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‘Suicide Squad: Get Joker! #1-3’ (review)

Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Alex Maleev
Published by DC Comics

 

Oh, Brian Azzarello.

He seems content to stay in his comfort zone of hard-boiled, super-masculine storytelling of doom and gloom.

But we’re so far away from 100 Bullets, and folks seem content to only remember Cliff Chiang’s awesome art during Azzarello’s controversial New 52 run on Wonder Woman. And Suicide Squad: Get Joker! won’t change my mind on him.

Namely, I don’t think Azzarello shows a strong handle on these characters.

Any of them.

When you consider that we’ve had a pile of comics, two feature films and a few cartoons about Amanda Waller’s covert government project, anyone who picks this up would have some basic idea of how a Suicide Squad story needs to go. Among them, solid characterization of each team member. A writer has to both ladle enough bits of personality on the secondary/cannon fodder characters of a Task Force X lineup to keep things interesting, while digging into the main characters who will drive the plot and themes.

Get Joker! has the potential for a great hook and themes.

Jason Todd – the second Robin, murdered by Joker, brought back to life, and now operating as Red Hood – is doing a stir in prison and is approached by Waller to kill Joker. That’s a killer hook, right? (I’m guessing this Black Label story takes place in a continuity where the events of Under the Red Hood never happened.)

Think of all the themes that dredges up for Jason, a man basically operating by trauma at all times. There’s his traumatic childhood as a kid on the streets, his reckless career as Robin, his abandonment issues that played a role in Joker killing him, and his path of vigilante killings so numerous Waller says he could be a serial killer.

But does this series get into Jason’s head enough to get at whether he actually wants to kill Joker? Or if he thinks it would mean anything? Or whether he blames Batman for letting Joker live? Nope! Does it get into the theme that Jason is his own ghost story? Nope.

We also are subjected to most flat rendition of Harley Quinn that I’ve ever seen, plus a pretty humiliating sequence in a strip club, meant to show the abusive nature of Harley and Joker’s relationship, that feels deeply unnecessary except to make the plot happen.

So much of Task Force X in this story follows Harley’s flatness: Silver Banshee, Plastique, Firefly, Wild Dog, Pebbles (a super-soldier experiment), Meow Meow (a necrotic monster within the form of a small Asian woman) and Yonder Man (a teleporter) are a collection of sneers and edgy comments. Silver Banshee’s, at least, are done in a series of “fooks” for her Irish accent. (Sigh.)

Oh, I also should mention that for a Black Label comic, the cusses are censored. So why the $%&! Do you even bother with the Black Label imprint, then? You can’t have it both ways, including that there are some wickedly gruesome deaths in this.

There’s a lot of gun play and chasing, which goes well enough in the first issue with a pretty nice cliffhanger. It doesn’t go much of anywhere in the second issue, however. But we do get a trolling Joker dressed as Alex from A Clockwork Orange and doing a bit where he shoots the beach tide.

A third-issue twist feels like the plot ran out of runway, and Azzarello just pads out the issue with double-crosses and chases and an abrupt ending for a subdued Joker who appears ready to die in the most blasé fashion. The surprise appearances of certain, more famous Task Force X baddies don’t amount to much here because they don’t even speak.

And forget it if you think, with all the chaos happening in Gotham City, that Batman would appear. Because he doesn’t.

This isn’t to say the writing doesn’t have its moments.

An exchange where Yonder Man, who is white, quizzes Pebbles, who is Black, on why he doesn’t have “Black” in his code name is solid enough, and it builds on an even better joke around a weed break. Or when a member of Waller’s team is taken aback by how Jason calls their costumes, costumes.

Alex Maleev’s art comes well recommended if you like his style. Everyone looks rugged, their costumes look lived in, and he achieves the grittiness and grimey textures you want in the exploitation-flavored Suicide Squad franchise. I don’t think Maleev is the best at fluid action, however, and this series has a lot of it.

So I’d say skip this one, folks, and go read Gail Simone’s run on the comics, and then watch Birds of Prey, The Suicide Squad and Peacemaker again.

Grade: C-

 

 

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