Do you like crime fiction? How about bizarre and grotesque displays of pure evil? You might just love what Kami Garcia, Mike Mayhew and Mico Suayan are doing with Harley Quinn and her quest to find the Joker. This new series is part of the DC Black Label line and it explores a very smart detective/professor Harley Quinn as she attempts to profile Joker so as to bring him in. The first issue began to show us the pure evil that makes Joker who he is, and as Kami told us on the AIPT Comics Podcast, she’s working on showing us how a person like Joker could be made. This issue goes to great lengths to show us Joker’s past, but also Harley’s in an interesting character study second issue.
This issue opens with another human grotesquery. When I use the word made I literally mean it, as arms were attached to a different torso, fat is used to melt down, and the entire scene looks like something out of Hell itself. It’s a great place to start as we are dropped into a horror and get to see Harley completely calm and almost transfixed by this. She wants to understand the minds that are capable of this and of course find them, but maybe the former a bit more than the latter. Harley continues to be an interesting character and one that is rendered vividly real through character building and art. Harley’s flashback is particularly heartbreaking.
As the story progresses we get to meet the Joker for the first time–one of my gripes with the first issue–and he seems to be a much more stable version of the Heath Ledger Joker. His makeup is smeared on, but he doesn’t have scars and he’s dressed quite sharply in a leather jacket resembling a cape. It’s worth noting that aside from the flashbacks it’s Joker’s makeup that is the only thing in color in the issue. An interesting design choice to be sure.
There’s also an interesting look at bullying in this issue. A focus is given to a boy whose father beats him. Later in high school, he gets beat on too and it’s obvious he has a sharp mind as he uses it to torment his bully.
The art in this book is some of the most photorealistic you’ll see across all publishers. Mayhew and Suayan complement each other as they both look quite real, but the flashbacks have an additional layer of realism through color. So far the flashbacks harbor the emotional violence characters must endure, which may be a good thing for the reader’s psyche as the black and white scenes have the most disturbing crime scenes.
I’m a bit confused by the use of flashbacks in this series. I had a similar problem with the first issue and here there is no clear transition between the now and then. We know it’s a flashback, but it’s not immediately clear who the boy is in this story. One could guess it’s Joker, but we’re never given enough info to know this for sure. Given this is a crime drama and a procedural one at that, it’s hard to come to any conclusion that isn’t certain in the narrative. While this subplot of the boy is intriguing it feels separate from the main narrative. The story is suffering a bit as it hasn’t come together yet and that can be frustrating.
A good second issue that gives us plenty of the Joker. It continues to have a transition problem, though one might wonder with the nature of the mystery storytelling maybe that’s on purpose? As it stands we are two issues in and I like what is going on and hope it starts to jell soon. This is one of the freshest takes on Harley Quinn you’ll read. The crime procedural angle works perfectly with these characters. Don’t miss it.
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