Harley and Puddin’–together again!  Well, not really. I mean, they’re finally face-to-face in this issue, but only long enough squabble a bit before tentatively making plans to have it out later.  Harley is rightfully outraged to have the Joker invading her space, playing with her wiener and touching her beaver (yeah, I went there: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti are starting to rub off on me–oh jeez, there too).

Or maybe it’s just all that hot tension between the Maven of Mayhem and Mister J.

Nah, Harley really just wants to scratch his eyeballs out in this week’s “Joker Loves Harley Part One: Pandora the Explorer”. And even so, Joker is surprisingly calm. Of course we can’t believe for a moment that he’s really a “changed” person, but his demeanor here is at least more controlled–without any of that frenetic aggression we saw from him the last time these two clashed.

Their shared scene time, however, gets clipped short once Harley tosses him out (and he actually goes). The remainder of the comic is taken up with further political plot developments at the mayor’s home (this has been a running secondary story since the beginning of this book: the ongoing shenanigans between the mayor and the chief of police, and whatever other hooligans they enlist to assist them with their corruption).

The scene is purely expository and introduces us to the mayor’s new “Assistant”, Madison Berkowitz. Madison seems like an interesting new character. She carries herself rather professionally, but since we don’t quite know what her methods are, I’m fully expecting her to break out in the spandex once things heat up.

But all that is really just a bridge. To this:

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Because big gooey pink monsters was what you were expecting!

One of the things I really admire about this book is how unapologetic it is about the leaps it takes in its narrative. One minute Harley is bantering with the Joker, the next minute she’s decided to blow off steam by taking Red Tool underground to explore the creepy doors under the wax museum. And of course, behind one of those creepy door (the one with all the locks and chains, which Harley, naturally cannot resist), is something outrageous and deadly and yet stupendously ridiculous all at once.

No comment at all on the choice of sound effects for this creature. That would suggest I had some kind of knowledge about the insinuation being made here.

I know some people’s tolerance for the absurd is sadly lacking, but this just works. In a book that needs a spark to inject some action while the writing team delays our “date” between Harley and the Joker, this sort of gratuitous adventuring just fits the bill.

Better than that, this book also gives us lots of time to see Harley interacting with Red Tool in a manner in which they are fighting on the same side instead of against one another. It’s an important bit of character development considering what’s bound to happen next.

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Yeah, these two are sure to become bosom buddies!

I’m unsure at the moment how I feel about John Timms’ rendition of the Joker. He’s a little bulky and block-headed for my tastes and his hair seems weirdly long and shaggy. But on the other hand, I kind of like that he’s so very different from what Chad Hardin drew the last time Harley and Joker got together (and had their big breakup fight). In a way it makes an interesting separation between who the Joker was then and who he may be pretending to be now.

Timms’ work on the rest of the book is fun and fabulous as always. His gelatinous rathtar-looking creature is much-enhanced by colors from Hi-Fi, and despite the weird tonal break in the middle of the book between the mayor and Madison, the composition never gets lazy: he keeps the chatty encounter visually interesting so that it doesn’t feel like a strange interruption. In the hands of a less-capable artist, this interlude could have fallen very flat.

And no, I’m not taking off points because “How is the Joker just walking around in broad daylight and no one is saying anything?” It’s been long-established in this comic book that the average person on the street is too self-absorbed to be distracted by anything in their environment.

Also, one last high-five to Dave Sharpe for his letters: not just the sound effects in the cave, which are wonderful, but his ever-inventiveness with Red Tool’s tool-shaped speech bubbles.

Recommended If…

  • You love seeing Joker and Harley together again–well, sort of.
  • You’ve fallen in love with Red Tool in spite of his stupid self.
  • You like random adventure, crazy monsters, and violent action for its own sake.

Overall

This book offers a potpourri of visual and intellectual delights (and yes, comedy is an intellectual delight). It’s also the start of an arc the trajectory of which I have no concrete sense. It’s not easy to stymie me narratively–most stories project where they’re going so obviously, but given that Harley closed out her “relationship” with the Laughing Man some time ago, I’m really curious to see where this intends to go! But then I am one of those people who wistfully wishes to see Harley and the Joker back in their Punch and Judy affair. I seriously doubt we’ll get that here (especially if Red Tool keeps Harley from her rendezvous), but I’m sure whatever this creative team comes up with, it’s going to be a smash!

SCORE: 9/10