A new arc begins and we revisit a subplot that began earlier that involves those mysterious beings that the mayor’s assistant hired to ‘take care’ of the homeless problem. Only the Connor and Palmiotti team can take something that serious and give it a spin without watering it down. I live in Los Angeles and this is an issue that is close to me.
In this issue, we see the Police Chief Spoonsdale wants to use Harley as an ‘underworld’ connection to find out what is going on with the homeless population. I really liked that this had a ‘First 48’ feel. Harley agrees to be a decoy to catch the crooks who are kidnapping and possibly killing the city’s vagabond population.
I really liked that the book rolled back on the number of subplots going on. It gives me more pages to absorb and get fully invested. The only side plot we have confirms Harley Sinn who as a bounty hunter who is getting paid to kill Mason Macabre, Harley’s casual fling. I anticipate a very dramatic showdown. Harley Sinn reminds me of those spurned groupies who turn rogue when the object of their fantasies does not turn out to be the person that they wanted. She is clearly an unstable character but Palmiotti and Conner have this ability to flesh out throwaway characters by giving them compelling motivations. Some will argue that it is too convenient that her return coincides with Mason’s reappearance but knowing how good the writing team is at coming up with that little string that ties everything up, I am not worried. I am anticipating this subplot.
We also get a really intriguing scene with Harley meditating. For a character who thrives on chaos, it was a pleasant surprise to see Harley taking the time to absorb and recharge her batteries. This stands out to me is that I like that this shows that Harley reflects and absorbs the craziness that is her life. Some people blog, some exercise, Harley meditates about the people in her past and present and how they made her the person she is today. All the bubbles surrounding the profiles (Bats, Joker, Red, Spoonsdale, Mason, Pee Gee, Eggy, Big Tony, Harlem Harley) are the same which tells me that she is neutral or she acknowledges them as important figures in her history who helped to shape her. I don’t see any hearts or anything that suggests that she dislikes that person which tells me that she doesn’t let their influence or presence sway her emotionally and that tells me that she is fully in charge of her emotions. What a big step compared to the days when she was someone’s hench girl and would attack anyone who she defended. (See Batman #663, the one where Bats calls her a ‘Chihuahua pup with rabies;).
Another part that I liked was when Harley was giving her reasons why the homeless population existed. She was a matter of fact and tactful with none of the self righteous virtue signaling. I really like that the writers had her speak like this as seeing sensitive issues get hijacked by the ‘call out’ culture, this was a breath of fresh air. She knows that it is a big issue and her experience as a psychologist shows when she gives these facts. I have often heard the argument that Harley is intelligent just because she has a doctor’s degree. Here is evidence of her explaining a sensitive issue using common sense and some life experience. This Harley is not only smart, she is wise. I like that we are seeing Harley being compassionate while being realistic about the issue. I am just a big fan whenever I see Harley being sensitive and ‘woke’ about social issues comes out and it is done in a way that should be done. This is compounded when she tells the thugs just before they burn her tent and cover her face with chloroform, ‘Why don’t you do something constructive with your lives?’
In a time when comics seem more like mouth pieces, this is a breath of fresh air.
I am growing fun of John Timms. His pencils are sharp. He is very good with dynamic poses that are still realistic. I don’t like it when an artist tries to be dynamic and the characters are in exaggerated poses. I really love the look he gave hobo Harley.
The Bonus back up story by Paul Dini is a bonus. Highly recommended if you love BTAS. I am not a fan of the Joker/Harley pairing and I wont get into the exhaustive reasons again. That being said, I did like the back up story because of the light tone that reminded me of the cartoon. The dynamic between the two of them as ‘equals’ is there but Joker still manages to be a meanie. Fun fact, we find out that Joker is ticklish. I would say that in spite of some of the mature references, which aren’t too bad but are suggestive enough that I wouldn’t let a little kid read it, it is a fun little story so long as you can put it in the BTAS/Golden age verse and enjoy it for what it is. Whether the more problematic elements will crop up, I am not sure. I doubt it as this takes place in the early days and if I go by some of the things Dini wrote in Gotham City Sirens, specifically the Gaggy storyline, I think Dini will keep it light and fun and keep the more, ahem, dark elements away as this is occurring early in their relationship.
Verdict: Buy this comic!