Saturday, November 2, 2019

Harleen #2 Review

Heavy Emphasis on the Romance
Writer: Stjepan Sejic Artist: Stjepan Sejic Publisher: DC Comics Release Date: October 30, 2019 Cover Price: $7.99
Review By: Carlos S.
This story picks up after the first, following Harleen Quinzel as she struggles with helping Arkham Asylum’s “residents”.  She is facing an existential dilemma: is any of this worth it? In her search for the answer, she centers on the Joker. Romantic feeling ensues despite her best attempts to resist.  How does it all go? I think you know. Let’s review it anyway. 

The book opens with the Joker explaining his outlook on life.  Nothing too surprising here if you know anything about him. It is the same old “All it takes is one push and people will go crazy thing”.  The next scene looks like a bank robbery. It is pretty cool seeing the classic Joker/Harley working together again. I was a little confused by the opening panel though.  It looks like Joker is pulling Harley close but in the next panel, she has enough distance from him to sneak up on someone holding the Joker up. I really liked the Joker’s pilot joke though.  Throughout this book the Joker plant seeds in Harleen’s head that cause her to obsess over even through the end of this reading. There are also great callbacks to seeds planted from the last book.

The next scene continues Harleen’s downfall.  We see her drinking to excess in effort to combat the stress of her occupation and life in Gotham.  She also keeps thinking of the Joker’s latest conversation with her. She hates herself for thinking that not only is he right but he is amazing.  I think that Harleen is prime for the exact type of recognition that the Joker is giving her.  
Harleen gets a phone call from her supervisor saying that she may want to hold off on her experiment at Arkham due to what’s happening with the police.  What’s happening with the police you ask? Harvey Dent was holding a press conference where Sal Maroni was in attendance. Sal Maroni is pissed because Harvey locked up his son.  He was murdered in prison and of course, Sal feels as though Harvey is responsible. Maroni flings acid in his face resulting in disfiguration and a medically induced coma. This sets off a chain of events within the police force.  A terrorist organization is born and they abduct Maroni. He is executed on TV because they no longer have faith in the Gotham justice system. Batman and Robin (I assume Dick Grayson) spring into action to stop the group. I mentioned before that I loved the Joker/Harley team up and I will have to say it again here.  Even though it is just one panel, I am a sucker for the classic duos updated and modernized. This execution serves as a confirmation of what Joker told Harleen. Everyone in Gotham is crazy and violent underneath. They only need an excuse to act on it.   

Harley feels obligated to go to the GCPD.  She needs to talk to Commissioner Gordon and Batman.  Gordon leads her to an ongoing interrogation between Bullock and Hoskins.  He is one of the policemen that Batman captured after that whole Sal Maroni thing.  Hoskins talks about how Arkham is a revolving door for Gotham’s rogues and therefore complicit in allowing these crimes to be committed.  The only way to stop them is by killing them. There are sleeper agents throughout the department and it is up to Gordon to figure out who is who.
Harleen asks Gordon if she can speak to Batman.  She needs his perspective on her research. Gordon reluctantly agrees and eventually, Batman shows up.  His entrance looks pretty badass. She wants to know why Batman doesn’t kill. He gives her the same answer I am sure you have heard before.  This doesn’t really satisfy her. She needs to talk to the Joker again.
Harleen and Joker begin to discuss the merits of vigilantes, especially concerning Batman.  His point is that if Batman starts killing, it will only serve to embolden others. He thinks that there can be a war on Gotham streets because of it.  She asks why he didn’t kill her that night and he pretty much tells her because he has never seen anyone like her before. Harleen doesn’t know it yet but that means everything to her.  
The next scenes serve to show that she thinks that the city is full of monsters and that the Joker should be pitied and saved.    Later we see that the Joker has bribed a guard to pull some files for him. It is not specified what they are but I would assume that it is him doing his research on Harleen. 

Now we follow Harleen doing interviews with the various rogues of Arkham.  The panel of her wearing a jacket while talking to Mr. Freeze is hilarious.  All in all she is so disinteresting in everything they all have to say. She becomes disillusioned with her job and lazy.  Honestly though, we can all relate. I found her interaction with Poison Ivy to be pretty interesting and it only wanted me to see more of that.  It gets cut short due to Harleen’s embarrassment. She leaves but on her way out of the Asylum she stops to see the Joker. She watches him sleep and sees that he really isn’t as bad as everyone says.  He is actually a victim.  
Harvey Dent is waking from his coma.  We start to see clues of Big Bad Harv’s appearance (BTAS callback from me ha).  Wilkes shows up and Harvey calls for a press conference despite his Doctor’s objections.  Three days later the press conference begins. The stress of the conference and his PTSD trigger full-on Two-Face.  He comes out in support of the group that killed Maroni. I wish there would’ve been more set up here to show Harvey would’ve snapped.  In the last book you kind of got that but not really. You mainly just see that Harvey is a dick.  
We come back to Harleen reminiscing about the Joker.  She is desperately doing research to prove she shouldn’t be feeling this way about him.  That fails. She has an epiphany. She remembers her professor telling the class that when they talk to people like the Joker that they need to be asking the right questions.  Duh….He also mentions that people like this are extremely easy to give up on so continued research is not always done thoroughly. She decides to see the Joker again.
She wants to know if he feels remorse.  The Joker explains to her that the first victim is empathy.  Someone tell James Tynion. He explains that in his life, he is in a kill or be killed scenario constantly.  He has no choice. The Joker changes the subject and tells her that he knows she watches him sleep. She is thrown off by this and what she perceives as his honesty from earlier in the conversation.  She doesn’t know who is examining who. She presses with questions and the Joker refuses to answer. He tells her she is no better than everyone else who comes by that just wants to write a book. She tells him it is not like that and disconnects the monitoring camera.  At this point Harleen is all in with the Joker. She releases his restraints and lets him know she cares for him. Joker quickly use this to his advantage to pretty much express he feels the same way. We are now seeing a transformation from Harleen to Harley take effect.   

Art time.  So, of course, it is nothing less than what you would expect.  I love all of it. Still not a big fan of the Joker’s facial design but that’s ok.  Everyone else looks the way you would expect them to and better even. I really like the way Two-Face looks.  The gross reddish details really make him pop. I am a fan of the Batman and Robin glowing eyes, I think it looks cool.  Another point I want to mention is the monsters that Harleen talks to in her nightmares, they look awesome. I could go on and on but you get the point.  The coloring here is on point and fits with the story.
Bits and Pieces:
Although the art is amazing, I am just not really a big fan of the story.  That does not mean that I hated it either. The overly romantic elements that control the narrative are just not for me.  A few times the dialogue just felt repetitive and drawn out. This series may have been served better if it was shorter. The art is a slam dunk all the way through.  Overall, I would say this series is okay. I will still be checking out the next story since there are elements here that intrigue me.


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