3. Copra, the unofficial, unsanctioned Suicide Squad

copra

This is the only comic on this list not published by DC Comics. It's not licensed and not even close to official material, but Copra still stands as one of the best Suicide Squad comics out there. Starting in 2012, Michel Fiffe has been quietly self-publishing the series that has landed on tons of best-of end-of-year lists. It's an indie comic, through and through, and if that's not your thing, you can skip on down to the next entry. But you'd be missing out. 

Though Copra does swipe some character designs and the vague set-up of Suicide Squad, it departs from that franchise in some pretty drastic ways. Whereas Suicide Squad has often been somewhat grounded compared to other superhero comics, Copra isn't afraid to embrace the cosmic horrors of other worlds, dimensions and the gods and monsters therein. Plus, it helps that the action is pretty rad. We're talking rip-a-half-man-half-tank-in-half kind of rad. 

copra

That said, this isn't just a goofy, violent free-for-all. Like the best Suicide Squad comics, Copra treats its characters like flawed human beings instead of simple ruthless mercs. The team takes it to heart when one of their own betrays them, and the quest for revenge has a real emotional thrust behind it. 

copra

Most of these comics are easy enough to find at your local comics shop or Amazon or whatever, but Copra's a special case. The nature of indie publishing means that you gotta grab it directly from the publisher or go digital. A small price to pay for watching a cyborg get torn apart by the bare hands of a human.


4. Harley Quinn's darkest hour

harley quinn comic

So far we haven't featured a whole lot of Harley, in part because she's a relatively new addition to the Suicide Squad -- she first became associated with the group in 2011. And while recent comics have done a good job of moving the character forward, for better or for worse her origin story still relies heavily on her unhealthy infatuation with The Joker. Their relationship still looms large in recent Squad comics, so we should revisit what is arguably the best comics representation of Harley and her Puddin'. 

You might remember "Mad Love" as an episode of the seminal Batman: The Animated Series. Two of the show's creators, Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, based that episode of the cartoon on an original comic one-shot of the same name. Though pretty similar, there were some noticable changes made from the page to the screen. Suffice it to say, it probably would have been a bit harder to get away with implying that Harley slept with her professors to get good grades on kids' afternoon programming.

harley quinn comic

While this is a small scene, it at least shows us that Harleen Quinzel actually existed before the Joker got a hold of her. Of course, the Harley Quinn we all know worships at the altar of a man who doesn't give two shits about her. 

harley quinn comic

You've probably seen this moment posted on the internet a million different times, but it resonates for a reason. Yes, there's the lingerie and there's the sexy motorcycle pun, but these four panels are emblematic of this relationship as a whole. Harley can, will and has done everything she can think of to get the attention of a man who is obsessed with another man. Joker never thinks it prudent to spell out how exactly he hate-loves Batman, but instead punishes his stooge for the crime of wanting attention. 

Joker keeps Harley around for seemingly no reason, like a habit he picked up from nowhere. You might think that it helps for Joker to have someone to talk about his plans with, but then again, he'd probably be scheming aloud even if no one was around. In Mad Love, Joker reminisces about a particular plan that never came to fruition, involving murdering Batman with a swarm of piranhas. 

harley quinn comic

Still ignoring a half-naked Harley, Joker laments that he could never get the piranhas to smile properly, making the plan (apparently?) completely useless. He's so hyper-focused on designing Batman's twisted demise that he doesn't acknowledge the fact that none of his plans have worked, ever -- probably because they relied so heavily on needlessly convoluted pomp and circumstance. 

Harley just wants to help, but she only knows one way how. It's not a solution Joker is interested in. 

harley quinn comic

First it was a nudge off the table, now it's a kick out the door. Cartoony as Harley's face-skid might be, it's still an escalation of violence that it approaching a dangerous crescendo

Harley cares so much about her Puddin' that she becomes determined to see the piranha plan through. After reeling Batman in with a damsel in distress routine, Harley captures Joker's worst enemy and strings him up above a piranha tank. 

harley quinn comic

The trick here is that, since Batman is upside-down, the piranhas will appear as though they're smiling. Harley put her considerable talents to use and came up with a clever solution to Joker's problem. It's obvious she wanted to get an immovable object with clown makeup to notice her -- and ideally, after Batman is dead, Joker will have to find a new playmate.

Harley explains to her future fish food that she did it all for Mr. J, that the two of them have a special connection. Batman laughs in her face, making the (correct) assumption that Joker won Harley over with a fabricated sob story about an abusive father. Even faced with real evidence to the contrary, Harl still believes her Puddin' cares. She thinks Joker will be thrilled to find that his plans have finally been made whole. She was wrong.  

harley quinn comic

First Joker is furious that Harley "interfered with his fun," but when Harley shows she was helping out, Joker then becomes angry about that. Harley doesn't understand that there isn't anything to understand when it comes to Joker. 

When we see the Joker that battles the Dark Knight, we see a twisted psychopath who's absurdity and cruelty is kind of charming in its novelty. But viewed from the perspective of Harley Quinn, we see Joker for who he really is: An irredeemable shitstain who does nothing but abuse and exploit everyone around him. 

For her trouble, Harley gets pushed out a window. 

harley quinn comic

First she was prodded off a table, then she was kicked out the door, and finally Harley Quinn was pushed out a window by the object of her affection. It looks like they were on the fourth floor at the very least; Joker had to have known this might have been a fatal fall, but he did it anyway. Harley is of course alive, but still crestfallen. "I guess I didn't get the joke." Against all reason she still blames herself. 

The most tragic part of the ordeal has to be the ending, when Harley is in the hospital. 

harley quinn comic

What might be a happy ending for Harley is a gutpunch to us; after all that, she's still under the spell of a maniac who will continue to manipulate and violate her until he gets bored. Though Suicide Squad-era Harley is working towards becoming her own person again, this is the baggage she'lll always have to carry along with her.