Something that struck me about this volume is how much it represents a certain time period for DC Comics. There’s a two part crossover with the Justice League of that time, the earliest version of the humor team. One Squad mission has the team combating and then teaming up with a pre-Vertigo version of the Doom Patrol, and another has the group meet the pre-Vertigo version of Shade the Changing Man.
That sort of thing adds a level of enjoyment for me given how much all of those other characters would change over the years since these comics were first published.
That said, this volume didn’t work as much for me as the first one. The first reprinted issue was part of the Millennium crossover, and that one always struck me as being at-best silly, though it also features an appearance from sometime Manhunter Mark Shaw. The Doom Patrol team-up was an extra-long special issue that seemed as focused on the Patrol as the Squad, and since the Squad’s membership was pretty much just Rick Flag and some new guys, you can guess what happened. A long origin for Squad member Nightshade was done by an outside creative team. The JLI crossover thankfully included the Justice League issue, but the tones of the two books couldn’t be more different.
But there was a lot to enjoy here. Batman going into Belle Reve and causing trouble, only to have Waller push back at him with just her mouth and her attitude worked very well and established just how touch the Wall can be. Captain Boomerang continued to be a low-down POS, and Deadshot’s suicidal tendencies started to appear with the mention of a family. The aforementioned Nightshade origin also led to the title arc, one which was obviously used for much of the plot for the movie, as was the Slipknot death scene (here he just loses a hand when Boomerang convinces him to make a run for it). There’s also the introduction of the team chaplin, Father Craemer, who would go on to be an important supporting character in John Ostrander’s The Spectre.
But I do have a complaint and it’s the artwork. Luke McDonnell’s pencils bother me here. He does fine teamed with Grant Morrison on the Vertigo Doom Patrol series, but here it doesn’t work as well. There is a pleasant surprise in the form of early work from Image founders Erik Larsen (the Doom Patrol special) and Rob Liefeld (the Nightshade origin) before either man would develop his own unique style. That is, if you consider any Liefeld artwork a treat (not me so much). Add in that and some more story building the likes of which I know writer John Ostrander is more than capable of, and I can see this series becoming great. It just wasn’t at this point in the run. Instead, it’s just fun and enjoyable, even with half-assed 80s anti-drug commentary. Eight and a half out of ten attempts to reason with Batman.