10th Aug2021

‘Suicide Squad: Get Joker #1’ Review (DC Black Label)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Brian Azarello | Art by Alex Maleev | Published by DC Black Label

Please don’t be a cheap cash-in, please don’t be a cheap cash in. These were my first thoughts when I saw this book announced. Suicide Squad books and merch aplenty I expected, with the critics loving the James Gunn movie, but a glut of books with no merit doesn’t do anyone any good. Having two such high profile creative guys on the book, in the form of Azzarello and Maleev was promising, and having such a wildcard villain as The Joker also looked good. Significantly less worried now, in fact this now looked most definitely kinda’ fun. I’ve been a fan of The Suicide Squad going back to the John Ostrander reboot in the late Eighties, and I have the entire 66 issue run of that, plus the Annual and Special. Later interpretations have been hit and miss, so I’m hoping this one is more the former. Let’s take a look.

If ever there was a ‘hero’ perfectly suited to being in The Suicide Squad it would have to be Jason Todd. He’s been on both sides of that particular costumed fence. Never quite bad enough to be a villain, never quite pure enough to be a hero, he’s a one man grey area. Azzarello’s little monologue/ character history recap at the beginning is actually quite sympathetic, even subtly taking a jab at all those fans who voted to kill of Jason Todd when DC had their infamous phone vote. Jason , the second Robin for those who don’t know, was not liked by fans, who voted to have The Joker kill him. Which he did. Then Jason was back, as The Red Hood. Let’s not go down that rabbit hole though. So, Jason ends up locked up in a few places, before ending up in the infamous Belle Reve Maximum Security Penitentiary.

Belle Reve, of course, is the final resting place of a lot of B and C list villains, which makes it prime hunting ground territory for Amanda Waller when recruiting for her Task Force X, or Suicide Squad if you want to be literal. If Jason though he was a hardass, being in a room with Waller brings a new perspective. I do miss the old, chunkier Waller though, her size made her imposing physically as well as intellectually. The dialogue scene between Jason and Waller in the cell is vintage Azzarello, sizing each other up for weakness, and blocking each verbal jab as it comes their way. With Maleev’s moody visuals, it reminded me a little of Maleev’s work with Bendis on Daredevil. Waller offers Jason a mission, for which he will get his sentence reduced if he survives it. The mission? Kill The Joker. Jason politely declines.

Until he doesn’t. Sit in a cell rotting away, or get a shot at taking down the man who killed you? No brainer. So, Jason’s in, but who’s in his squad? Firefly, supervillain pyromaniac. Silver Banshee, Supergirl villain, great costume. Plastique, Canadian terrorist, formerly Captain Atom’s girlfriend. Sort of. Wild Dog, vigilante ‘hero’. Pebbles, Meow Meow, and Yonder Man all look like suspicious cannon fodder to me, leaving one more recruit. Harley Quinn. Who else? Waller wants the team sent in to Gotham suspiciously quickly, with no training or team bonding. She also seems to have given Harley a different brief to Jason’s. Expect the double cross, I guess, with Waller. Actually, seeing how well the team bonding goes on the helicopter ride to Gotham, it’s just as well they weren’t all put in a room together. Not liking Wild Dog as a far-right insurrectionist though, not the Wild Dog I recognise. Let’s treat him as a fake.

The team’s contact in Gotham is Toyman, even weirder than normal as he’s been avoiding people, who takes them to their rendezvous. It all goes about as well as you would expect. It’s a setup. Someone at Belle Reve, or on the team, is a snitch. Things start to very much remind me of Gail Simone’s Secret Six, which worked in a similar vein. The team barely escape with their lives, only to learn that Waller has been found by The Joker and has been savagely beaten. Even worse? she’s now got the kill switches to all their implanted bombs, as Firefly discovers with a very ironic death. Getting to Joker has now become a question of life or death for all of them.

I really enjoyed this, even though the first half felt like a 0 issue, with a lot of scene setting and exposition. Once it got going, it had a sort of superhero noir feel, lots of great dialogue, action, nice character moments and, of course, a double-cross and a twist. Azzarello writes like he’s having fun and doesn’t put a step wrong, with the exception of fake Wild Dog guy. I’m always a big fan of Alex Maleev, and he does fantastic work here, his grid art style perfectly showcasing his art. Matt Hollingsworth’s colours are also the perfect cherry on top, moody and muted, all shadows and dark corners. Gorgeous stuff. A great set up issue.

This looks like being a killer book. Literally.

**** 4/5


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