Writer: A.J. Lieberman
Artists: Mike Huddleston (p), Troy Nixey (i)
The book opens with Harley Quinn making a late night visit to the apartment of Detective Bishop, where she makes an effort to convince him that she wasn't the one who killed his partner. However, given her efforts to reason with him result in her having to physically pummel the man into submission, her pleas of innocence fall on deaf ears. We then follow Harley as the next day she narrowly survives an attack, and given the attack was carried out against her while she was out of costume, she quickly cues to the fact that whoever is trying to kill her knows her secret identity. However she does get a spot of luck as before the attack she spots one of the patients she is currently treating was lurking nearby. However, when she grabs the patient, and sets about questioning him as to why he's trying to kill her, we see the man is gunned down by a sniper attack from a nearby roof. As Harley races after this killer we see her efforts to capture, and learn his identity are hampered by the arrival of a police officer, who attempts to arrest her. As Harley makes a rather easy escape, us readers get to learn the true identity of the killer, as the man murders one of Harley's allies, and we see Harley's guess about the true identity of this man is wrong.
To be completely honest this arc is starting to feel like a low rent version of Christopher Priest's early issues on the "Black Panther", as the story has that same chopped up & pieced back together feel to it. One also gets the sense that a great deal of effort has been made to lay out this story in such a difficult to follow manner, so one would hope that when the final chapter arrives next month I'll be singing this book's praises, for telling the story in such an innovative fashion. On the other hand, I also have to say that this book's seeming willingness to offer up a compelling scene, and then completely ignore it in a later scene. I mean the book opens with an encounter between Harley Quinn & the police detective she is treating in her day job, that ends with a series of panels where it looks like Harley has just shot the man in the head. However, later in the book we see this man show up for his appointment with Harley, and not only is he very much alive, but Harley looks quite unmoved by this fact. This issue also places a lot of stock in the idea that Harley's attacker has a eagle tattoo on his right forearm, and yet when the last page rolls around and the killer is revealed we learn the rather remarkable coincidence that two of Harley's patients have the same tattoo.
This book also has itself some moments where I have to wonder if we're not supposed to be paying that much attention to the little details, as there are a couple of scenes that struck me as downright bizarre. Take the weird little scene where a killer uses a crossword puzzle to communicate the idea that they are going to kill Harley, and not only does this killer know where she'll be standing when she works on the puzzle, but he also seems to know the order in which she'll fill in the answers. There's also the fact that a police officer shows up to bring an end to the fight between Harley & the mystery killer, almost immediately after the tussle begins, and the last time I looked the police didn't make a habit out of hanging out of building rooftops in the middle of the night. In fact one has to admire this officer's incredible timing, as he makes his surprise appearance right when Harley is poised to pull off the mask & learn who the mystery killer is. Now I guess the police officer could be working with the mystery attacker, and his job was to lurk in the shadows until it appeared Harley was winning the fight. This would explain why the officer doesn't make a single move to stop Harley's opponent, even though one would think the "don't move" command would apply to both of them.
Before I get going too far on the art I have to wonder about the panel where the crossword puzzle is revealed to be a message from Harley's killer, where the art clearly shows us that the "type of town" question required a five letter answer, as there's an extra square that Harley left empty. It just an odd little detail that stood out, given the crossword puzzle was being used to send a message. In any event now this I'm gotten that little nitpick out of the system I have to say that I do have to admire Mike Huddleston's ability to deliver a nice sense of impending doom with his art, and the new darker tone that this series has adopted. From the late night encounter where we see Harley pummels the detective senseless in her bid to convince him that she didn't kill his partner, to the equally unsettling meeting that the real killer has with Harley's friend, the art displays a very strong understanding of how to deliver a very effective display of jarring violence. There's also some fun transition scenes, such as the cutaway from scene where it looks like Harley has shot a man in the head, to the Chinese parade with its fireworks, or the explosion that reverts into a panel of battered looking Harley, as she wakes up screaming.
I still miss the more humorous aspects that were once part of this title, and truth be told I can't say that the darker tone has really grabbed my attention enough to leave me overly impressed with the new direction. It also doesn't help that the book seems to be quite happy to tell its story in a highly confusing manner, and offer up moments that seem to exist solely to leave one unsure of what they've just witnessed. So we have characters how look to be shot in the head turning up alive later in the story, and we have a parade of potential suspects who are doing everything but running around with signs stating their guilt to keep the reader from guessing the true identity of the killer. Still, the book does manage to deliver a sense that it is trying to deliver something unique, and I will give the book credit for keeping a nice sense of danger in the air, as the violence we see in the pages of this book is really quite severe, given this isn't a Vertigo title.
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