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Harley Quinn #26

Posted: Friday, November 22, 2002
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: A.J. Lieberman
Artists: Mike Huddleston (p), Troy Nixey (i)

Publisher: DC

Plot:
The book opens with a drugged Harley Quinn being held under the water by a figure in combat fatigues, and as Harley passes out from the lack of air, we see her mind flashes back on the events in her life that lead her to this point. We then visit a young psychiatrist named Harlene Quinzel as she arrives at Arkham Asylum, where we see the young woman quickly rises through the ranks and eventually becomes involved in a series of sessions with Arkham's most infamous resident, the Joker. As the time passes we see Harlene begins to fall in love with the Joker, and after she helps him escape, we see she becomes his partner-in-crime, and even the Joker's frequent attempts to kill her don't diminish her love for Mr. J. We then join Harley Quinn in the more recent present as we see she is back in Gotham City, and during a late night visit to a high tech firm we see Harley has a run-in with another person who looks to be making a late night withdrawal from the place. After Harley shoots the man in the shoulder, and makes off with the disk she came to steal, we see another person comes along and shoots the injured man in the head. We then learn the murdered man was an police officer. The issue ends with Harley Quinn's apartment about to play host to a police raid, and as luck would have it Harley at home to receive her guests.

Comments:
The new creative team arrives on the book, and their first move to examine the character's past in a little more depth, as roughly a third of the issue is handed over to a quick overview of how Harley Quinn went from a promising young psychiatrist, to a certifiable loon with a crush on the Joker. Now this flashback material doesn't really generate any sympathy toward Harley, as presented more from an outsider looking in point of view, but then again one doesn't really need to identify with Harley to enjoy the character. It is nice to see the effort was made to make this first issue reader friendly, by offering us some insight into Harley's early days, as while the previous twenty-five issues haven't been difficult to follow, they have largely avoided looking back at Harley's past, as the only information I'd learned about the character's past before this issue, was that there were signs she was crazy even before she joined the staff of Arkham Asylum. This issue does play up the idea that Harley's feelings toward the Joker are largely unreciprocated, as the Joker seems to view her as more of a means to an end, instead of a partner, or even an ally. Then again she has avoided his attempts to kill her seventeen times, so perhaps this alone is a sign that he loves her.

As for the material that's set in the present day the book does jump around a bit with its timeline, as the book opens with Harley Quinn in a rather precarious looking situation, but the issue ends with another cliffhanger that seems unrelated to the first. This issue does let us know that Harley is being framed by a person who wants it to look like Harley's a cold blooded killer, though given she hung out with the Joker, I can't imagine that she already isn't being sought for playing an active part in the various mass murdering sprees the Joker likes to plague Gotham with. Then again so little about Harley's time with the Joker has been revealed in these pages that one can't know what Harley's crimes from that period entail. Still, from what we've seen in the pages of this series, there are numerous murders that Harley could be linked to, so the only reason that would seem to make sense for framing her for this latest murder is that making Harley look like a cop killer would turn up the heat. I guess there's also the fact that this cop might've been a good cop looking to expose a group that this unseen killer was a part of, so making Harley appear to be his killer keeps his hands clean.

The new art team is certainly a big switch from what we had been getting on this book, as the art gone from bouncy and lighthearted, to grim, moody, and it's almost taken on a film noir quality to it with it's use of shadows & light. Now the new art nicely fits the new writing style, as Harley Quinn is no longer a book for readers looking for escapist fun, and the opening five pages do a wonderful job clueing the reader into this fact, as we see Harley's being drowned in a bathtub (though the rubber ducky did add an element of dark humor to the scene). The art also does some nice work conveying Harley decent into madness, with the page that details her slowing falling for the Joker's charms being particularly effective, as we see her appearance becomes less & less professional in appearance. There's also the sheer delight on Harley's face during the scenes when she's running around with the Joker. The closing sequence in this book is also nicely done, with the art doing a pretty good job of detailing the action, without any explanatory text, as we see Harley's about to be visited by an armed group of police officers, who are likely under the orders of a corrupt police officer.

Final Word:
The new creative team looks to have taken a more serious take on Harley's world, as we open the book with what looks to be Harley Quinn's murder, and then we flashback to see how she ended up in this particular point in her life. We get a pretty quick recap of how an up and coming psychiatrist named Harlene Quinzel came to be the costumed villain Harley Quinn. We also get a scattered look at the new plot that will presumably drive this book for this arc, as we see Harley is framed for the murder of a police officer, and when the dust settles the issue ends with Harley's new apartment about to be raided by a swat team of armed police. Now the book is a little on the detached side, as even when the book's being directly narrated by Harley Quinn herself, her personality seems a bit off, as it's far too analytical and reflective in tone, and it doesn't read like the Harley Quinn we've seen in the previous twenty-five issues. However, the book is still a pretty engaging read, and I'm not ready to jump ship just yet.



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