The big news around Suicide Squad right now is the movie, seeing as the latest trailer dropped last Friday. I’m a huge Suicide Squad fan (the series, not the first movie), and I loved the range of characters in the trailer, the more Birds of Prey-style Harley Quinn, and Joel Kinnaman’s less caricatured take on Rick Flagg, but I still feel a little once bitten, twice shy about the whole thing. James Gunn is a much better fit than David Ayer, but I’m still wary. For that reason, I’m still more excited for the Suicide Squad game than the second movie – I just hope it takes some influence from The Hunt For Harley Quinn.
It’s been seven months since the game’s trailer dropped, so let’s recap quickly. The full name is Suicide Squad: Kill The Justice League, and I’ll leave it to you to figure out what the plot is about from a title like that. It seems to be another take on a dark Superman, which is very stale by now – especially after Brightburn and The Boys – but it’s the group dynamics that are far more interesting. The trailer stars Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, King Shark, and Deadshot sitting around and relaxing, trying to eat pizza, and generally bickering or joking while an army of Brainiac grunts take over Metropolis. The characters are established fantastically within the first minute of the trailer, so given the length of a full game, I expect the dynamic will only get sharper.
It comes from Rocksteady, the creator of the Arkham series, and that trilogy (Origins wasn’t Rocksteady) had superb characterisation throughout. Helped by some wonderful casting led by animated Batman, Kevin Conroy, every character felt simultaneously familiar and fresh. They had been lifted right out of the comics, yet were completely new. After Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, and Mr Freeze, I know Suicide Squad’s boss battles are going to rock too – just don’t keep me in the Harleymobile, Rocksteady. Please.
Another defining feature of Rocksteady’s Arkham trilogy was the Joker (who also has a leading role in Origins after a bait and switch with Black Mask). Just as how Conroy came over from Batman: The Animated Series to play Batman, Mark Hamill returned to the role of Joker, and gave one of the best performances the hallowed comic book role has ever seen. Unfortunately, he was a bit too good. While other villains got some spotlight, Joker became too central to the trilogy, and even though he died at the start of Arkham Knight, he still haunted Batman through a series of hallucinations that made Arkham Knight just as much of a ‘Joker game’ as the rest. This is where The Hunt For Harley Quinn comes in.
In the comic, Harley Quinn goes rogue from the Suicide Squad and must be hunted down. A lot of things happen, but the juicy part is that Harley breaks into the morgue, cuts off Joker’s face, kidnaps Deadshot, ties him to a chair, and pastes Joker’s face over his, so she can finally sit down and have a talk with Mistah J – the way the eeriness of this scene unfolds is magnificent, but I don’t actually want this to happen in the game.
I’m fully on board with a ‘kill the Justice League’ angle, especially if it moves beyond Supes and we see something like the Flashpoint arc of Wonder Woman reimagined through a Brainiac story. I don’t mean ‘they should hunt for Harley Quinn’, I mean I want the story to feel like that. Harley has no powers, but through her wit, determination, and limitless imagination, she outsmarts everyone. She kidnaps Deadshot by leading him into the dark, knowing he’ll use his night vision, then throwing a flare at him – the arc is full of little tricks like that. Too often, Harley’s character has been distilled down to ‘idiot bimbo extremely off-the-rails’ – but this idea of her being an idiot doesn’t really hold true to her best stories.
She’s reckless, has a temper, and rarely considers consequences, but too many portrayals (including David Ayer’s version) lean too heavily into the caricature without much substance. The game needs to avoid that, and considering how well her charisma has been showcased in what we’ve seen so far, it already feels like it will. She’s also wearing an outfit that’s both desexualised yet modern and incredibly ‘her’, which is another good sign. It feels like a mix of Margot Robbie’s Birds of Prey Harley and Kaley Cuoco’s animated version – two of the most developed and least cliched takes on her.
Away from Harley, Hunt (and the stories leading up to it) perfect the angry rapport that the best Suicide Squad stories have. It’s gallows humour turned up to eleven. David Ayer’s movie made them friends in the foxhole, but they’re never supposed to be friends. Idris Elba telling John Cena to eat a bag of dicks in the new trailer, or everyone mocking Deadshot’s “I never miss line”… that’s what the Suicide Squad is like. The game seems to understand that from what little we’ve seen, but it needs to maintain that momentum throughout, not turn them into best mates halfway through.
Finally, there’s Joker’s face. It feels a little bit like Batman: Arkham Knight already did a bit of The Hunt For Harley Quinn, pasting Joker’s bloody visage all over a story he didn’t need to be in. This time around, the developers need to leave his face alone, and let everyone breathe. Joker’s good, but not every story needs him, so let’s not droop his dead face all over what’s shaping up to be a great take on the Suicide Squad.
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Stacey Henley is an editor for TheGamer, and can often be found journeying to the edge of the Earth, but only in video games. Find her on Twitter @FiveTacey
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