Two weeks ago, I kvetched a bit that Paul Dini and Bret Blevins spent an awful lot of time playing catch-up from the Harley Loves Joker fill-in, as well as cramming in a lot of expositional background on where the Grison comes from and her past connection to Harley Quinn.
This time I’m going to complain about the fact that this whole story leads up to a reversal that’s been done not only in the original Batman: the Animated Series, but in subsequent comics as well. It’s disappointing for a book that is otherwise so well-executed; everything from the tight pacing, the quippy fun dialog, and the plastic joyful art of Bret Blevins. It’s a fun book to read, but it doesn’t really offer us anything new.
For all the development of Grison as a character in the last issue, her background seems of little consequence here, in a book that mostly focuses on a series of double crosses and reversals that are by-and-large predictable, but also pretty much to be expected with a cast full of backstabbing villains of no honor.
There’s also an entire page dedicated to a joke about the previous owners of Harley’s warehouse even though we not only figured they were dead, but also hadn’t seen them since the mini started last spring. This kind of gag that depends so heavily on long-term continuity doesn’t really work for people who only might have picked up the Harley Loves Joker 2-parter. In a collected work, it’ll be fine, but it struck me here that it’s a lot of energy spent on characters we not only dismissed months ago, but who many readers probably didn’t even know existed.
Bat Boat! This is a great little moment!
Where this book does try to introduce an interesting element, basically Harley in conversation with her future self as an independent person free of her obsession with the Joker, I have to say it falls flat. It’s hard to know what Dini intended with this exchange, but it simultaneously promises a future for Harley that we have already come to know through her title series, and seems to give a raspberry to that future as well–as if to say: yeah yeah liberate Harley, whatever, but for now she’s with her Mistah J and you can’t do anything about it.
There’s a minor reversal of his attitude later on that seems to indicate that it’s all tongue-in-cheek, but it it’s hard to know what kind of war is going on between Harley of the past and Harley of the present, particularly in the mind of her creator. I’ll refrain from further judgment, but I will say that I think Harley’s liberation is a failure on some levels. Even at her best in her title series she’s still a sex object with a weapon, so whether or not she’s with the Joker makes little difference to me in terms of the “bad example” that so concerns people about her.
So different it’s almost like someone else drew her entirely!
Bret Blevins handles the characters with his usual aplomb, and I love many of the simple-panel layouts that give this book the kind of pacing you’d feel watching the cartoon. But I feel like his pigtailed “future” Harley feels like she waltzed in from an entirely different comic universe altogether. That works in some ways because she literally kind of does come from a foreign world, but I felt like the rendering of the character was so contrary to the harlequin-styled Quinn of the story even in terms of stature and body structure that I was left feeling rather disconnected about it all. Again, it felt like a commentary on the fractured state of the Harley Quinn character, but without any clear message or purpose.
If Dini wants to produce more Harley Loves Joker comics (and I, for one, would welcome them), he needs to recycle less and come up with some new and interesting angles from which to explore DC’s messiest lovebirds.
- You want to finish this story up; all caveats aside, it’s still fun!
- You miss Harley and Mistah J being an infamously dysfunctional team.
- You don’t mind some puzzling meta in the middle of your media.
The Grison is bound to get her due in this closing chapter of the Harley Loves Joker mini. For a story that’s spanned a lengthy build up, the conclusion honestly feels a bit lacklustre, but it’s still fun even though it’s a story we’ve had before several times over by now. Always nice to see a little Batman cameo, and Dini’s use of the Wonderland Gang is one of the highlights of this run, otherwise you get what you would expect: Joker and Harley fighting and making up and doing terrible things to each other and everyone else.