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 Suicide Squad, led by Jason Todd, is on a mission to kill Joker. Seems straightforward, right? Until Joker kills Amanda Waller after is now in possession of a device with control of the explosives planted in the skulls of the squad. Now he controls the strings.
The issue seems to start with the Joker’s point of view, and his narration. The colour palette of these panes is very cold, to go with the sparseness of the location. It leads us to ask questions about the Joker’s mental psychology and how that is reflected in this imagery. The sparseness of this imagery could be seen to reflect the Joker’s lack of “normal” emotion such as love (which is clearly seen through his relationship with Harley Quinn in Mad Love). It’s also in contrast to the manic traits that we often associate with the Joker. It suggests that this iteration of the character is potentially saner than other versions. At least in the sense that, to me, it suggests that this is a more meticulous Joker, rather than just doing things for the ‘joke’ of it.
In contrast to the colouring of these panels, we have the Suicide Squad’s panels which use a lot of pinks. This is a colour that is typically used to convey emotion, particularly high-intensity emotions such as love. It acts as a reminder that given everything that has happened, the repeated threats to their lives, there is a lot of high emotion coursing through the group right now. Even the mission of ‘getting’ Joker is weighted with emotion because of Jason and Harley’s respective relationships with the man.
As the Joker walks through this desolate place, he tells us that something is coming (cue the West Side Story score) and that it is relentless as the tide. To me, this sounds like it’s something outside of his control, of anyone’s control, which is interesting.
In a similar vein of apocalyptical thinking, Jason’s inner monologue is talking about the abyss. Immediately we should be making the connection between Jason and Nietzsche.
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
This connection is very important because it says a lot about Jason Todd, and about his up brining by Bruce. Mainstream iterations of Bruce, or Batman, is known for sticking to his principles, and no-killing code despite the darkness of Gotham’s criminal underworld. Why does he do this? Because he doesn’t want to become that which he’s fighting against. When Jason returns to Gotham as Red Hood (Batman: Under the Red Hood), one of the reasons he’s so antagonistic towards Batman is because the Joker is still alive. Jason’s beliefs are now very different to his father, and he is not afraid of killing criminals. He is not afraid of becoming a monster if it means destroying other monsters. I love that Nietzsche is being referenced here because it reminds us of this chasm that separates Jason from his father, and from the rest of the BatFamily. In the previous issue I mentioned wanting to see some one-page interaction between Jason and Bruce, and I just want to reiterate that. Fingers crossed for the next issue.
After the excitement of Nietzsche, my enjoyment of the issue went a little downhill. It gets incredibly jumpy as we move from Joker on a beach, to the Squad on the beach, to Waller’s apartment, back to the beach in quick succession. I found it had to follow and very confusing. Even when we stay in one location, it flashes between moments as though it’s a collection of vignettes. For instance, we see Meow Meow and Banshee talking, and then suddenly Meow Meow is playing basketball with Pebbles. After how much I enjoyed the first issue I was poised to enjoy this one, and then it goes as does silly things like this. I know that the team involved are far too experienced to be making messy work like this.
The plot picks up again towards the end (though from my point of view the damage is done) as Joker invites/orders them to a strip club. He forced Harley to do a stripper routine, and she magically appears in a skimpy bikini. Now, this is not the first time we’ve seen Joker degrade Harley, but it’s not usually sexual, so this felt a little out of place. From my perspective, Joker is not sexually attracted to Harley and never has been. Does he seduce her? Absolutely. But he seduced her with the purpose of getting out of Arkham, not because of his own sexual desires. If we look at Mad Love when Harleen transforms into Harley Quinn, she dresses in an outfit that covers everything. That’s not to say that this is not a sexy outfit, but it’s not revealing in the same way that this outfit is. All this to say that this felt out of place, and not consistent with the character of the Joker
Mad Dog slips her some cash along with a razor blade. That’s right things are getting interesting, and since this is Black Label anything can happen, we could actually kill the Joker. When she gets the blade between her teeth I got so excited. And then all she does is draw a line across his throat with the blade. This could’ve, should’ve, would’ve been awesome. I can practically see how insane those panels could have looked. Which leaves us with the question, what did this whole scene achieve, other than to see Harley in a ‘sexy’ outfit? And in 2021, Harley is so much more than just a sexy sidekick. We. Can. Do. Better.
The Joker was fine, after this little scrape, and a big fight follows, when in walks… another suicide squad?
This issue is messy, and not in a fun chaotic way, but more in terms of plot, structure, and the important things you need to tell a cohesive story. From a reader’s standpoint, it felt like the deadline was looming and they just had to turn something in. I’m not sure what else I can say about it. It felt like filler, but I’m hoping the next issue will redeem the series.
Coming Soon… Captain America: The Winter Soldier, #4-7