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Harley Quinn #38

Posted: Monday, November 10, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: A.J. Lieberman
Artist: Charlie Adlard

Publisher: DC

Plot:
After she is called in to offer up her mental assessment of a patient who has come to believe he is the Joker, we see Harley Quinn is starting to look a bit shaky herself, as the guilt she feels over her allowing that young girl to be blinded is making it's impact felt. The issue than ends with Harley discover she's spent the past month lost in a delusion, and in a bid to get her head on straight she checks herself back into Arkham.

Comments:
The final issue of this series, and I can honestly say I'm not all that upset to see it go as frankly the book hasn't really distinguished itself as anything more that a potentially promising bit of crime-fiction that never quite worked as well as one would hope. Now I must confess I found the basic premise of this issue somewhat intriguing as Harley Quinn is called in to deal with a crazy person who has come to believe they are the Joker, and this delusion plays right into Harley's seeming blind spot, as pretty soon the patient has turned the tables on the doctor. However, where this issue lost me is with it's surprise twist where we learn everything up to a certain point of the story was a simple delusion created in Harley's mind, and that we've spent two-thirds of the issue investing our interest in an idea that will never be resolved, as once the illusion is exposed all the plot questions that were introduced are simply left in mid-resolution. What's more the big ending of this story is that Harley is so wracked by the guilt of what she did in the previous arc that she willingly commits herself beck into Arkham, which acts to completely undermine one of the more enjoyable elements of the character, as we now have a super-villain with a guilt complex which is the quickest way I know of to turn a great villain into a mediocre hero. A series that never really got off the ground ends grinds to a halt, and I can't say I'll miss it all that much.

As for the art, Charlie Adlard turns in a fairly sinister looking issue that works exceptionally well on the scenes where the story is trying to convey some of the more unsettling ideas. Take the various sessions between Harley Quinn and her patient as the idea that this crazed Joker wannabe is having such success at getting inside Harley's head is nicely captured by his smarmy smiles, and the lack of expression on Harley's face. There's also a solid scene where Harley throws a tantrum in her apartment that nicely details her sense of frustration without openly showing us all that much on the page itself. The scene where Harley makes her final decision out in the rain is also nicely handled, with the final downward shot of her being particularly effective. I found this issue's cover a bit cartoonish looking though, considering the darker subject matter.

Final Word:
I can't say I ever found this series as engaging as the television episodes where Harley Quinn became a fan favorite, and as such earned herself a spot in the mainstream DCU. In fact the recent switch to a more serious minded style as Harley Quinn became a largely humorless title was never viewed as a good move in my book, as the series essentially became Batman-Lite instead of its own entity. With this in mind I'm rather glad to see this book has been brought to a finish, as the book was already on the bubble, and if the series hadn't ended with this issue I suspect I would've left the book soon after. I mean I'm already reading far too many titles that feature an angst ridden character who is haunted by their past, and to see Harley Quinn, who I consider one of the most promising new creations to emerge out of the 1990's, being devolved into such a mundane character type was downright depressing. Here's hoping that when she makes it back out of comic limbo, she's handled by a writer with a sense of humor, as I'd love to see a Gail Simone written series, and Peter David could have a lot of fun with the character.



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