REVIEW: ‘Suicide Squad: Get Joker,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Suicide Squad: Get Joker #1

Suicide Squad: Get Joker #1 is an extended comic published by DC, part of their Black Label imprint. Written by Brian Azzarello with art by Alex Maleev. The colourist is Matt Hollingsworth and the letters are by Jared K. Fletcher. Jason Todd has been arrested and sent to prison. The now public knowledge of him being the Red Hood has painted a target on his back, and he is all too happy to take on the attackers. He slowly finds himself in Belle Reve, where Amanda Waller approaches him with a proposition. She wants to enlist him into Task Force X, the code name for Suicide Squad. Given a team of criminals, monsters and metahumans, his mission is simple: take down the man who killed him.

The concept of the plot is exciting, using the well-known format of the Suicide Squad and adding two brand new elements to the story. Mixing the fantastic plot-building capabilities of Task Force X with the lore of Red Hood is a perfect match. This comic is over double the size of a standard book, and Azzarello balances this pacing well. It moves like a movie, the space within the book allowing for more time given to conversations and tension. There is equal parts of action with suspense and pieces of a thriller. Any comic featuring Red Hood’s nemesis is bound to have incredible twists and turns, and Suicide Squad: Get Joker #1 features a gigantic one.

The part of the book that doesn’t work very well is the characters and the tone that they exist in. This is a dark, violent comic, which is not a bad thing in itself. The characters chosen are a mixture of villains that the readers may know and some that are much more recent creations. Harley Quinn is the only member of the primary team, but Firefly and Plastique have established enemies of DC’s most famous heroes. But the dialogue that the others are given falls short. Wild Dog is presented as a racist Trump supporter, often making bigoted comments to the other members of the team. Whilst it is made clear that he’s an awful person, the constant inclusion of his word balloons leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Meanwhile, Pebbles’ and Silver Banshee’s dialogue verges on insensitive.

There is little levity within Suicide Squad: Get Joker #1, and the character choices have a large impact on that. In the main book, you have comedians like Captain Boomerang or bizarre characters such as Killer Croc. Even Deadshot, a ruthless killer, has a dry wit that lifts the mood for even a second. There are those in this comic that can add that Harley being the optimum choice, but instead it just had a depressing tone throughout. Attempts at humour may result in the reaction being disgust more than anything. What’s more, whilst the characters included are cool, they aren’t given many moments to show off what makes them awesome in the first place. That will certainly happen later in the series, but in a 50+ page book, it might be expected to be shown sooner.

The art is provided by a master of this genre. Maleev is incredible at the dark and shady atmosphere. The artist knows when to depict characters with clarity and when to add mystery. In the prison cell, the shadows of the bars fill the room. It makes the scene claustrophobic, showing how limited Red Hood’s options are. But there are also times, such as when the characters are about to disembark on their mission, where the panels are more spacious. There are fantastic, intricate details on the costumes of the characters, but the lines on their faces are very clean and clear. This allows for precise, powerful facial expressions. The fight scenes and the violence that comes with it are very intense. With bullets flying through the air, it highlights the chaos of the situation.

Hollingsworth brilliantly balances the tone of the comic with the inescapable fact that this is a superhero comic. The prison, Gotham, the vehicles are grimy and dull, greys and browns occupying much of the scenery. But the costumes that the characters wear are vibrant and rich. This means that they are always standing out when the Squad is in the panel. The use of lighting is superb too, headlights and torches cutting a swathe through the shadows. What is a shame is that Red Hood lacks his traditional helmet in this comic. This is more of a negative towards the art, but seeing the stunning red of the mask in this setting would have been perfect.

The lettering is exceptionally well used. In many of their uses, the SFX are small and accentuate the action instead of getting in the way But they are also used in clever and unique ways too. In one instance, the outline of the word is used as the shape of the panel itself. It should be mentioned that there is uncensored swearing in this comic. Bizarrely, for a few pages, the curse words are replaced with symbols in the traditional format of comics. Presumably, this is for promotional purposes so that early pages can be publicised.

Suicide Squad: Get Joker #1 lacks the charm that other Squad books possess. The setup for the story is brilliant and Azzarello’s storytelling is undeniable. However, the characters aren’t doing anything to capture the attention. Even a delightful presence such as Harley is cold and forgettable. It is entirely possible to have a mature, violent book that isn’t utterly depressing. There is excitement in these pages, and the action will certainly bring in its fair share of readers, but it may be too grim for others to pick up the next chapter.

Suicide Squad: Get Joker #1 is available where comics are sold.

Suicide Squad: Get Joker #1
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TL;DR

Suicide Squad: Get Joker #1 lacks the charm that other Squad books possess. The setup for the story is brilliant and Azzarello’s storytelling is undeniable. However, the characters aren’t doing anything to capture the attention. Even a delightful presence such as Harley is cold and forgettable. It is entirely possible to have a mature, violent book that isn’t utterly depressing. There is excitement in these pages, and the action will certainly bring in its fair share of readers, but it may be too grim for others to pick up the next chapter.