Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #1 Review

What Black Label Was Made For!

Writer: Kami Garcia
Artist: Mico Suayan and Mike Mayhew
Cover Price: $5.99
Release Date: October 9, 2019

Review by: Carlos S.

This was another book that I went into reading without knowing much about it.  It started pretty slow but as the pages turned, it found a steady enjoyable momentum.  Here we find that Harley Quinn is working as a consultant to the GCPD.  She is a forensic psychiatrist and a behavioral profiler who works with the homicide unit.  The Joker has murdered her roommate.  How does this play out?  Let’s see.

The issue starts out with Harley Quinn and Jim Gordon discussing an investigation.  The victim has developed a pretty bad case of no legs and slit throat.  Usually Always fatal.  You have a Detective Maddox, who clearly doesn’t give a shit, passing this off as gang violence.  Harley explains to Jim the specific reasons as to why that is not likely.  Jim changes to the topic of the conversation to cold cases.  Gotham City has way too many.  Who would’ve fucking thought?  The Chief of Police has ordered all older cases with no leads to be reclassified.  This would include the murder of Harley’s roommate and she is understandably pissed.

We next get a flashback to five years ago.  I usually hate it in media when they do these things.  Start your story where it starts.  With that being said, I don’t mind it here.  Harley has been working out of town in Bludhaven all weekend.  She needs to vent to her roommate about how shitty her job is.  I get it though, it’s Bludhaven.  She stumbles upon her roommate murdered in her bathtub but not just murdered, more like artfully massacred.  Don’t know if that is a term but there you go.  The way she is posed and decorated, it would be natural to assume that this is the work of a product killer.  With the Joker though, I can easily see him fitting in both product and process categories.  In the next panel, we hear the reason why he can be a process killer.  Why else use a hangar?  (Plus it’s the Joker.  He loves doing that shit.)  It is revealed that Joker has been killing other people in the building as well.  One part I did not like here was the discussion of the missing books.  Really?  This random cop knows the way Harley organizes her books and knows the Joker stole some?  What if she took those with her to Bludhaven?  What if Harley isn’t really as organized as the cop thinks she is?  These are just knit picks because that part felt forced.  Yeah, apparently the Joker stole some books on surgical procedures.

The next scene sends us back to the present.  Harley is leaving Jim’s office but is being harassed by Detective Maddox.  They just talk shit back and forth but I think it is important enough.  It shows that Harley can hang with the tough crowd and defend herself just fine.  It will be interesting to see how the Joker uses that against her in this series.  Additionally, we get a montage of sorts.  Pretty much, Harley knows the murderer is the Joker and she will do whatever she needs to in order to stop him.  Her research leads her to go find a possible witness to one of the Joker’s murders.  A waitress tells her that she really never saw anything, she was just a neighbor who wasn’t even home at the time.  Harley still needs information and presses on.  She tells Harley that the victim was an abusive father whose wife had died in an accident prior.

This sets up a flashback to this family.  When I saw this, I initially was disappointed that we were going to distract from the main story.  It happens commonly in other books but again, in this issue, it works very well.  I was actually invested in the son by the time it wraps up.  It appears as though the father works for some mafia/gang/mob/group of assholes type of people.  They need to talk to him and don’t give a shit that it is his kid’s birthday.  The kid and the mother drive off themselves.  In a chase scene between Batman and some robbers happening concurrently, a truck hits their car and knocks them off a bridge.  The kid tries to save his mother but cannot.  The father blames the kid.  He is guilt-ridden and beaten by his drunk father for the rest of his life.  Like the rest of the father’s life I guess because as I said earlier, he gets straight-up murdered by the Joker.  The kid takes off.  This will be interesting to see if it pays off in the future.  His life has been drastically altered by both Batman and the Joker.

Harley is called to another crime scene.  This guy is fucked up.  He has additional limbs sewn onto him while he is sprawled out in a circle of tendons.  Detective Maddox dismisses this as a satanic cult murder.  At a first quick and passing glance, sure.  Maybe I could see that.  In reality, though anyone else would be able to make out that this was made to resemble the famous work of art by Leonardo Da Vinci.  This is the work of a serial killer, not a cult.  I actually really liked the exchange here between the Detective and Harley.  

The next day Harley is teaching a class.  It really is exciting to get into the detailed psychology of Gotham villains, especially in relation to real-life serial killers.  We don’t see this pulled off very well in other DC books.  I am pretty well versed in these cases and it was interesting to see them mentioned here.  I loved how Harley explains that not every serial killer is insane, it is way more complicated than that.  At the end of her lecture, an annoying serial killer groupie tries to get information from her.  She isn’t having that shit and dodges him.  I wonder if he will play a role later in the book.  We see the Joker here for a second and he looks pretty fucking cool.  Most serial killers love to revisit their crime scenes or talk to people involved in their cases.  They have to relive that high.  Ed Kemper used to go drinking with cops and loved talking to them about his murders.  They would go into details about the case, not knowing that they were talking to the killer.  Joker could be here doing that or researching this person whose been researching him.  Either way, this leads us to the cliffhanger.  I didn’t like how extremely vague it was.  Apparently, some crazy gruesome murder just happened and we will have to find out what’s up next issue.  

Now with the art.  Overall, it looks amazing.  I am not sure that I like the black and white but I can appreciate it.  It gives you a sense of noir detective vibes which might be what they were going for.  Or not.  Either way, all characters drawn in these scenes look amazing.  I love the detail on the Gotham crime scenes.  The serial killer pages were fantastic with terrific details unique to them.  I really liked the in color flash back scenes as well.  I know that hyper-realistic art in comics can throw some people off but it is not too over the top here.  The emotion given to each character, especially in the car crash scene, will make you feel for them.  I don’t know how else to describe it.  You don’t even need words for that entire page.  The art conveyed the situation very well.  Let’s be sure to really give credit to the colorist here as well.  Close-ups of Harley reveal fine details in skin tone.  The shading, the contrast, everything is all top-notch throughout. 

Bits and Pieces:

In conclusion, this issue was way better than I would’ve expected.  I am so glad that the DC Black Label gives teams the freedom to work within a mostly uncensored realm with these characters.  This issue would have never worked otherwise.  With graphic and controversial content, the creative time had a huge gamble in terms of success.  I think that this proves if you truly do your research into what story you want to tell then it will pay off very well.  There are plenty of things I look forward to seeing in the next issue that was set up here.  I absolutely cannot wait to meet the Joker in this world.

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