Writer: A.J. Lieberman
Artists: Mike Huddleston (p), Troy Nixey (i)
The book opens with Harley Quinn busy at her day job, but when she discovers one of her patients is the son of a criminal who killed himself, we see she cues into this fact to late, as this patient escapes from her office before she can take him down. However, before he makes his escape, this disturbed man makes it clear that he knows she is Harley Quinn, and he blames her for his father's death. We then look in on the police detective who believes Harley Quinn killed his partner, but in an odd twist we see this detective has fallen head over heels for his psychiatrist who just happens to be Harley Quinn. After this detective becomes aware that his beloved doctor looks to be in grave danger, we see he races to her apartment, but we see he might arrive too late, as a drugged Harley is being drowned in her bathtub by the crazed patient she encountered earlier in the issue. However, as luck would have it, Poison Ivy's power granting formula also allows Harley to breath underwater, and she uses this ability to wait until her attacker believes she is dead, before springing back to life, and letting it be known she doesn't like it when her patients try to kill her. The issue then ends with the rescue of Harley's endangered friend, who was on the verge of being buried alive.
I suppose a large degree of my dislike of this title is due to the simple fact that I rather enjoyed this book when it didn't take itself, or its plots all that seriously. Now if humor isn't one of A.J. Lieberman's strong points as a writer, then it's probably for the best that he picked a darker direction, but I have to say that I'm not overly impressed with his ability to craft crime-fiction either. I mean there's a nice harrowing sequence in this issue where a paralyzed Harley is being drowned in a bathtub, and the solution for her escape is that she can suddenly breath underwater. I mean there's nothing quite as disheartening as when a writer decides to add abilities based entirely on how easily they would allow the character to survive certain death. There's also the highly elaborate plans that our villain has come up with, as one has to love that he spelled out the location of where he had dumped Harley's friend in a crossword puzzle, in spite of the fact that Harley was already suppose to be dead when this puzzle came out. I mean one has to love a villain who makes secondary plans just in case their primary one falls short of their expectations. One also has to love a villain whose big gimmick is crossword puzzles that help the hero solve the case.
For some reason "Wizard: the Comic Magazine" feels this book is a truly wonderful read, but I have to say in the world of crime-fiction comics there's at least a half-dozen titles that are doing a better job (Black Panther, Daredevil, Incredible Hulk, 100 Bullets, Alias, Gotham Central). Now I'm not saying that this book isn't deserving of some praise, as there were moments in this issue where I was genuinely impressed by the book's ability to really ratchet up the tension, with the detective's mad race thought the city to rescue the drowning Harley Quinn being the best example. There's also some clever word play in this issue, such as Harley's response on page fourteen to the detective's claim that he's going to get her, and the exchange in the prison cell between Harley & the vengeful Dane was also a nice bit of work. However, there are far too many moments in this issue where I found myself either wondering why the writing had chosen such a complex method of delivering its rather uncomplicated ideas, and the red herrings that we've been treated to have been a little too obvious in that they existed entirely to keep the reader from guessing the truth (e.g. the fact that both the detective & the true killer share similar looking tattoos).
Mike Huddleston is an interesting match for this book, as he does bring a good eye when it comes to delivering unsettling displays of violence, and he also uses the heavy shadows to good effect, as one gets the sense that there is danger lurking around every corner. The art also deserves full marks for nicely developing a sense of urgency, as when Harley is drowning in the bath tub, while the police detective races to the scene, the look of concern on his face is downright riveting. I'll also credit the art for making Harley Quinn into a truly frightening figure after she returns from her apparent death, as one can't help but be impressed by the series of panels where one sees her suddenly spring back to life. There's also a rather cute sequence where we see the detective has to ride the ever-slow elevator up to Harley's apartment, and his dull trip is contrasted by the shots of Harley in a highly charged battle with Dane. There's also an interesting series of panels where we slowly discover where Harley friend is being held, and while the art isn't really clear on how Harley knew which barrel her friend was sealed inside, the rescue scene is pretty solid. The final sequence is also a fun bit of misdirection, as one is initially lead to believe Harley blew up her new boyfriend.
A promising issue in that A.J. Lieberman proves he knows how to generate a dramatically intense sequence that really had me on the edge of my seat. However, the revelation that Harley Quinn can suddenly breath underwater as such a colossal misstep that I was left completely disenchanted. I mean the scene is basically the writer thumbing his nose at the reader, as it takes no real creative thought to introduce a new ability that provides the easy out for our endangered hero, and I have to say I'm quite disappointed that A.J. Lieberman felt this was the best twist he could offer to the reader. Now there are some solid moments of entertainment in this issue, as the interplay between Harley Quinn & the detective is quite engaging, and the villain's motive contained enough mixed up logic that it was rather endearing. However, this book needs to be a little smarter in how it details the material, and the red herrings need to be a little less obvious in their attempts to throw the reader off the track.
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