I thought Harley’s narrative in the last issue was merely a device to introduce Ground Zero to audiences that maybe skipped a year or two (or all) in the Injustice saga. But the fact that she’s back at it again in this second issue makes me wonder if maybe she’s here to stay.

Structurally it continues to work. Last go-round she spent more time and energy catching the audience up to what had gone down before Harley struck out on her own to raise a Rebel splinter group against Superman’s regime. This time she’s relating more immediate events regarding the efficacy of that splinter in actual street combat.  I’m curious about the distinction between Haley in her old costume on the bench and Harley in her new costume in the flashbacks. Should I be suspicious of this? We know we’re going to start seeing double very very soon. Is Harley really Harley? Or which Harley is she?

“Sidekicks” (Digital Firsts 3 & 4) explores the sometimes ignominious role of the tag-along in the world of heroes with big power or big personalities. Now that Harley has made her break from the Joker (and from her sanity once again), she’s determined to be the “boss” this time around, gathering Joker thugs from the street whom she dubiously renames Larry, Gary, and so forth. She waxes grandiose about the “little guy” who shares in the heavy lifting, but never gets the glory–and who seems dispensable at best sometimes (one panel of Batman tossing one more used up Robin onto a pile of other Robins drives the point home in typical Harley hyperbole.

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The Mistress does love her mayhem!

But the truth is (and this is what Buccellato does quite brilliantly in this particular issue–with Chris Sebela scripting again), Harley is no better about the treatment of her recruited muscle. She creates a narrative in which she and her gang are tight and she cares more for them than ever anyone cared for her as a sidekick herself once, but the truth is it’s just all talk. For one thing, she doesn’t even know these guys’ names (and doesn’t actually care). It’s more about the fantasy of the teamwork and bonding and sweeping drama than it is about real feelings or acknowledging the work of real people. She’s worse at handling her sidekicks than pretty much any superhero, but she’s so far gone into treating people like playthings, she hardly can recognize it.

Even when one of them is critically injured, Harley fails to recognize the reality of their circumstances. In a weird way it certainly makes her a fearless warrior, but without regard to their potential losses, she’s as reckless as ever.

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It’s all a game to her even after people get hurt

Juan Albarran (inks) and Daniel Sampere (pencils) handle a full range of visuals wonderfully: from the new Harley design (juxtaposed, interestingly with the old one), a cadre of superheroes, and large crowd melee, the Injustice world feels entirely intact from Year Five to Ground Zero. And speaking of costuming, it’s nice to see Hal back in green!  I think the Joker crowd actually looks better in this issue as well–slightly more menacing and more consistent overall.

But, hey, Jim Chadwick! Why is there no colorist credited for this book?

For those of you who don’t care for the occasionally too-goody-goody version of Harley in her title book, Injustice: Ground Zero offers a twisted alternative–a “right”-side Harley who is going about it all wrong in certain ways, but getting the job done nonetheless. She’s operating outside of anything I can imagine Batman every approving, but her behavior is comfortably familiar and you can’t help rooting her on given the sleaze-stack Regime adversary they’re up against. If moral ambiguity is your thing, you’ve come to the right place!

This book ends in a particularly riveting place. Green Lantern and his yellow doppleganger come face to face and Aquaman–oh wait, what happened to Aquaman? We seen Green Arrow and Green Lantern and Wonder Woman pursuing the fight, but Aquaman sorta….vanishes.

Continuity is further thrown out the window when Harley stumbles on Batman getting his hat handed to him by Hawkgirl and…Yellow Lantern Hal again?

Not sure what to make of these uncharacteristic missteps (and I had to knock off a point for them because they are kind of bizarre), but to be honest they don’t detract too much from the dramatic tension of seeing all this electricity inching toward water.

Recommended If…

  • You want to see what happens when our alternate world heroes touch down in this strange dystopia.
  • You enjoy Harley’s brand of chaos.
  • You’ve missed seeing Wonder Woman and Green Lantern be good guys!
  • Oh, and guess who’s also returned?
    Spoiler
    The laughing man himself, of course! Though we’ll have to wait for the next issue to see what he makes of all this mess.

Overall

Buccellato and Sebela are keeping Injustice: Ground Zero fresh despite borrowing on a world that’s seen five years worth of war and misery. Part of why it works is that we’re getting the worm’s eye view of the battle.  While Harley still has half a little green pill and goes up against Sinestro in her own way, this battle takes place in the streets of Gotham–mostly on the ground looking up. We’re getting to see the insurgency from the viewpoint of more of the ordinary folks who are fighting the day-to-day. I really love this slightly more everyman approach. Though I am very excited to see what our alternate universe heroes will do now that they have been dragged into this world, I feel equally invested in seeing the regular people taking back their cities. I hope that’s a theme that will carry through in this bold new series!

SCORE: 7.5/10