Current Reviews


Harley Quinn #23

Posted: Tuesday, August 20, 2002
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Karl Kesel
Artists: Craig Rousseau (p), Dan Davis (i)

Publisher: DC

The book opens by introducing the reader to the Martian Manhunter's life outside the time he spends with the JLA, as we see he's set up shop in Denver, and runs a private detective firm using his John Jones identity. As J'Onn finds himself hired by a woman who believes that her man is cheating on her, we see this case ends up being rather bizarre, as the second woman ends up being the man's wife. However, J'Onn's on hand when the cheating husband tell his wife about his affair, and he's forced to move in when the woman proceeds to bludgeon the man to death with a frying pan. J'Onn is then surprised when he briefly senses the presence of a second mind inside the woman, and when this second presence vanishes this hostile woman suddenly becomes quite timid, not to mention highly confused. After a brief visit to the cell of the mind hopping Bette Noir, where J'Onn learns that she's not the party responsible, J'Onn returns to his office, where he's finds his partner is playing host to this second mind. As J'Onn is able to draw this presence into the foreground, he discovers Harley Quinn is the guilty party.

I do believe this is the first time I've ever seen the Martian Manhunter playing the role of guest-star in someone else's title, and while the cover doesn't advertise his presence, this issue is a bit of a landmark in my eyes, as J'Onn has finally begun to taken another step that will hopefully remove the stigma that states he can only within the confines of the JLA book. Now yes he's had himself a miniseries, and a monthly series that ran for 38 issues (plus two annuals), but given he's been a mainstay of the JLA lineup longer that any other cast member of that title, I've always been surprised that J'Onn has never quite made his mark on DCU fans. So getting back to the point, this issue of Harley Quinn turns the spotlight on J'Onn as our hero finds his hometown of Denver playing host to the disembodied spirit of Harley Quinn. The issue also draws upon a lingering plot thread that was left over from the monthly series, and it's actually refreshing the see a hero jump to a conclusion that ends up being wrong. Plus, as he proved during his time in the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League, J'Onn is the ideal straight man for a comedic based character.

I must admit I've forgotten when Karl Kesel is slated to depart this title & the new creative team is slated to make their arrival, but this issue has set up a fairly interesting problem for Karl Kesel to resolve before he hands over the reins. I mean with her body vaporized by the jet-pack when it exploded, Harley Quinn is basically a ghost with no body. Now this issue nicely plays up this idea, as we have Harley jumping from body to body, with the Martian Manhunter hot on her tail, but one imagines that before he leaves Karl Kesel is going to have to find some way of getting Harley back to her previous status quo. Then again Harley's still a relatively new addition the DCU, and as such one would think that Karl Kesel would have a more freedom to make a fairly drastic change, such as dumping Harley's spirit into the body of the shape-shifting J'Onn. I mean what could be more fun than having J'Onn & Harley playing out the role of mismatched partners while battling for control of a single body. Plus with a lineup change slated to hit the JLA, I wouldn't mind it if J'Onn was moved over to this book for an arc, or two.

Craig Rousseau is a nice fit for this title, and it's a shame that he's only around for this latest arc as since his run on "Impulse" from a few years back I've been hoping he would find his way onto a book that was in need of a regular artist. Craig Rousseau has himself a nice animated style that works quite well on this book, and since Young Justice already has itself a rock solid art team, Harley Quinn one of the few titles left where his style is a nice match. This issue we only get a final page shot where we get to see Harley Quinn in full costume, but J'Onn's unflappable demeanor is also nicely conveyed by the art, as is his confusion/curiosity as he investigated this latest mystery. The art also is given a fairly involved story to convey, as it's called upon to deliver the shift between J'Onn & his human identity, and the idea that Harley is jumping in & out of host bodies several times in this issue. There's also a nice surreal battle on the mental landscape as J'Onn mistakenly suspects the wrong villain for Harley's activities. It's also nice to see the Dodsons are still around to provide covers, with this month's image being a cute use of Lil' Harley.

Final Word:
I'm a big fan of the Martian Manhunter, so I imagine I found this issue far more enjoyable than a reader who only has a passing familiarity with the character. Still, while the issue doesn't feature much Harley Quinn action for her fans to enjoy, the story did a nice job building up her return, as while it's not exactly surprising the learn the second presence was Harley, the issue does a solid job of detailing the steps that J'Onn makes to uncover this fact. The idea that Harley lacks a body to call home is also a rather novel situation for the character to overcome, as the only other character that I believe is faced with a similar problem is everyone's favorite deceased circus acrobat, Deadman. It should be interesting to see how Karl Kesel resolves this situation before his departure, and having the Martian Manhunter on hand is certainty a welcome touch. My only problem with the story is that it makes certain elements more complex than they really needed to be (e.g. the side-plot involving Bette Noir).

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