Here's the short of it: "It's a Brian Azzarello prison comic with Alex Maleev art that's par for the course." If you've been reading DC Comics for more than a few years, you can already discern whether Suicide Squad: Get Joker is up your alley or not. If not, both of those names merit discussion beyond a single paragraph, even if I'm about to argue their best work is readily available elsewhere. This is a comic grabbing at headlines on the debut eve of James Gunn's The Suicide Squad, but it's still an alright read.
The pitch is Red Hood (a.k.a. Jason Todd) finds himself imprisoned and therefore enrolled in Amanda Waller's Suicide Squad. He is first tasked with leading a team—primarily consisting of also-ran's and never-were's as well as Harley Quinn—to assassinate Joker in the middle of Gotham City. It sounds like a fun enough time with plenty of killable characters to really indulge that "Black Label" stamp. Unfortunately, the fun times never really materialize as even a few final bloody pages are more eyebrow-raising than thrilling.
The introductions, before any violence commences in the 48-page issue's back half, provide a very specific form of genre enjoyment as low-level creeps and sociopaths are placed in hostile environments together. Red Hood's introduction provides all of the context an unfamiliar reader might need, complete with an effective splash from Maleev, as he is shanghaied into the Squad. Azzarello's dialogue remains quippy enough to cloak the exposition and it quickly leads to prison where the writer lingers in territory he previously relished in comics like Hellblazer and 100 Bullets. It's not difficult to imagine a different series in which Jason Todd terrorizes the metahuman yard as though this were a season arc from Oz, but that's a comic for better realities.
Instead, readers are treated to many mid-range panels of largely unknown supervillains with names that inform readers they're unlikely to stick around. (Although it is reassuring to see Azzarello engage with some self-awareness and -restraint regarding a new Black character) Matt Hollingsworth varies each sequence with distinct backgrounds, even as many remain in similar (i.e. cold and gray) surroundings, and Maleev provides those characters with clear body acting and excellent framing. There are few moments that provide any visual thrills until around the moment Harley Quinn is holding a gun to someone's head backed by neon lighting, and until then watching folks like Wild Dog talk politics sometimes still feels like a chore.
As a fan of those Azzarello series mentioned earlier, I don't mind those pages much—there's nostalgia here. What bothers me is how the final few pages of this comic undermine the gritty, realistic, and cutthroat tone it spends its entirety establishing. The logical questions raised by multiple actions in short sequence, all of them seemingly out of character even within the narrow confines of this issue, left me curious as to whether I wanted to read the next issue.
I'm quite aware I will, though, as I remain a very interested reader of all the folks making it. Even if the choices don't quite cohere in this debut, nobody needs a strong narrative foundation to make a great comic. The best moments of Suicide Squad: Get Joker #1 are also at the end as bodies hit the floor and members of the team showcase their personalities alongside any abilities. It becomes interesting as events grow more chaotic and both Maleev and Hollingsworth excel at drawing readers through these sequences in quick order. As much as this issue dawdled on its way to an obviously bloody mission, if what follows is simply that mission in all of its bloody nature, then there's a lot of promise to still be had.
Published by DC Comics
On August 3, 2021
Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Alex Maleev
Colors by Matt Hollingsworth0comments
Letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Cover by Alex Maleev