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Book Review: Suicide Squad: The Official Movie Novelization
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Suicide Squad The Official Movie Novelization cover banner

Suicide Squad: The Official Movie Novelization
Paperback | Kindle
Based on the Warner Bros. Pictures film written by David Ayer
Based on the characters from DC Comics
Written by Marv Wolfman
Publisher: Titan Books
Release Date: August 9, 2016

Suicide Squad, a Warner Bros.’ summer 2016 tentpole, was one of the most highly anticipated movies of the year, with standout stars like Will Smith and Jared Leto, fan-favorite DC Comics characters like Harley Quinn and the Joker, and the promise of a cameo from Ben Affleck’s Batman. But once Suicide Squad hit theaters in early August, it was critically panned and many fans voiced their disappointment with the new DCEU offering’s out-of-sequence storytelling, non-compelling villain, and the lack of Leto’s Joker, the latter of whom was used heavily in the marketing of the film.

Not enough Joker in the film? Yes, that’s definitely true. Joker’s presence in general as well as his twisted romantic relationship with Harley Quinn are what fans were clamoring for the most. Leto recently spoke up to say that he didn’t know his role was going to be reduced to a glorified cameo and that enough footage was captured of his character to make a full Joker movie. Having read Suicide Squad: The Official Movie Novelization, it does appear that there was much more Joker-Harley story to tell, as well as plenty other aspects left out of the final film.

My reaction to Suicide Squad was similar to that of most critics: The villain is boring and at times laughable; the storytelling gets muddled in some areas; there’s unnecessary multiple introductions to characters; and, of course, there’s not enough Joker and Harley, or Joker in general. Basically, it didn’t come across as the film that we were promised in the trailers, which were incredibly enticing. I also could have done without the massive military involvement, as it made it feel like a Transformers movie. But, there’s no doubt that Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn stole every scene they were in. Plus, I really liked the look of the film. I got to see the movie twice, and both times, I felt like if they let me into the editing room, I could have mixed together the movie I wanted to see.

This is why I was so interested in checking out the official novelization from Titan Books, which is written by comics veteran Marv Wolfman, who co-created characters such as the vampire Blade, Daredevil‘s Bullseye, The New Teen Titans, and Slade Wilson aka Deathstroke (who’s rumored to be in Justice League and The Batman). Let me just say right now, if Wolfman writes a novelization, I will read it, I don’t care what it is. This man can write. Period. In the Suicide Squad novelization, he made me care about characters I had been disinterested in. For instance, the opening chapters of the book are all about archeologist June Moore, who’s tortured by relentless dreams that compel her to travel into the unknown, where she becomes possessed by Enchantress, an ancient witch hellbent on taking over the world. Reading about her journey, I was seriously worried about her! I was holding my breath, waiting for her to return safely from her mission, while in the movie, I was like, Ok, whatever June. The book also digs deeper into June’s courtship with Rick Flag, the special-forces officer assigned to babysit Special Task Force X, aka “Suicide Squad,” and gives us an understanding of how these two can fall for each other.

I’m a fan of the DC Comics universe and am interested in these characters, so I wanted to know more about what was really going on, and what motivated them. The movie only touches upon Boomerang, Diablo, and Croc, but the novel gives us their backstories so that, unlike with the movie, I actually care if they survive!

But, as I mentioned earlier, what audiences wanted more of was the Joker and his relationship with Harley, and in this novelization, we get it! The Joker is a complex character who’s severely deranged, so to get his inner thoughts is a real treat. We learn about how he wants Harley desperately sometimes, and even misses her, while other times he wants to bash her head in.

During the film, I had this constant nagging like, what exactly is the mission again? Scenes went by so far that I would forget what even happened, and not catch small details that were important (yet, please, show us again how great a shot Deadshot is, I couldn’t really tell after the first three demonstrations). While reading the book, I kind of didn’t care so much about the mission, and instead enjoyed the dramatics — the way the characters interacted with one another, what motivated them, why they conflicted, and what did they think about when they were all alone, which was often, as these dangerous criminals were all locked away in solitary confinement at the Belle Reve penitentiary.

Reading descriptions of action sequences in books isn’t as captivating as watching it unfold on screen, so I give Wolfman credit again for taking what was a mess on screen and making it somewhat understandable, especially the ending.

Suicide Squad: The Official Movie Novelization is almost a necessary companion to the film, and definitely provided some much-needed insight into character motivations and gives fans more Joker and Harley Quinn. If you enjoyed the film — and I’m guessing there are plenty of you who did based on the decent box office numbers — then this book will make you appreciate Suicide Squad even more. If, like me, you saw potential in the movie, but left feeling more let down than elated, then get more of that which you crave by reading this novelization written by a master storyteller and comics legend.

Suicide Squad The Official Movie Novelization cover

Official book synopsis from the publisher:

Assemble a team of the world’s most dangerous imprisoned super criminals, provide them the most powerful arsenal at the government’s disposal, and send them to defeat an enigmatic, unstoppable enemy. U.S. intelligence officer Amanda Waller has gathered a group of disparate, despicable individuals with next to nothing to lose. Once they figure out they were chosen to fail, will the Suicide Squad resolve to die beating the odds, or decide it’s every man for himself?

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