It has been four months since the last issue of Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity, which has been a difficult wait since Joker and Harley Quinn finally meet in this alternate take on the characters. We did have a one-shot special detailing who Joker is and his file, but waiting for the confrontation between these two characters has been driving me crazy. Now, to temper expectations, as they only go up when time passes…
As the preview reveals, these characters confront each other, but what is on the page leaves you wanting. For a fan of this series, I was let down, in part because it jumps through hoops to avoid pushing the relationship of Joker and Harley, which up to this point has been from afar, in a new direction. The cat and mouse dynamic is upheld for the sake of the plot and that takes all the energy and conflict out of this issue. One could surmise why Harley lets Joker go, or does as he wishes, but you’d need to base what you know of Harley from main continuity to make that guess. What is on the page here isn’t clear or emphatic enough.
That isn’t to say the cat and mouse game is bad, though, as we get more of that here and it’s enjoyable. Seeing Joker set up his murders in artistic way is interesting and strange, giving the book a macabre feel. We get just that in this issue, as well as more flashbacks of Joker and his father. By the end, you’ll enjoy the Joker narrative at the very least.
The art by Jason Badower and Mico Suayan continues to be stupendous, mixing hyper-realistic black and white scenes in the present with scenes in color in revealing flashbacks. The blend of the two art styles is very well done and is a shining example of how to do procedural comics for the future. The realism makes the body horror more grotesque, and you connect with both Joker and Harley in a different way. It’s also clever to continually show Joker’s hair and makeup in color as if he’s supernatural and beyond our mortal coil.
I’ve liked this series, but Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #5 doesn’t work. What leads to this issue teased the big confrontation between Joker and Harley, but what we get is a blip of a meeting with a forced explanation for why the story must not change between them. Likely there will be some explanation and another confrontation, but taking the genie out of the bottle and then promptly putting it back makes this issue ring false.