[SPOILER WARNING: The following story contains spoilers for this week's "Suicide Squad" #20 -- on sale now.]
That's the question at the heart of the story started in this week's issue #20 by new series writer Ales Kot and artist Patrick Zircher. The end of their first issue revealed a new player pulling the strings of the criminal team: James Gordon, Jr. – the cold blooded serial killer son of Commissioner Gordon. Teamed with Squad task master Amanda Waller, James spent the issue testing the emotional boundaries of villains like King Shark and Harley Quinn -- all the while Waller was revealing her own power to bring assassin Deadshot back from the grave for new missions.
With the secret out of the bag and the team set for some new, personal confrontations, CBR News spoke with Kot about Gordon's character, his love for Amanda Waller, the plans to hit the whole team where it hurts and more revelations as the book heads towards its second prison-focued installment.
CBR News: So "Discipline and Punish" ...empathy and aggression... it seems like you have your themes for the series right out front in this first issue. At this early stage, are you looking to explore the tension of redemption surrounding these characters? With the right amount of pressure, can these murderers be made into something different than they are?
Ales Kot: I am definitely interested in exploring the possibilities of redemption and self-actualization, yes! Experience tells me that anyone can change as long as they are truly willing to, so perhaps, instead of it being an issue of external force, the way towards change will be hidden within the characters themselves. The external circumstances might often go a long way towards pushing the characters in the opposite direction -- after all, that's the basis of so many good stories.
"Suicide Squad" is, at least to me, very much about the tension between what's right and what's wrong. About characters who are used to doing the wrong thing and usually enjoy it very much -- and about Waller, who wants to do the right thing so bad the lines sometimes vanish for her. What happens when their world views get challenged? What happens when they realize there are other possibilities? And what if they realize it while participating in increasingly dangerous missions all over the world? The potential is limitless.
And as readers of #20 found, it looks like James Gordon, Jr. is going to embody that tension. He'd always been portrayed as a true psychopath since his reintroduction, but the hint here is that his... let's say attachment to Waller has changed him some. At least he sees it that way. How much should readers trust his stated intent? How much do you trust it?
How much should readers trust his stated intent... hm. How much would you trust James Gordon, Jr. if the told you he loved you, Kiel?
James Gordon, Jr. is a psychopath and there is no telling what he does next. If he loves Waller as he says he does, what does that even mean to him? People can confuse love with so many things -- with attachment, with religion, with their unresolved mental issues -- and Gordon, Jr.'s past is a dark, dark place. That alone doesn't mean he can't feel love, but there is a possibility that he's just exploring his own feelings and ideas, dissecting them like a serial killer-in-training would dissect an animal before he graduates to human game.
Alternately, he might be truly and completely in love with Waller. And too shy to do anything about it. So Gordon, Jr. overcompensates by doing his best to impress her, but their ethics differ so radically.
Or... what if we combine both approaches and there is no easy immediate answer? Hint hint.
The other side of James' introduction to the team is that Waller maybe feels she has more control over this group than she does. In more ways than one! We've spoken before about Amanda's tendency to do bad things for what she feels is good. Do you feel like you're putting the most pressure on her in this series to test that point of view?
The thing is, Waller got into this scenario by her own choice. No one forced her to to create a black ops squad full of deeply disturbed people -- and a shark-man -- who would probably benefit from some therapy instead of what Waller uses them for. She can hardly be surprised when that backfires, and if she will be, then perhaps that is a sign that her mindset is closer to the team members than she would like to admit. Of course, given what we see in this issue alone, one could argue that she should be realizing that already. We live in a world where it's easy to be complicit in many daily evils without realizing it, without admitting it to oneself, both on microscopic and macroscopic scale. If one truly desires to be a good person, it begins with looking into a mirror and facing everything that is inside you. If Waller wants to be a good person, she will have to do that sooner or later.
Within the team itself, James had pretty clear takes on what Harley and King Shark are really all about. Is he right? Because even if he is, both Shark's volatility and Harley's knowledge of the Unknown Soldier seem to point to James' overconfidence becoming his undoing (something I heard somewhere once).
[Laughs] Yeah, James seems to be a bit overconfident there, doesn't he? Perhaps the key thing to think about is this: what if Harley and Shark function as mirrors for him? What if he's not talking about them, but projecting his own psyche?
It could also be both at once -- he could be projecting and he could be right. Sometimes thing work that way, and yes, it's an angle I definitely considered when writing the story. Sometimes synchronicity strikes just right.
Last on the team rundown, we have a reveal about the reviving of Deadshot via the "Samsara Serum." That's certainly an evocative name and a twist that can change the path of how this title has always worked. But in the immediate, how does it change Deadshot's status with the team? He seems much harder to control now than he's ever been.
Let's not dance around it: Deadshot goes after Waller in #21 and clashes with Unknown Soldier. He's angry and he wants to kill her. He also faces a grotesquely large monster made of dead people head-on just an issue later because his survival instincts change a bit following the revelation in #20 -- but how he gets to Vegas after attempting to kill Waller and what happens next is something you will discover once you read the upcoming issues.
Overall, I feel like James will be an x-factor for the team moving forward in your run. There are obviously many missions, new characters and deaths to come, but do you feel like his presence is going to be the driving factor at the start of your run?
One of the driving factors, yes. James Gordon, Jr. is a broken black mirror. We discovered the characters, at least partially, through his eyes in #20, and his feelings towards Waller drive us into a Woody Allen-meets-grindhouse territory that is dark comedy gold.
That said, this is a team book first and foremost and I love every single character that is on board, so everyone gets their time in the sun -- some of them might just burn real fast.
"Suicide Squad" #20 is on sale now from DC Comics.