This is an important issue in the development of Harley Quinn as her own woman, a step forward for her as a character that can function without the Joker. But I also hated it.
There are two things that have already happened in the comics recently that I despise and both were brought up again in this issue. #1 the revamped origin of Harley Quinn as being dropped into a vat of acid, turned perma-white and insane and #2 that this is Joker like we’ve never seen him before, he’s really a monster now! Yeah, this issue brings up an interesting point that the chemicals may not have altered Harley’s mind at all but instead served more as a placebo that gave her an excuse to really act as crazy as she wanted, but the whole premise behind her being put into the acid ruined what I always thought made her interesting. I always liked the idea of her being manipulated and ultimately broken by the Joker to become what she is now. Having Joker take the shortcut of dunking her in the same chemicals used in his origin story isn’t anywhere near as interesting. As for the “This is the worst Joker you’ve seen ever, for serious this time!” thing– come on. He’s arguably the most evil dude in pop culture. It’s been that way for decades. Nothing he has done in Death of the Family has shocked me as something the Joker of the 00’s, 90’s, or 80’s would do. We already did this in Grant Morrison’s The Clown at Midnight and it irked me in that as well. I’m tired of writers trying to make their incarnation of the Joker sound like the ultimate version. He’s not. He’s a character who maxed out on the evil scale long, long ago. You want me to believe this is the worst Joker ever? Show me. Don’t have Harley and Gordon crying about how he’s changed. Show me.
Alright, now that those two little rants are over I can get back to the rest of the book. The Suicide Squad hardly factors into this one. Waller and the gang were used a lot more frequently in issue #14 and here the brief cuts to the supporting cast felt very out of place and downright jarring. The final page was an especially big WTF moment that came so far out of left field and had absolutely no place in this particular comic what so ever that I actually laughed out loud. Waller on the other hand has a nice segway between her and what’s happening with Harley. She’s watching what is essentially an extended torture scene. The whole comic is Harley getting tortured and Waller occasionally watching via bionic remote contact lenses that were implanted in Harley’s eyes. However, I guess she must’ve planted some microphones inside Harley too because Waller is able to hear everything going on as well.
Why is she watching Joker get tortured? To learn about the Joker. It’s never explained why, but that’s her reason for observing and not ever interfering. I would like to think that this will eventually grow into a bigger story, but I doubt it. It’s likely just an excuse to slip in a few more Suicide Squad characters.
The artwork here definitely wasn’t my favorite. The legs on these characters often looked way too long and Joker just looks like regular old Joker but with a bunch of horizontal lines on his face. Harley’s cape is constantly disappearing and reappearing and her collar is always changing size.
I…really didn’t like this. At all. I think some of the Harley fans out there might like it because it has her asserting herself for a change and becoming independent, but it’s a pretty weak tie-in for me. All of these Death of the Family tie-ins feature Joker talking for a really long time while torturing the main character and then he gets beat up but always left to fight another day. How he’s moving from place to place and fit it all into his schedule is a real mystery though. Someone could make a funny comic of their own just about the Joker hauling ass from one comic book to the next. Harley doesn’t do too bad herself here. She’s captured at the ACE chemical plant in Gotham, escapes with seeping wounds on her wrists, and still manages to walk back to Bel Reve Penitentiary, which I understand is in Louisiana. I think this fact makes her the toughest person in the New 52.