Welcome to the second issue of White Knight Presents: Harley Quinn! The stakes are upped! The villain is revealed! Harley Quinn is still sad! Will she ever stop being sad?! Stay tuned to find out!
We last left Harley going to pick a fight with Neo-Joker. In the first few pages of issue #2 we learn that Neo-Joker is hunkering down in one of Harley and Joker’s old haunts, an abandoned amusement park. These pages juxtapose the current events with flashbacks to add emotional weight to Harley’s loneliness. By adding splashes of present grief tinged with a longing nostalgia, things manage to stay just shy of falling off the razor’s edge into the insulting triteness that a lot of flashbacks and prequels find themselves in. You know, that sort of referential nonsense that explains the origin of character or world aspects that no one needs or wants to be explained. Still, the “This is where “puddin’” comes from!” or “This is how Harley got her hyenas!” — even with the extra context of Harley’s present isolation — is just a tad cringey.
Speaking of juxtaposition, I dug the decision to add layers of action to the expository dialogue. People don’t just sit around regurgitating plot-forwarding-factoids at each other. Mostly wordless action is thrown in to spice up what could be a slog. Brings to mind the “sexposition” popularized by golden-age tv shows like Game of Thrones, except, you know, with less nudity. A standout is the local kids and parents freaking out at the fact that there are hyenas chilling/goofing around with some toddlers at a playground, while Harley and Montoya casually discuss the case.
This issue isn’t all pastel sunshine and ink-washed rainbows, however. It leans a bit too much on flashbacks towards its later middle pages. I know, I know, show don’t tell and all that, but it wastes three whole pages showing a fight between Harleen and Jack that a few word balloons could have covered. I really wish it would focus more on the mystery aspect. The series hasn’t even tried to hook us yet. Instead of dying to know the who, the how, or the why — I’m left sitting around waiting for unnecessary flashbacks to wrap up so we can get back to it.
Meanwhile, my concern for divvying up the aspects of Harley’s character in two continues to flare up like a cluster headache. They took Harley’s relationship with Poison Ivy and gave it to Neo-Joker… As a commenter on issue #1 pointed out, at least thus far the White Knight stories seem to be taking most of the “edgy” aspects of Harley’s character (i.e. the aspects that are most divisive amongst fans, to say the least) and giving them to Neo-Joker. Adding her relationship with Ivy to the pile more than a little nebulous. It also removes a potentially interesting supporting character from the series unless they decide to include Neo-Joker in a more substantial way later on.
Fortunately for us, the ending is a treat. The final pages not only introduce a beloved fan-favorite animated series character to the White Knight universe, but immediately places them in mortal danger and gives us our first look at the killer. Not only is it unexpected, but it’s also the perfect choice of victim.
Matteo Scalera’s ink-washes are still a joy to look at. And his art continues to show an excellent grasp of space. The above knockdown-dragout is a great example. Scalera establishes the space, moves the characters from the entrance towards the shelves with a few quick, splashy action panels, reveals a hidden weapon taped under one of the shelves that shifts the stakes, and concludes the fight. It’s a good, clear, and exciting panel flow.
The chef’s kiss of this issue was Dave Stewart’s subtle but effective color choices. Specifically, the warm, inviting colors of the flashback panels contrasted in rapid succession with the cool, desolate colors of the present.
~ You want to keep going after the intriguing premise.
~ Flashbacks bring you joy.
~ Abandoned amusement parks are your a e s t h e t i c.
The last few pages really salvage this issue, but I can’t help but feel that it’s spinning its gears a bit too much with unnecessary flashbacks and not focusing enough on the mystery — which, at least to me, should be the real hook of the miniseries.