What I like about Connor and Palmiotti’s writing style is that they end a story but they have that one little detail at the end that promises something more. For example, the last story arc involved Harley going to Los Angeles to find troubled teen Sparrow Adaro. We were introduced to her and her mother at the end of the Horatio Strong storyline.
I don’t read Harley comics for heavy duty meta. I love the visuals but I read the series to see how Harley solves her problems. I love to see how she grows as a character and how she acts in new situations. The new arc revisits some old characters. Erik Bendemova is the grandson of Zena Bendemova whose met her end when a piece of keratin pierced her stomach. He is rebuilding his nana and wants to take Harley out. We also go back to Mason who is Madame Macabre’s son and one of Harley Quinn’s possible love interests. It turns out that he himself is involved in a takedown and this is shown when the guards do not intervene when he gets a beating.
So many exciting possibilities. These two parts were all action but we also get a touch of character development.
Harley assembles her team of Harleys and while she is giving them the run down she sees that Harlem Harley is holding a Joker plush. Harley asks if she could see it. Harlem Harley is confused and notes that it is just a plush and that she has it because it makes her feel safe. She explains that she thinks it is odd that someone would use a Joker toy as a “protective” shield. Harvey Quinn, the token male henchman of Harley’s crazy bunch asks the leader where, by using the doll, did Joker touch her. She tears the doll’s head off and answers “Here. In my head!”
There have been multiple times where Harley has acknowledged Joker’s less than stellar treatment of her. A lot of the time there is an element of her minimizing his aggression and it is usually laced with humor. At best she glosses over it. Other times she admits that things were not perfect. Here she verbalizes what she feels without apologizing or minimizing.
This is an example of Harley getting triggered and dealing with her anxiety right then and there. I thought it would be appropriate to note that the other day I was reading an article about how university students want more ‘safe spaces’ and want to censor ideas that they don’t like as ‘oppressive’. As someone who has dealt with trauma, I thought that a fictional character’s handling of a past traumatic experience was poignant. She doesn’t hide or deny it. She doesn’t ignore what it was. Most significantly she does not sugar coat it. What makes this specific example of Harley admitting that Joker’s treatment of her was abusive was that she was telling other people that she trusted. It wasn’t just Catwoman or Ivy. It wasn’t the usual Gotham characters but Harley’s own underlings whom she has grown to trust. It stands out here because she is telling people aside from her immediate circle about something very personal in her life.
In a time where triggering and ‘oppressive’ ideas and words are the talk in the media and college campuses, I felt that Harley managing her anxiety was demonstrated powerfully and maturely on part of the creators. As someone who dealt with post traumatic stress, “difficult” personalities within my immediate family, took medication I cannot commend the writers enough for their portrayal on how a character handled themselves when they were triggered. Students of these elite universities should take note. I went to a UC myself. I hope that says something.