All right, let’s just get our complaining about the release schedule out of the way first: this book takes place before both Batman no. 48 & 49, and more or less immediately follows Batman: Prelude to the Wedding: Batgirl vs. the Riddler. The bad news is the fact that we are already ahead of the story in the other title renders this one kind of superfluous. The good news is this is actually kind of entertaining. And one day when they put together the complete wedding compilation and actually put it in proper sequence, this will be a fun interlude leading up to Batman’s confrontation in the cathedral with the Joker.

In “Till Death Do Us Part”, Tim Seeley starts off with Harley already getting the drop on the Joker. With him in at her mercy, the two thereafter engage in psychological acrobatics as they try to outsmart each other: Harley concocting a number of “death traps” and Joker finding ways to circumvent them in a game of cat and mouse.

It’s pretty much what you would predict in terms of the sort of back-stabbing and double-crossing that these two characters are known for. The key difference is that they do seem to have their priorities in order. Harley isn’t slowly undone by her undying affection for Mistah J, and while they do occasionally express nostalgia for the past, neither of them seem to have any illusions regarding what that was all about.

Mmmmm cheese balls

For my own part, I’m amused to see them together again, but also a little tired of the redundant narrative of Harley declaring her autonomy and the Joker running the gamut of mocking, wheedling, conniving, and all his other gyrations. I honestly don’t feel like Seeley gave us a loaded gun here. We know Harley isn’t going to kill the Joker (and not just because he obviously still has to get to the cathedral), and the probability of them reconciling is pretty much nil. So what’s at stake here? Where’s the tension?  Is it just in anticipating that the Joker is going to beat the crud out of Harley to get out of this mess?

Because the resolution to this little interlude is neither that exciting, nor has any long-term impact (that you can tell from the narrative as-is), nor entirely even makes sense given who these characters are.

And that, unfortunately is what ultimately wrecks any potential with this book. As an exercise in banter and some fun reversals, it’s an entertaining enough read, but it lacks consequence–not only for the wedding, but for Harley and the Joker in particular. Neither characters is changed by this encounter. They merely part way with more or less the same acrimony as they began.

And worse, it really does seem that one of them should have died–and if not, there ought to be a darn good reason for it.

Not sure Joker ever took a flying kick to Harley’s face, but I get what she means

Sami Basri has an art style full of hard angles and not a lot of contrast (which is mostly accomplished through the colors of Jessica Kholinne). This is a big contrast from his cover work, which tends to lean a lot softer and rounder. I think it mostly works, given the acrid relationship being conveyed panel to panel.

Though I have to say I haven’t liked anybody’s take on the Joker for the whole of the wedding thus far, and that’s disappointing. I can’t tell if the decision to de-emphasize his gwynplaine grin is deliberate and purposeful or is there’s some other reason the Joker just looks so…boring lately.

That said, the dark under-eyes and occasional grimace do work wonders here, and Harley is rendered rather sweetly. Not sure how I feel about her silly princess gown and all that (maybe a step too far even for Harley?), but I do like the framing on the princess-dress scene confrontation with the “executioner” and the way in which Joker turns the tables one last time. Worth noting is the nicely rendered is the closing scene/epilogue by Otto Schmidt  in which we see Joker pick up a key prop for the next act and make his way to the cathedral. The final panel is especially striking–maybe because we know what’s about to happen? Nah. I’m going to say it just stands on its own. The fact that we already know how it all plays out, again, is actually more of a detriment to what could have otherwise been a very suspenseful setup.

Straight up: I did enjoy reading this. But afterwards it left a rather empty feeling due to its lack of substance–like a giant bowl of rice with too little kung pao chicken.

Recommended If…

  • You like to watch Harley Quinn and The Joker pound on one another old-school-style, straight back to the early days of their relationship, but with less chance of kissing.
  • You want the complete wedding prelude collection.

Overall

If you absolutely love the Harley Quinn and Joker dynamic, you can while away some time reading this Batman wedding tie-in, but so far it feels like the absolutely most superfluous book of the bunch. Aside from Harley’s motive in corralling the Joker (in an attempt to prevent him from ruining the impending nuptials), there’s very little here that will have any real consequence going forward. It’s a well enough rendered but completely throwaway book–and perhaps, given the long-standing on-again off-again love-hate between these two, the biggest missed opportunity of all the preludes. Tim Seeley might have done something emotionally resonant and impactful with this, but instead we get a lot of sound and fury and little else.

SCORE: 6/10