Thus ends White Knight Presents: Harley Quinn, the series that started strong only to spin its wheels and become a drag towards the middle. Will it go out with a bang? A whimper? A labored gurgle? Let’s find out.
We last left Harley at a low point: the Starlet had blown up her house, and best boy Lou the Hyena had died saving one of Harley’s children. It was genuinely impactful and finally set up some real stakes. The Starlet had made it personal. She’d gone after Harley’s children. She’d killed Harley’s best friend.
Issue #6 competently builds on those stakes, starting off with a flashback with some actual feels that cleverly showcases how much of a good boy Lou was, lending even more weight to the sense of loss around his death. Making things personal between Harley and Starlet might not be the most original story development, but it works. There’s a reason that revenge stories are so satisfying to so many people. Making things personal tickles something deep in our ventromedial prefrontal cortex that gets us invested. Makes you wonder if it might not have been a better idea to have Starlet mess with Harley earlier in the series. After the flashback, we’re treated to some mercifully brief and obligatory “we need you to sit this one out” back-and-forth with Montoya. Harley — of course — goes after the Starlet, making a stop along the way to grab a cool new suit.
Not everything is sunshine and John Wickian rainbows, however. Even if the Starlet has been given a touch more gravitas, the Producer is still an exceedingly lame villain — but at least now we know why. He’s being set up as more of an ongoing, final-boss-type antagonist. The Thanos to White Knight Presents: Harley Quinn’s Avengers, for lack of a better comparison. That’s all well and good, but Katan Collins and Sean Murphy still could have at least tried to flesh him out some outside of his one-note gimmick. His big sort-of-meta Zoom-style “IT WAS ME ALL ALONG HARLEY” villain speech towards the climax of the issue doesn’t help.
This issue also leans heavy on the Joker/Harley x Starlet/Quimby comparison, hoping that a bit of emotional depth will splash over from the former onto the latter. It worked, at least a little, for me — but again, I couldn’t help but wonder why Katana/Murphy didn’t do more to set up this contiguity throughout the first five issues. And now that the miniseries is over, I’m left missing any further exploration of Harley’s relationship/reluctant truce with Neo-Joker. Why split the character in twain, potentially diminishing both, if you’re just going to leave one out entirely?
Honestly, I think the series was one or likely even two issues too long. Cutting the fat from its midsection would have likely accomplished wonders for the story overall. It would have made the pacing quicker and more urgent, cut out the vestigial flashbacks that lacked emotional punch, and pushed the big reveal of the Starlet’s true identity closer towards the end. And while I’m talking about the series as a whole, I think it was a mistake to release it as single issues rather than a graphic novel. If I had read the whole thing in one go I bet I’d have glossed over a lot of the weaknesses towards the middle. But in the single issues, those weaknesses were all I had to think about.
Matteo Scalera’s art this issue doesn’t pull off anything as pretty to look at or interesting as previous issues have, but it’s still solid. The faces are expressive as ever and the panel layouts do a good job of mixing up the “establishing panel followed by several small action panels” formula Scalera fell into for the first few issues.
Harley’s new “Harley Noir” suit design (by Sean Murphy) is actually pretty cool looking. I like the asymmetric belt/holster a lot, though the winged booties don’t look functional at all — it’s hard to imagine Batman sitting in his cave designing them. However, hats off to whoever thought of adding Lou’s collar to the outfit. It’s a fantastic touch.
This single panel flashback (above) that briefly sets up how Harley gets her new suit was a bit weird though. Not that you can’t pull off a single panel flashback, it’s just that neither Scalera’s ink washes nor Stewart’s colors do much to differentiate it from the current-timeline panels above and below it.
Unfortunately, at least for me, the final fight between Harley and Starlet was one of the weaker in the series. It feels more cartoonish than brutal or satisfying. Above being the crowning example.
- You’ve read White Knight Presents: Harley Quinn and need the closure.
- You’re invested in seeing Harley take vengeance for Lou the Hyena.
I wouldn’t call it ending with a labored gurgle, or even a whimper, but White Knight Presents: Harley Quinn hardly ended with a bang either. The series overall definitely suffered from having a bloated midsection that became a slog to get through, trotting out its whodunnit reveal way too early, and many flashbacks that felt more obligatory than necessary or impactful — but some bona fide stakes set up in issue #5 and (mostly) paid off this issue made White Knight Presents: Harley Quinn #6 one of the better issues in the series. Maybe in a few years when my memory of the series is good and fuzzy, I’ll go back and read the collected series. Who knows, I might even like it.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.