The issue begins with the showdown between Harley Quinn and Devani Kage, the ‘Tribute’ from Gotham in the Future.
The fight scene with Harley and Devani occurs over the span of four pages. It should be noted (again) that Harley uses her strength to go up against a human in a meta Bat suit. Harley being around Metas for an extended period has given her exposure and an ability to understand and exploit their weaknesses. It is something that Devani underestimated. While she uses the various tricks and technological gear that her suit provides to kill the woman who killed Batman (in her mind), Harley uses her wits and a car lock. But it is the scene immediately after this that the issue bears significant weight. Meta Devani Kage becomes a commentary on meta fiction and metahistory.
The battle is short lived. They get transported into a cell/interrogation room where a mysterious voice over the comm system takes control of the situation. The mysterious host begins to pick at Devani’s brain and essentially, her belief system. The host begins to philosophize and make suggestions that in her desire to kill Harley Quinn, the person she was told and taught who killed Batman, she was not thinking clearly. He challenges Devani by hinting that she was not going to get the glory and rewards she was looking for if she killed Harley. That in her belief that she must kill Harley, she is not considering the ramifications.
The mysterious emcee makes the suggestion that even if she were successful, she might not get the results that she is looking for. This was implied when he states,
Just as the population in the future believes that if you stop Harley from killing Batman, then what?? Will he live longer?
Even though it is clear what the anchor is implying, Palmiotti and Connor’s writing add that touch of subtlety by not including a very important sentence (‘Batman would be proud of you.’)
The suggestions, and lack thereof rattle her. Devani is a devoted Bat follower but it is clear that she is indoctrinated. She is a young person with deeply held beliefs who really thinks that she is doing humanity a favor. There is nothing wrong with discovering a passion and fully immersing yourself in it. It is only when individuals fail to question and examine the ‘Why’s and the principles that there can be dire consequences.
When I read this, I admit that Devani Kage’s fanaticism reminded me of two groups who are very divergent on politics and worldviews but share a commonality when it comes to passion.
Without getting too political, I still think it is important to mention that Devani has the determination and drive of a student you would find at a small liberal arts college. She has the zeal of someone who wants to avert the atrocities of a long time ago by stopping a problematic/dangerous element that she can control today. She is convinced that she is doing something good, but like a lot of well intentioned but naïve young people, she is not looking at the full picture. I see Devani Kage and her fanaticism where she believes she is doing good without taking into consideration the damage she can cause as being very similar to the behavior on college campuses you see today. The demand for safe spaces and separatist identity politics create more division than unity. To attempt discourse in order to understand is futile. Division by ideology is not a productive to create mutual understanding or respect.
By implying that Batman would look upon her favorably, thus challenging her deeply held beliefs, the voice plants the seeds of doubt in her mind and she reacts accordingly.
As a Latina who grew up in Koreatown, went to high school in the Crenshaw District, went to a junior college in the San Fernando Valley before transferring to UCLA, I see these divisions as corrosive in creating a genuine understanding and appreciation of other people who are different than oneself. I certainly did not come from a background of privilege.
This is how Devani Kage reminds me of those college kids who think that they are doing a good thing by calling someone a ‘racist’ if they have a different view from them. They are convinced that the other side is a murderous oppressor who must be destroyed. This just leads to miscommunication and mistrust. She is already convinced about this with Harley. She does not take into consideration Harley’s recent history. Devani sees Harley as a cancer that must be eradicated.
On a more morbid note, I also saw that Devani demonstrated a drive and fanaticism that is seen with certain terrorist groups.
I want to emphasize that I do not think that what happened in Middlebury and UC Berkely is not the same as what happened in Manchester and Paris. I want to stress that I think that Devani is a commentary on the solipsism that is prevalent in today’s social discourse. It is not limited to one side or one ideology. They are similar in their passion, but their methods and worldviews differ.
College kids in Washington and Mizzou would rather senf nasty emails and try to get a professor fired for having a dissident opinion. ISIS has no qualms about cutting off your head. These are two very different entities with very different methods and beliefs. One has had about fifty years to germinate. The other has had about fifteen hundred.
I don’t think that the creators and writers are using the Harley Quinn comic as a platform for their political beliefs, but I do think that they have made some commentary about things throughout the series. Palmiotti and Connor have that knack for doing this without being overboard, unlike a few writers I can think of. That being said, I do think that Devani Kage is a commentary on blind fanaticism on ALL sides. The fact that she does not take into consideration Harley’s fairly recent history is proof of this. A person who would be thoughtful and introspective would want to study and observe Harley. The fact that she did not easily defeat her demonstrates this.
The bonus was finding out who the mysterious voice was. It turns out that they had a history with Devani which lowers her guard. All I will say is that due to Harley’s history, she would not have been the ideal candidate to get Devani to listen. It took the other person to do so because he had the right tools. Heh.
Even though Harley was pretty much a secondary character, she was the driving force.
On the Harley Quinn Loves Joker back up story, we see that they are on equal terms which works. I love both characters and I prefer Harley away from the Joker, but as long as the abusive elements are kept at bay and if you remember that this is their ‘Honeymoon period’, I can live with it.
What makes this back up funny is that Harley has to go to one of Joker’s old favorite gag shops only to find that it was bought up by two pretentious hipsters who want to turn it into an artisanal coffeehouse. This is not the first time Harley has had issues with self absorbed arty gentrifiers. She actually dukes it out with the Hipster Mafia in the first issue of Harley and her Gang of Harleys. Personally, I think she cannot stand he pretentiousness and fauxgressivism they claim to espouse. She likes things because they are kitsch and because she genuinely does. She doesn’t do it ‘ironically’.