Now on a bi-monthly schedule, Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity is back this week, further fleshing out the adventures of a new version of Harley Quinn who is a profiler for the Gotham police department. The DC Black Label series has been a good one, mixing hyper-realistic art with well-researched investigative elements with a twisted version of Joker who puts his victims into twisted artistic showings for the public. Joker has taken a liking to Harley though and in this latest issue, they get ever closer.
It is becoming clearer after reading this issue that the series is about connection. Harley lacks meaningful connections, which is evident in a funeral scene where Harley’s mother is put to rest. Joker is also alone in many respects, but the big difference is, of course, Joker is homicidal and quite twisted in his work. Where they do relate in their work is their commitment and near-obsession with what they do. The personalities of these characters are clearly well thought out by writer Kami Garcia and it shows in this issue.
Meanwhile, Joker’s horrible artistry continues, which has made this series feel like a gallery showing with each installment. We’re guaranteed some twisted murder played up with artistic effect in each issue, and once again the artistic team delivers on that front here. There is also a key flashback to the beginning of Joker’s turn as a murderer, which utilizes a clever spin on the Joker-smile murders we’ve seen in the past. Again, Garcia is quite good at concocting believable ways a murderer would go about torturing the corpses to send a message.
The art is shared by Jason Badower and Mico Suayan, who both continue to wrap this narrative up in a realistic look that grounds everything. Suayan’s scenes are cast in black and white, giving them a darker tone and a detective feel as if we’re looking at black and white photos from a murder scene. There is a spot of color used to show off Joker’s hair and makeup, making his appearances feel otherworldly. In fact, one could argue Annette Kwok’s colors are telling another story entirely with Harley typically boxed in with black and white and Joker showing a brighter and more freeing world.
This issue shies away from revealing more about Harley and has the effect of making this issue much more centered on Joker and his experience. Harley seems to be reacting to Joker, and getting quite sick of him, or reacting to situations she can’t escape from. In fact, the lack of captions in this issue makes it much less introspective and thus less character-driven. It’s like we’re watching crazy events transpire rather than in previous issues living inside Harley’s head and attempting to understand her. This book has leaned heavily in one character’s favor or the other, and here both get left out a bit for the sake of moving the plot along with the action.
This is a good issue of the Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity series, moving the plot along and readying fans for another Harley vs. Joker showdown. It seems to pull away from captions to instead focus on action and that’s okay, but it does make the narrative lose sight of who our characters are. Over and over, this issue seems to suggest Harley is losing control. Maybe Joker is the only one who can give it back to her.
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