It has been three months to the day since the last issue of Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity, and the wait has been excruciating. Kami Garcia is tackling a different kind of Harley Quinn who is a detective on the hunt for Joker — a villain who is just starting up — that is wrapped up in a procedural narrative filled with grotesque killings. The Joker is finding his footing as a murderer and he does so via artistic displays of his victims. In a Gotham not yet graced with Batman, Harley may be its citizens’ only hope.
This is a Christmas issue, which isn’t immediately apparent from the black and white scene to open the book as Harley ponders the devil in the details. That suits the story, which is anything but cheery, even though it’s Christmas. The structure of the issue follows the series’ general flow with Harley doing some detective work, some check-in moments with Joker, a flashback to reveal a bit more about why Joker is such a monster, and finally a new murder for Harley to decipher. The flow of the story continues to be a treat as there are key markers you’ll look forward to as Harley gets closer to nabbing Joker.
A new kind of Harley Quinn and Joker at DC Black Label
Garcia continues to write Harley well, capturing her genius via her actions and thought processes. Garcia makes Harley earn her understanding of a situation or a villain. That’s partly due to her ability to understand the mind of a monster, which one might ponder is going to send Harley herself to a dark place she may not be able to come back from. In a key scene involving a certain pyromaniacal villain, we get to see Harley use her understanding of this person’s addiction to fire. This is basically Harley’s superpower, and it’s fun to see her flex it throughout the series.
My only gripe comes in the form of the Joker flashbacks, which seem to all be saying the same thing: his life sucks and is unfair. It doesn’t add too much to the issue. There is a clever use of paint that connects Joker’s desire to paint his own face that’s not immediately obvious, which made me want to go back and reevaluate Joker’s past scenes. I do wonder if these flashbacks will come together down the road though, as they’ve mostly been quick and obtuse, but maybe by the end they’ll come together.
The art by Jason Badower and Mico Suayan continues to be strong. Suayan’s hyper-realistic art style matches up well with Badower’s work this issue, further solidifying the realistic tone of the book — I honestly couldn’t tell who was drawing what as scenes changed. This issue is basically a masterclass on drawing leather with all its folds and the lighting required to make its texture realistic.
The murder scenes continue to be well done as they are a mix of disturbing and artistically appealing. You can see the artist in Joker even though there’s an innocent person now dead. That’s a crazy hard thing to pull off and continues to add a level of humanity to Joker so he’s not just a mindless villain.
Given the way this book ends, most (myself included) are going to be dying for the next issue, especially with an irregular release schedule likely continuing with the pandemic unlikely to stop any time soon. The story is coming together nicely this issue and shouldn’t be missed. The development of Harley as an expert forensic psychiatrist and profiler is an inspired choice that’s paying off big time.
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