Aptly for a series of graphic novels released under the ‘Rebirth’ banner, Rob Williams takes the Suicide Squad almost back to what they were when reintroduced featuring super villains in the 1980s. Amanda Waller oversees an organisation of criminals and psychopaths controlled for covert missions via implanted explosive chips in their skulls that can be remotely activated should they disobey orders. The field commander is decorated soldier Rick Flag.

Who’d have thought we’d see Jim Lee drawing a regular comic series again? Don’t get too used to the idea as he’s off after the following Going Sane, but if you liked his pages in the 1990s, you’ll have no complaints here. The man can draw, and he can lay out a page, complementary skills that don’t mesh in graphic novels as often as we’d like. There’s still the fussiness, however, with the designs including so many fiddly little details they distract the eye. That’s even more apparent in the work of Philip Tan on the opening chapter.

Credit to Williams in one respect, as right from the start he dissolves the air of predictability that the Suicide Squad trade on false pretences. Not that killing characters gratuitously is an era of superhero comics to which we should return, but it’s often been the case that the core cast are pretty well untouchable, yet to live up to the title, deaths have to occur. Take a guess at which of the cast introduced in the sample page doesn’t make the end of the book. You’ll probably be wrong. After an introductory episode, the Squad are sent on a mission leading to an encounter with someone way beyond their capability to deal with, another good surprise. It’s very much all desperate action with little in the way of plot, which mimics the cinematic Suicide Squad, and was presumably intentional.

The title story is followed by a series of spotlights on the individual cast members, and these are more impressive. Deadshot, Boomerang, Katana and Harley Quinn all have their focus in Williams’ pithy short tales revealing the root of their characters, and essentially why they’re with the Suicide Squad. These are illustrated by a good selection of artists, some a match for Lee. Jason Fabok, Gary Frank, Ivan Reis, and Tan are always welcome.

The page count may run to 154, but beware, as over forty of them are an astonishing array of covers, for the original serialised comics and a re-presentation of Tan’s opening episode in black and white, which is bonus content for the serious art student rather than the reader. So there’s plenty to look at, but not as much to read as it seems from the spine thickness.