It’s been a few months since I have seen and wrote about Suicide Squad. I admit that with the passage of time I have grown to appreciate it on its own merits even if I have some reservations about things. I see it as a popcorn flick that can be enjoyed so long as you turn off your brain. I still think Jared Leto’s Joker was a wanna be kingpin who defanged the character by portraying him as this love sick boyfriend. That being said, it has its saving graces and I can enjoy it on its own merits.
I didn’t think about it until today when I picked up #12. Let me start with the cover.
I got the Frank Cho variant.
First off, I applaud artists who stand up for their beliefs. I am specifically referring to the Wonder Woman cover controversy where it turns out that there was this big brouhaha about how Frank Cho was drawing the character. This reached a peak when it came to a cover that showed a little bit of Wondy’s undies.
In my opinion, the cover wasn’t bad. Personally, I think that Frank got a shit pled on him because he has a penis. All in all, the variant that supposedly caused all this wasn’t bad at all. Now granted, there are times when things are so gratuitous they need to be called out, i.e. Milo Manara’s Spider Woman cover.
Before I get dog piled by anyone who lacks reading skills, I thought I should point out some facts about me: I am
- Biologically female
- Working class
- I come from a family who immigrated here from a third world country
- Privileged in the sense in that my parents took night classes which helped me in elementary school in that I didn’t have to go to ESL.
If a female artist had drawn the character in a far more crass way, the ‘feminists’ would be finger banging themselves over this and tweeting about how ‘subversive’ it is. I just wanted to give a shot out to Frank Cho.
Anywho, the cover. I actually like it even though I disagree with the notion of Joker and Harley as ‘equals’. When I say that, I am saying that Joker and Harley are equal in terms of their popularity and output. They are both equally recognizable on merch, toys, and t-shirts. Even kids in pre-K know who she is. Ten years ago, that would not have happened.
I do not think that they are equals in terms of power dynamics.
Whenever Joker wants something from Harley, he usually has another motive behind it. That or he knows that she will do it for him readily. There was a quote that I saw months ago on a site that stated perfectly that ‘Joker’s ‘love’ for Harley is always on HIS terms. It is always on loan and he will take it away’.
Even though I believe this, I really liked this cover. The Joker is the one in pain while Harley is having a giggle to herself. It can be assumed that she wanted to get back at him. The Batman shaped snow man covering a hydrant is something that she would come up with. I can totally see her telling Joker. “Come on, Mistah J. Why doncha take out yer frustrations on this Snow Bat I made?”
I really like this cover because it reminds me of the B:TAS dynamics. Harley in her own subtle way gets back at Joker for being a big meanie and we the audience get a laugh at his expense. It’s a totally believable scenario.
Between the covers, I am not so sure.
In the second chapter of ‘Joker loves Harley: The Good…The Bad…and the Hungry”, we see Red Tool confronting Joker in a beach boardwalk. As I read this, I had to remind myself that maybe those people at the beach think that Joker and Red Tool are cosplayers or those people you see in Hollywood Boulevard/Coney Island.
In the previous issue, I noted how I think a Joker who is serious is deadly and far more scary than when he is making quips that are jus wrong. It’s a change of pace. It continues here. Joker only makes a quip ONCE and it’s only when he accuses Red Tool of ‘drugging innocent women’ which he says to rattle him. Other than that, the rest of the time, he doesn’t do anything. Joker plays it straight. Too straight. He doesn’t even have an escape route and he just lets Red Tool beat him up. Now that I think about maybe it was preplanned in an attempt to get close to Harley again (for his own nefarious purposes) but even I was like ‘Really?’ I didn’t get a hint of any second/third/fourth plans. I wasn’t surprised in anyway. I just saw someone’s ex let the new guy beat him up. I really want to believe that Joker has some complex plan that I can’t see and that this was all intentional but I wasn’t too optimistic the further I read.
As Red Tool is giving him a beat down, we are also treated to some of his flashbacks. This was the part where I couldn’t help but crack up. Mind you, it wasn’t in a ‘This is amusing and cute’ sort of way, more of a ‘This pandering is a riot!’ way. We see flashbacks from Joker’s perspective. They were like the ones Harley had in SS with domestic bliss and all that.
“I miss the blind devotion”
“Can’t we just have a civil conversation?”
“Let’s discuss our future”
I really did not need to see that sex scene. I just had dinner.
Since when does Joker care about equality? He is a certified asshole with his own agenda. Who has no regard for other’s feelings. That is when the ghost of ‘Suicide Squad’ came back to me.
Fortunately, the saving grace for me came when Harley finally came along not completely falling for Joker’s words. First she humiliates him by tying him with a sign that says ‘Brooklyn sucks’. In true Harley style, she really lets him have it. At the same time, I wasn’t too keen on Joker being the butt of a lame ‘joke’ but this is Harley’s revenge fantasy so anything is fair game considering how he has treated her. I also felt it was a bit much.
I love it when Harley stands up to Joker but not at the expense of making him look like a cuck. This is why I prefer them being apart from one another for as long as possible. They are both equally fascinating characters as individuals. I don’t like seeing Joker reduced to one half of a whole when he has been portrayed brilliantly for over seventy five years. Likewise, I don’t like Harley being reduced to a masturbatory fantasy. I am old enough to remember when it was mostly guys who were doing this. Now, I noticed that it’s mostly young women who are defending this and honestly, it is kind of depressing.
I don’t like talking about my personal life but all I will say is that two of my favorite books are “Lolita” by Nabokov and the “Killing Joke”. Both of these books have themes ‘should’ be trigger for me. I say this because I have no problem looking at sensitive material. I don’t believe in censorship. Likewise, I cannot stand the sexualization of something that is very real to a lot of people. I grew up in a dysfunctional environment with an emotionally abusive ‘parent’. I didn’t come to this realization until fairly recently when I analyzed my own behaviors and history. When my own family members confirmed some things for me, I felt a weight being lifted off my shoulders. This is why Harley is one of my favorite characters. She is a survivor. She is optimistic in spite of all the bull shit she went through.
To me, that is far more emotionally engaging than the tired narrative of them being a ‘dysfunctional couple’ who ‘need’ each other.
I loved the scene in HQ #25 because it was a culmination of what Harley had felt for years. In other times when she gets back at Joker, it is usually done with a comedic brush. It wasn’t meant to be taken as seriously. #25 was different because you genuinely saw the hurt, the rage, the pain that Harley lived and she let it out. She was angry for all of us. I saw it as the child finally standing up to the abusive parent.
“But she is not supposed to be a role model! She is not Wonder Woman!” When did anyone say that? I seriously think now that whenever I see anyone use this argument they are justifying their own issues. Harley will never go completely rogue and likewise, she will never join the side of the good guys. She has elements of both. This is what makes her unique. It’s nice to see that Harley is not completely falling for his tricks and that she has plans of her own. This was a breath of fresh air. I just wished that I had seen some hint of Joker not looking like a complete idiot.
In brief, I recommend HQ #12 if you want to see Harley Quinn kicking butt, as per usual.
If you are a fan of Joker as a solo character, steer clear.
I am cautiously optimistic. This is just my opinion and I could be wrong but I do believe that Conner and Palmiotti want Harley to function on her own. Given the popularity of her and The Joker, I wouldn’t be surprised if this arc came down from the higher ups. I also noticed that Dini will be writing some Harley back up stories and based on some of the previews I have read, they will be Joker/Harley centric. I do think that they are all good writers who are capable of writing brilliant stories. I just didn’t want to revisit that dynamic so soon.