Writer: A.J. Lieberman
Artists: Mike Huddleston (p), Troy Nixey (i)
Publisher: D.C. Comics
The book opens with Harley Quinn getting to her feet, as her new bulletproof costume protected her from the hail of bullets that sent her tumbling off the roof at the end of last month's issue. However, we see she still has to contend with a small army of attackers and she soon discovers that there are at least two different groups that are gunning for her. While she is able to hold her own against the police, we see she is unable to avoid her being caught by a group of bounty hunters who are looking to cash in on the reward that's been offered up for her capture. However, Harley's able to keep her captors occupied until she able to get herself free, and she makes a fairly dramatic escape & this time she's able to get away without being shot. We then join her the next day as she busies herself with her day job as a psychiatrist, and we see she's rather amused by the fact that one of her patients is a police officer who believes that Harley Quinn killed his partner. As Harley decides to take a more proactive stance, we see she is able to figure out the identity of the person who made it look like she was a cop-killer, and we see her send this person a message that she's not happy with their efforts to get her killed.
This issue offers up pretty much more of the same, and as such if you're enjoying the new direction this book has undertaken, then this issue will probably keep you entertained. On the other hand, if you are like myself and you're disillusioned by this title's decidedly darker tone, then chances are you're going to find this issue wanting. Now I'm not saying a book can't change, and given Harley Quinn is a demented psychopath this book's darker tone is perfectly valid. However, I still say that the reason Harley Quinn became such a hit on the animated series was because she acted as the comedy relief on a series that was steeped in dark characters. I mean any character who is able to steal the spotlight away from the Joker has to have something going for her, and as such I find it a bit troubling that this new direction has effectively done away with this sense of whimsy. There's also a sense that the book is going for the cheap thrills, as there's only so many times you can have Harley shot before this idea loses its impact, and having her savagely tear into a man while she questions him for answers completely misses the appeal of Harley Quinn, as to put it simply that character's adventures are no longer any fun to read.
Now that I'm done with my monthly rant about how this book has lost its sense of humor, I'll take the time to discuss what I do enjoy about this new direction. I like the idea that Harley's day job as a psychiatrist is getting more play, and A.J. Lieberman comes up with some fairly intelligent conversations where it's clear that Harley does have some skill when it comes to therapy. Now the people she's dealing with are clearly disturbed, and we never get the sense that she is actually interested in curing her patients, but we do see she is quite good at figuring out what's wrong, and manipulating the situation to her advantage. I also have to concede that while I don't care much for the darker edge, the book does a pretty solid job of developing situations where it's clear Harley's in serious trouble, and the book also does some nice work at showing us how she's able to extract herself from these situations. This issue also features the long anticipated return of Mr. J, and while the exchange between Harley and the Joker isn't as back & forth as I would liked to have seen, it is nice to see Harley exerting her independence, and that she's able to hold her own when he arrives in these pages.
The art on this book is well suited to the book's new darker tone, and as such I have to give it full marks for doing the job that it's been called upon to do. The art certainly lends a nice sense of danger to the story as the heavy shadows play up the idea that Harley is operating in an environment where the main rule she should adhere to is trust no one. I also have to give the art credit for its in your face action, as Harley's battle in the opening pages has a nice raw energy to it, and while the violence is a bit off-putting and visually jarring, I have to say it also effectively details Harley's new tough as nails approach to her dealings with others. The talking heads scenes also hold up quite well, as we can see Harley's patients are clearly disturbed, and that her efforts are geared more toward making them worse by bringing their bottled up emotions to the surface. The contrast of her cheery smile, against that of her enraged patients is also an effective way of showing us that Harley is not trying to help these people get better. As for the art's take on the Joker, the character looks to have been inspired by the character's appearance in the animated series, but this is actually a welcome touch as the scene with the Joker is easily the most entertaining section of this issue.
I can't say that I'm exactly enamored with this book's new direction, and the plot that A.J. Lieberman has come up with is a bit too run-of-the-mill for my tastes, but I will give him credit for the delivery of some pretty impressive scenes that show us what Harley does to occupy her time when she's not in costume. The issue also features a guest-appearance by the Joker, and while Mr. J isn't quite his usual crazy self, and Harley manages to get the drop on him a bit to easily, it is nice to see this unusual relationship finally getting some play in these pages. Still, if only to belabor the idea I have to say that I miss the sense of fun that this book used to have going for it. Unlike Bruce Jones' work over on the Hulk, A.J. Lieberman's darker take on this title seems to lack any sense of forward motion, as it's more like Harley has gotten herself stuck in a slow-moving crime-drama, that seems to be trying to hide the fact that there's very little meat on its bones by delivering jarring displays of violence.
What did you think of this book?
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