It was inevitable that Joker and Harley would reunite after that infamous break up in ‘Joker’s Last Laugh’ in the first volume. It is impossible given the popularity of Suicide Squad, despite what you may have personally thought of it. From a personal perspective, I would rather Harley stay away from the clown. I like Harley because she is a survivor. She is complex because she has grown. She has made some very big mistakes, admits she has regrets and has grown past them. She doesn’t let her past define her. One of the reasons why I love Palmiotti and Connor’s vision of the character is that she doesn’t wallow in self pity nor is she written as this ‘unapologetic edgy bad ass’ who basic people who have no full understanding of the damage try to aspire to be. She doesn’t ‘own’ her flaws like jewelry. She moves past it, or she tries too.
Her optimism is infectious. Likewise, I prefer Joker on his own. He doesn’t need to be one half of a whole or play house husband to someone when he has functioned well on his own. It was funny on B:TAS when Joker couldn’t find his socks. But I admit, seeing them interact on a different level was sort of surprising.
From a business perspective, Joker and Harley will always be linked. Not all the time but on beach towels, games and even in the comics. I trust that the writers stick to their guns and aren’t writing this because of the immense popularity of the pairing due to Suicide Squad. A part of me thinks that this is a response to that but I trust Conner and Palmiotti to work their magic. It is pretty obvious where they stand on this but it’s nice to see what people can create outside of their comfort zones.
Okay, onto the review:
Joker was last teased at the end of #9. #10 was a Christmas issue which…I’ll touch upon at some point. If memory serves me correctly, there is an event going on the DCU Rebirth that was revealed way back in Batman #1 that there were three Jokers running around. This was seen again in this week’s issue of Injustice Ground Zero #3. Personally, I am not a fan of this. I can see ‘why’ they would do this. Given his seventy year plus history, Joker has evolved a lot. In his first appearance, he was portrayed as a killer who barely smiled. I think this is the version that P/C wrote here.
Joker is uncharacteristically calm when we first see him. In the first page, he is sitting quietly petting Harley’s weiner dog, Nathan. (Oh you two cheeky bastiches!). John Timm’s art is a treat to look at. His Joker is very box looking. Some people have complained about this but it stood out to me because it sort of reminded me of Miller’s version in The Dark Knight Returns. I think this Joker is supposed to be a mix between Miller’s and the 1940s killer psychopath. He is unusually calm as he casually explains to Harley that he just wants to talk. He doesn’t make any quips nor does he have any of that signature ‘camp’ in his demeanor. He even notices that she lives right above a carnival. He notes this like a predator watching its prey.
Personally, I think the Joker is scary when he is calm and serious. You know he is planning something. He is like a Black Widow spider waiting to strike. You feel scared, you feel what Harley is feeling (“What the Hell is he doing here?” “He is invading my safe space!”). This was a complete 180 turn around from how he was written in their last interaction. I wonder what kind of ramifications this has for Harley’s living space. If he knows where she lives, will she move? I am sure P/C have an answer for this.
Even though Harley says and has demonstrated that she is over the clown, it is clear that she has some mixed feelings. That scene where she is gorging on a banana says it all. CaP and Timms could have gone for anything else. When I stress eat, I prefer chili cheese fries.
To further add complications for Harley, there is a sub story (like always) that adds meat to this Harley Quinn hoagie. (I am Californian, we call it a sub but it had alliteration!). There is a new member in the political game, a woman named Madison Berkowitz who is planning on accepting the job as the mayor’s assistant to help clean up the city from people like Harley who she sees as enablers and hustlers hired under the table to do the mayor’s dirty work. I think Madison deserves her own arc but I imagine that she will be a subplot in the next few issues. I hope I am wrong because P/C (CaP?) have a talent for turning side or one dimensional characters into someone you want to know more about.
Finally, I want to touch upon Harley and Red Tool’s bonding time. After the Joker makes his indecent proposal, Harley decides to blow off steam with her newest bestest buddy. Personally when I am feeling tense, I prefer running, doing some gardening, cleaning or listening to some New Wave or Metallica on Pandora. Harley likes to go to places she knows are off limits. She needs something to break. Hey, everyone needs to blow off steam. Harley remember a door that had chains upon chains. It stood out to her like the big red button that said ‘DO NOT TOUCH’ with a wood arrow pointing to it. I noticed that the chains and grenades holding this door together almost look like a Pentagram. Could Madame Macabre be dabbling in some mysterious black arts that will be explored later on? She has certainly been one of the more mysterious characters in the whole series. Other than being Mason’s mother and owner of the Exhibit on the First Floor, we don’t know much about her. I think it would be cool that the comic can have someone who does magic. Batman has Zatanna and Ras al Ghul. I guess there are too many possibilities of Harley doing magic and they are holding off on that for now. Plus, the book is full of surrealism and zaniness that it really isn’t necessary.
On the topic of surrealism and getting back on topic, Red Tool and Harley find out that there is this gelatinous being locked inside. Chaos ensues and they both go home smelling like grape Jell-O. I think this scene was done to showcase John Timm’s ability to draw something way out of the ordinary. He passed with flying colors.
I am calling it now but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is where Madison Berkowitz ends up at the end of the arc.
10/10. A fun combo of fun, seriousness and pretty art. CaP have given Harley her own mythology. It’s no wonder she is up there with the Dark Knight himself in terms of popularity and impact.