As DC opted to not release any more Suicide Squad trades after the first one, I was forced to resort to back issue hunting. While fun, it does have the drawback that I often don't realize it's crossing over with another title until after I've read the book, by which point I've missed a chance to pick up the relevant tie-ins. Presumably a trade would include such things. Oh well, one thing I've figured out about myself by now is that just as soon as I start making progress on finding titles of interest, I think of just as many things I'd like to read I haven't started on yet. If it wasn't tracking down the other parts of The Janus Directive, it'd be collecting the BKV/Alphona Runaways stuff. The joy and curse of the collector.
Anyway, I found the entire run of Suicide Squad proper, and I wanted to talk a little about a scene from issue 37 dealing with Amanda Waller. If you haven't read the series, but are planning to, you should hold off if you don't want certain things spoiled. Go buy the first 39 issues, read them, come back. Assuming the Internet doesn't eat this blog, the post will still be here.
Issue 37* was the start of the story that dealt with the fallout from half the Squad being abducted and dragged off to Apokolips by Duchess/Lashina to help her regain her place as leader of the Furies. Not everyone that went along survived, and one of the casualties was Flo, daughter of Amanda's cousin. She'd been part of the support staff at Belle Reve, had fallen in love with Ben Turner (the Bronze Tiger), and believed if she could prove herself on a field mission, he'd break off his relationship with Vixen and notice her instead. Lashina played on this (and the Wall's refusal to let Flo into the field) and brought her along as a gift for Granny Goodness. Flo proved less suited for surviving a battle on Apokolips than the rest of the Squad (save Dr. Light who died in an blessedly brief attempt to be the big hero).
On page 7, Waller sits in her office with her sister, Mary, and Father Craemer. We learn the Father will be accompanying Mary and Flo's body on the trip home. We also learn Edna Mae, Flo's mother, told Amanda to stay away. Mary thinks it's wrong for her to have done that. Amanda's response: 'Well, that may be, but I don't hold it against her. I know what it's like to lose a child. You haven't been there, Mary. It's hard to stay rational.'
It's a different reaction from usual for Waller. No anger, no sarcasm, no blaming Edna Mae, or deflecting blame from herself. She doesn't think it's necessarily wrong she be asked to stay away. Amanda may not accept full blame - Lashina deserves much more, anyway, and Flo made her own mistakes - but she knows she could have done more to protect Flo. She saw Flo's attraction to Turner, teased her about it, and brusquely dismissed Flo's requests to go on missions by stating she knew what Flo's mind was on. But Amanda never sat down with her and talked it out, too busy trying to maintain her grasp on the Squad as things fell apart (Flag losing his mind, the Squad being outed to the public amidst a Senator being murdered, various missions that didn't go well). She could have done more, she knows it, it hurts.
She knows what it's like to lose children. I don't think, though, Amanda was ever afforded the time to be irrational. That can help, when you have the chance to just lash out and not worry about the consequences. I doubt she was after her son's death, and she certainly wasn't after her daughter's, since her husband did lose control, and died seeking vengeance. Amanda was left to pick up the pieces, support her children, hold her family together, alone. She had to stay rational, think clearly about her options, because it was the only way to get through.
It ties into what we (and Father Craemer) learned about her from Mary in issue 30. How after suffering all those setbacks, all the pride she had to swallow to raise her remaining children, she swore she would get power someday, and no - NO ONE - would take it from her. Waller is wonderfully confident in her abilities, with fair justification, but she can also get too obsessed with controlling everything. Trying to do too much means nothing gets done properly. Sometimes she would ease off, listen to those around her (Dr. La Grieve, Flag, Nightshade) and change her mind. Other times, all she can see is the threat to what's she's gathered, and she focuses on control, thinking she can maintain it all alone, ignoring everyone around her, unwilling to trust others' judgment or help, too certain she's the only one capable of handling the problems. Sometimes she's right, but now it's cost her.
The panel I found most interesting was the one in the middle of the bottom row. Amanda sits at her desk, hands folded in front of her, almost like in prayer. Mary and Craemer stand on either side, with their backs to her, but turned so they're looking at her. The three of them and the desk are set against a white background, but with black rushing up from the bottom of the panel to the soles of their feet, and looming over head. The way her shoulders are bowed, you can see Waller feels the weight, and it's as though the other two are all that is keeping it from collapsing on her entirely.
The next panel is a close up of Waller looking at us as she talks about how hard it is to stay rational. The background behind her is now completely black, the shadows even encroaching on her. It makes me think Amanda is holding her grief at bay because there are others present, that desire to maintain control, to be strong for others overriding everything else. But it's close now, the point where even her considerable reserves aren't going to be enough, and she's going to have to do something.
Which, of course, she does over the next two issues, as the Squad got shaken up in a big way and had to change how it operated. Which you know about if you've read the series, and if you haven't, I'm not going to spoil that for you.
* Written by John Ostrander and Kim Yale, John K. Snyder III credited with breakdowns, Todd Klein as letterer, Carl Gafford as colorist. He isn't credited as such, but I assume Geof Isherwood handled finishes, since his name is next after Snyder's.