Back in #57 a murder mystery was introduced, with Harley as the main suspect. Batman tracked her down and ended up taking her to the Batcave to investigate whether or not Harley really is guilty of the crime. This issue picks up where #57 left off, with Harley and Bats standing in the cave, and Harley forcing the Caped Crusader to team up with her so she can clear her name. What follows is a crazy issue that I have mixed feelings about. Sometimes it made me laugh in a good way. Sometimes it made me question narrative choices. So, let’s get right into it and have a look.
At the start of this issue, Harley manages to get her hands on some of Batman’s handcuffs and chains her wrist to Batman’s so the two of them are forced to work together. This creates a rather absurd scenario. On the one hand, I think the idea of forcing Batman and Harley to work together in this way is actually kind of funny. However, it being actually in the story doesn’t entirely work for me. First of all, I can’t really figure out why Batman is okay with this. Yes, he does say that Harley must not leave his sight until he gets to the bottom of the murder mystery, but think about the practicalities. Not only does it greatly hinder Batman’s ability to fight and solve crime, but this also simply isn’t his style. Furthermore, there are times where Batman seems much less intelligent than he’s supposed to be. For example, while investigating a crime scene, Harley finds a cookie crumb. Batman tells her she’s contaminating the evidence, but Harley doesn’t care and eats the crumb. She instantly knows, by tasting the cookie, that it was imported illegally. She says, “If you wanna import something illegally into Gotham, where else ya gonna go?” Which leads the two of them to the docks. Batman accepts all of this without question or second thought. He’s written as much too easy-going. While this isn’t a complete deal-breaker for me, I do think it’s silly to write a character that’s supposed to be The World’s Greatest Detective in this way. To further expand on those cookie crumbs, I also consider this a plot-hole. I don’t see how Harley can know the exact location just by eating that cookie crumb. It doesn’t make any sense from my perspective as a writer.
But there are also fun aspects to this issue. Even though I think Batman isn’t written as well as he could have been written, I do think it’s amusing to see Harley really try her best to impress Batman and make him see that she did not commit the crime that she’s being accused of. Moreover, where Batman stays very serious throughout the story, Harley takes every opportunity to make light of the situation or to just crack a few jokes, sometimes at the expense of Batman. For example, there is an exchange where Harley keeps making fun of the Batplane, and the way that the conversation is written and builds toward Batman’s final annoyed grunt to shut Harley up just cracked me up. Another aspect that I enjoy is that this issue is very heavy on detective work, which is a nice change of pace for the Harley Quinn ongoing, and it’s also an element that we just don’t get to see as often in Batman comics these days. However, if I have to critique the detective scenes, I do think that Batman doesn’t have enough agency. It mostly comes down to Harley to find new leads and drag Batman around town. He’s really mostly there to witness Harley’s actions, but he doesn’t contribute much to the story’s resolution. Of course I understand that this is Harley’s book and that she’s supposed to be the hero, but it still seems like a big character imbalance. But to be fair, I also think that Batman is simply too big to be cast in a supporting role in Harley Quinn, so it’s not easy to make his appearance work to begin with.
One more element that I want to comment on before I address the artwork is that this is effectively Harley’s redemption arc so she can transition to hero status. I’ve been saying in my reviews that I think Harley needs such an arc before DC Comics can even begin to portray her as a hero figure. Given her dark, villainous past, it’s just hard for me to take this character seriously as a hero without a really good redemption story. They even address in this issue that she has killed people, and if you ask me, once you kill someone you cross that line forever. There is no such thing as an ex-murderer. That is not to say that a murderer can’t regret their actions and reform, but in a good fictional story this transition should by no means be an easy one. On reaching the last page of this book, I still don’t feel like Harley has earned her redemption, but then again, there are a couple more chapters to go before this arc closes, so we’ll have to see how the story continues to develop.
The artwork is brought to us by John Timms, who I consider to be the main Harley Quinn artist. That is to say, whenever I think about this book, I picture Timms’s artwork, mostly because he has been doing art for this title for a long time now, but also because I think his rendition of Harley matches the tone of her adventures perfectly. Humphries’s scripts have mostly been lighthearted, and I always feel like Timms’s art has this almost innocent quality to it. Harley’s expressions, her body language, the way that she walks and how she interacts with other characters—all of this contributes a lot to her characterization. We can see just by looking at her that she’s really trying to do the right thing and that she cares about others. In my opinion, this is definitely one of Timms’s strengths as an artist.
Yet, his action scenes aren’t as dynamic as they could have been. For example, there is a page where we see Batman and Harley fighting side by side against the real killer, but rather than a sequential fight scene with detailed choreography, we just get a single page that looks more like a collage of the main characters in various poses than an actual fight. I’m disappointed, because the fact that Batman and Harley are cuffed together would have been a great opportunity to come up with some creative and out-of-the-box sequential fight moves.
- You want to see a Harley/Batman team-up
- You have been waiting for Harley’s actual redemption arc since forever
Overall: This is not a book without its flaws, but there’s a certain charm to seeing Harley try her best to impress Batman and prove that she’s not the killer. But Batman seems very underwritten for a character that’s supposed to be the World’s Greatest Detective, as he’s rather slow on the uptake as Harley pretty much solves the crime on her own. Timms’s art matches the tone of the story perfectly, however, and especially his animated rendition of Harley Quinn gives this book a lot of character and energy. As for a recommendation, I’d say that if you enjoyed the previous issue, chances are you are going to enjoy this one as well because it’s very much in line with what was established in #57.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.