag’s apparent death in an earlier story (it won’t surprise you to learn that in true comic-book style, he managed to cheat death, was rescued by old rival Rustam and killed the man when they’re able to discover a way back from the dinosaur-infested island of Skataris… It’s a long story.)

Back with the Squad, Flag leads them on a mission to take out Dubai-based global conglomerate Haake-Bruton (Halliburton, anyone?), which has concocted a deadly, fast-acting new viral weapon. But, as is common in the team’s missions, they lose several members when one of their number betrays them to the corporation’s board. Boo! Hiss! Down with this sort of thing!

Suicide Squad (Vol. 4)

Though the newer titles – created by writer Adam Glass and artists Federico Dallocchio and Ransom Getty – haven’t received the same acclaim as Ostrander’s run, they’re still worth reading if only to get some grounding on how Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie in the movie) fits into the story, following the big DC universe reboot The New 52 (for which the company effectively cancelled and relaunched all of its ongoing titles, as both DC and Marvel are wont to do from time to time).

The new series sees Amanda Waller (Davis) once more gathering convicts from the Belle Reve prison (which will feature heavily in the film), putting them through tests and recruiting them for the Squad. Among the finalists? Quinn, Deadshot (Will Smith) and King Shark, who is supposedly played by Raymond Olubawale in the film. This run of the characters includes them taking on the Crime Syndicate of America and regular nemesis The Thinker, the name used by several characters across the DC universe, but the Squad version was usually Clifford “Cliff” Carmichael, drafted into the team, where he keeps trying to rebel and betray them.

Other reading...

If you’re looking for more on certain characters in Suicide Squad, you’d be advised to try the likes of Batman: Mad Love, which explores the Joker (Jared Leto in the film) and Harley Quinn’s twisted relationship. Written by Batman: The Animated Series producers Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, which introduced Harley to the world, it charts her backstory as a successful psychologist who becomes enamoured of her villainous patient and joins him as his sidekick. It essentially brings her from the animated adventures into the comic book continuity and would undoubtedly have been an inspiration for David Ayer and Margot Robbie. Also try the Secret Six comics, since they feature Will Smith’s Deadshot character and would provide some extra background.

As with several of the Suicide Squad comics, they’ve largely been out of print, but DC has been releasing new trade paperbacks to collect the run of writers such as Gail Simone, who delved deep into Floyd Lawton’s (Deadshot’s real name) past. Elsewhere, look up the Joker’s various appearances, and some of the comics that focus on him. It’s not yet known exactly how much of Mister J will be featured in the movie, but the trailer certainly indicates he’ll be up to his psychopathic tricks…

Read our exhaustive Suicide Squad guide here.