The long-awaited Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League video game from Rocksteady dropped last week and features Captain Boomerang, Deadshot, King Shark and Harley Quinn on their most impossible mission yet: taking down the noblest heroes on Earth. The team is drafted into this by Amanda Waller after the Superman villain, Brainiac, brainwashes the Justice League to do his bidding. But this, of course, is only part of the story.
Suicide Squad: Kill Arkham Asylum brings together writer John Layman (Detective Comics, Batman Eternal) and artist Jesús Hervas to show us how the Squad broke out of Arkham Asylum in the first place. The five-issue miniseries acts as a prequel to the events in the Kill the Justice League game, revealing how Amanda Waller assembled her ragtag band of criminals for this near-impossible mission. Suicide Squad fans will not want to miss it, as the miniseries offers the always demented mix of violence and humor that is synonymous with the group. The first issue is in stores today, so to get a clearer picture of how it sets up the game, we spoke to Layman and Hervas about all things Arkham!
The Suicide Squad is one of the zaniest, most dysfunctional teams in superhero comics. John and Jesús, what about this team appeals to you as creators?
John Layman: I like characters who are unpredictable, who can surprise me as a reader and as a writer, and there are few characters in the DCU more unpredictable than these members of the Suicide Squad, which makes them so fun. I also feel flawed characters are more interesting, and each of these characters is uniquely disastrous in their own way.
Jesús Hervas: I love these characters, all of them are so adorable and iconic. Exaggerated and histrionic characters are always fun to draw since they give a lot of possibilities and allow for more dramatic acting and gesticulation. With this tone, it is also easier to introduce elements such as gory moments or any other crazy things that we can think of. The story is full of them. We were also lucky enough to bring another handful of emblematic DCU characters to make them part of the party.
What did you like about the Arkham games that you wanted to put in the comic?
JL: I love the fact that it’s a streamlined continuity. I just have to worry about three previous games (and one upcoming game) rather than decades and decades of previous story. Plus, in the Arkham games, characters DIE. When I first got the gig, I tentatively asked if I could kill characters. They asked for a list of who I wanted to kill, and I gave them about thirty names, thinking one or two would get approved. Instead, only one or two got turned down…so expect this comic to be a glorious murder-fest!
JH: I loved the conceptual design work done for the games, both the concepts for characters and environments, etc., so it was great to be able to start from that base to launch new ideas with our own language.
It wouldn’t be a Suicide Squad story without Amanda Waller, and she’s certainly up to no good here. John, what was your favorite part about writing Waller?
JL: Waller’s a bad person working for the greater good. She’s the living epitome of “you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet.” She is pure ruthlessness, and not a lot of empathy. But, again, she’s doing this for the right reasons: to keep the world safe.
Jesús, the artwork for the series is fantastic. There’s a fun sense of expressiveness to all the characters. Was there a particular moment or character you enjoyed drawing most?
JH: Thanks. As I said, it has been great to work with these characters, they all have stellar moments and we have been able to dive into all of them throughout the story. But if I had to choose, I would say that I especially enjoyed King Shark's moments of bloody brutality.
The Suicide Squad has always challenged the dichotomy between heroes and villains, particularly with someone as twisted as Amanda Waller in charge. Issue #2, however, introduces a very clear villain in the form of an Arkham guard. What motivated this choice for you, John? Were you interested in exploring the relationship between authority and corruption?
JL: It was more a matter of exposing Waller’s plan. She’s put all these horrible villains together in Arkham, and her goal is to make their existence in Arkham as miserable as possible. Which means hiring the meanest, most sadistic guards, some of whom seem worse than the villains themselves.
Arkham Asylum is a familiar sight to any DC fan. But here, it’s got an entirely new look and atmosphere. What went into your design of Arkham, Jesús?
JH: We started from the base of the games, but we had freedom to put a lot of our ideas into it. So, John had the idea of the look of the cells, and I always had in mind to try to represent that this is a prison story. I wanted Arkham to work well for it, and I tried to always make the drawings evoke those types of stories’ atmosphere.
What do you want fans to walk away from this series with? Is there anything else they should know about?
JH: We have really enjoyed doing it, I think it will also be fun for fans of both the comics and the video games universe.
JL: I like fun comics, so if a reader has a good time and gets a few laughs out of it, my work is complete. But I’m a big fan of Rocksteady games, and I worked hard with them to make this story incorporate seamlessly as a prequel to the game. If you like the comic, I hope you get excited for the Suicide Squad: Kill Justice League game. If you like the game, I hope you want even more, and get excited for the Suicide Squad: Kill Arkham Asylum comic.
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League is now available on PS5, Xbox Series X|S and PC.