Suicide Squad: Get Joker was written by Brian Azzarello, of Joker fame, with art by Alex Maleev. The colours are by Matt Hollingsworth, who you may remember from Batman: White Knight, and letters by Jared K. Fletcher.
What do you need to have read?
The good news is that SS: Get Joker is a Black Label story. This means that it does not require any additional reading, as the story is self-contained. If you’re asking for recommendations then you should check out Batman: Under the Red Hood for some great Red Hood content, and maybe Mad Love for the Joker/Harley relationship tea. However, as I have already said, everything you need to know is explained in the book itself.
What do you need to know?
The first issue of a self-contained story is the perfect time to jump in, so grab your copy and let’s discuss.
Before we get into the issue proper, I want to tell you a story. Once upon a time, Victoria was sitting in the cinema thoroughly enjoying The Suicide Squad, wishing that she could go home and read some Suicide Squad comics. Little did she remember that she had already subscribed to this one because the cover art looked awesome. And the cherry on top? That Jason Peter Todd plays a big part in this story. Sometimes good things do happen to good people.
The issue starts with my main man Jason Todd, so I knew right from the kick-off it was going to be a good time. And I was right. If you don’t know Jason’s story, then we get a little recap of his history. Used to be Robin. Killed by the Joker. Brought back to life. All that good stuff. It’s nice and concise and leans heavily on the art to get the message across. If you do already know the story, then it doesn’t feel like wasted page space. Brian Azzarello captures Jason’s voice very quickly and establishes well-deserved sympathy for his character. The fact that he begins the story by establishing these emotional beats suggests that he is planning on hitting hard, and I am here for it. Along with establishing these emotional beats we’re also shown two additional important pieces of information. The first is that there is corruption within the GCPD (shocking to absolutely no one), and the second is that Jason is currently serving time at Belle Reve.
Belle Reve is a prison that is often used in Suicide Squad stories. You may have seen it in either Suicide Squad (2016) or The Suicide Squad (2021), and it’s usually where the criminal members of the squad are serving their sentences. It is interesting to note that this is where Jason is serving time as it implies that he is a high-security prisoner. I’m not arguing with this categorisation, because I do think that Jason is highly trained and can be dangerous, but it provides a nice contrast with the emotion of his backstory which we’ve just read. There was a lovely pair of panels in which Jason spoke about his father, Bruce Wayne, and referred to Alfred as a mother. It was very touching to read, and just to know that he did consider himself to be a part of a family at one point in his life.
This image of an arguably idealised past contrast with his present. When Jason is told he has a visitor, it is not who he expected.
“Huh, I was wondering if he’d show up […] Nobody. Just a friend.
It hurts to know that Bruce hasn’t been to visit his son, and it hurts to know that Jason wants him to visit. Jason refers to Bruce as a friend, rather than family, or more specifically his father. This could be because he is hiding his past, and part of his identity since Jason Todd technically dies. But it could also be that he no longer considers Bruce to be his father. On top of that, you may also want to argue that this shows a lot of progress for his character in comparison to their reunion in Batman: Under the Red Hood. That toxic animosity no longer seems present. I really hope that we do get to see Bruce and Jason together in this series, just to get a read on their relationship. Sure, he hides behind this dry sense of humour that pervades his dialogue, but at the end of the day, he’s just a scared little boy.
As Amanda Waller, Jason’s visitor broaches the subject of Task Force X, the official name of the Suicide Squad, I want to draw your attention to the use of shadows.
That’s right they make the shape of X-s over the characters. Hopefully, this is referencing Task Force X, rather than foreshadowing their deaths. It also hammers home how trapped these characters are. Jason is trapped physically in the cell, and psychologically by his past with Joker. Waller is also trapped by the fact that she must use these people to save the day.
Since we’re on the subject of art, let’s talk about the art in this book as a whole. I really really like it. In contrast with the electric feel of the cover, the panels feel more old school, and I like how it looks like drawings, rather than digitally rendered. A lot of this issue uses warm tones which, to me, suggests an emotionally driven story that excites me greatly. The use of shadows to create even more emotion is also done very well so that you feel what a character is feeling rather than just seeing an emotion on their face.
We are introduced to our Suicide Squad in a manner not dissimilar to the movies. The line-up includes Jason, Firefly, Silver Banshee, Pebbles, Meow Meow, Plastique, Wild Dog, Yonder Man, and the one, the only, inimitable Harley Quinn. I don’t know these characters, other than Jason and Harley, aka the team-up I never knew I needed. Much like with the films you learn what you need to know as you go along. This gives the writers a chance to reveal these characters in interesting ways. But we learn that they’ve been on the Suicide Squad in the past, and the dynamic between them is borderline hostile.
In case you haven’t guessed from the title, the mission is to get Joker. Jason Todd and Harley Quinn have more reason than most to want him out of the picture. They embark on their mission where their creepy contact, Toyman, leads them to a bar where they are ambushed by Russians. Jason gets the chance to prove that he does have a moral compass, as he refuses to leave without saving Harley. This drives us as reader to care for Jason, if we don’t already, that is. The ambush leads him to believe that Waller has a mole.
If you know Waller, then her keeping her cards close to her chest is nothing new. However, I wasn’t expecting Joker’s goons to kill her in the first issue. We find out that the Russians are paying Joker to do what he does best and cause chaos. During this murder, there is a very interesting connection to Anthony Burgess’ Clockwork Orange. The goons are dressed like Alex’s gang in the book (or in the film adaptation), and they even speak using the slang invented in the book. This reference strengthens the Russian connection as the slang, Nadsaat, is influenced by the Russian language. Other than that, I’m not entirely sure why this is so heavily referenced, but I am excited to find out. Even thinking about it is making me want to reread A Clockwork Orange and consider how the Joker might play into its themes.
The important thing to note about Waller’s death is that Joker is now in possession of the box, which means he can detonate the bombs in the necks of the Suicide Squad at will. Just to prove his point we end the issue with the death of Firefly. He does not die quickly, nor does he die off-page. Apparently burning to death from the inside is not a peaceful way to go.
Overall, I think this book has a brilliant balance of set-up and action, which has me super excited for the next issue. I want more of Jason and Harley, and I need to see them confront the Joker. I enjoyed every minute of this book, and hope that it continues to be something that I’ll be looking forward to every issue.
Coming Soon… Captain America: The Winter Soldier, #1-3