Before you target something like the Justice League, you need to get in a few “practice swings.” For Task Force X, that means a trip to Gotham City. Your Major Spoilers review of Suicide Squad: Kill Arkham Asylum! #1 from DC Comics awaits!
SUICIDE SQUAD: KILL ARKHAM ASYLUM! #1
Writer: John Layman
Artist: Jesus Hervas
Colorist: David Baron
Letterer: Andworld Design
Editor: Katie Kubert
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: February 6, 2024
Previously in Suicide Squad: Kill Arkham Asylum!: Amanda Waller has taken control of the recently rebuilt Arkham Asylum, and her brutal tactics and merciless methods have led to the most secure facility Gotham has ever known. But when the cell doors open, and the inmates are left in a free-for-all deathmatch, Waller’s true intentions reveal themselves: identify the strongest, smartest, and most brutal to serve her on Task Force X.
AN ENVIRONMENT OF MAXIMUM AGITATION AND AGGRESSION
ln a newly rebuilt Arkham Asylum (that is somehow still designed as a sprawling gothic haunted house), a prisoner transfer is underway, bringing Mr. Zsasz, King Shark, and a few others to their new, horrible home. The A.R.G.U.S. operation is interrupted by The Batman, arriving with Killer Shark and a warning to try and KEEP him this time. The Batman is surprised to find that the newly elected Mayor Gordon isn’t in charge of the facility, instead, it falls under the aegis of the federal government, specifically Amanda Waller. Waller revels in her cruelty, mocking the expectation that the cells are ever cleaned, making personal attacks on Gordon, Batman, and the inmates, and allowing Killer Shark and Mr. Zsasz to get into a scuffle. Granted, said scuffle consists of Zsasz shooting off his mouth and Nanaue biting off Zsasz’s head, but it’s still a problem. Worst of all is Gordon’s parlay with Harley Quinn, wherein he gets Harley’s opinion, then asks to talk to Doctor Quinzel, who details the various illegal, immoral, and inhuman practices of the new Arkham.
And then, during a worldwide moment of crisis, the cell doors come unlocked…
JUST UNRELENTINGLY UNPLEASANT
As someone who has not played the various Arkham video game titles, this exposure to the mythos has convinced me that I don’t need to. From the very first page, this book is just plain disturbing, taking great joy in the most brutal aspects of the story. The guards are ready to kill the prisoners, Waller outright says that she has no interest in the health or welfare of her criminal charges, and I stopped counting the human rights violations and war crimes before Harley Quinn had her first line. There is something compelling about the art in this issue, but it, too, is unrelentingly dark and ugly. Amanda Waller is actually drawn as more inhuman and uglier than King Shark, while Batman is an eight-foot-tall, armored dreadnaught with a permanent scowl and an impossible cape. The coloring is actually quite remarkable, especially when it comes to the lighting effects of the transparent cells, and a sequence of Killer Croc waking up and getting dropped by Batman is vividly done, with the coloring doing a lot of heavy lifting for the story.
BOTTOM LINE: NOT FOR ME, AT ALL
Having not played Batman: Arkham Games or any of the previous Rocksteady titles, I expected to be out of my element, but Suicide Squad: Kill Arkham Asylum! #1 is a complete horror show, bleak and populated with all-too-human monsters, with muddy art that tries to join the video game experience to a more traditional comic book story, with mixed results that end up at 2 out of 5 stars overall. If the darkness, death, and grinding, endless nihilism are your bag, this may be the book for you, but when a shark-monster beheading a serial killer is the most comedic part of the comic book, I’m out.
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SUICIDE SQUAD: KILL ARKHAM ASYLUM! #1
In a story that revels in human rights violations, random decapitations, and just plain old blood-thirst, there are multiple editor's notes advising you to play an entire video game for context, which was my breaking point.