Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Harleen #3 Review

Writer: Stejpan Sejic
Artist: Stejpan Sejic
Cover Price: $7.99
Release Date: December 18, 2019
Review by: Carlos

We are back in the world of Harleen.  As she struggles with her feelings about the Joker, we also see Harvey Dent unleash his plan for the future of Gotham City.  Does he choose to save it or destroy it? Does Harleen make the ethical choice or does she go all in with the Joker? Come on.  You know what she’s doing.  

We begin with some anxiety fueled self-reflection from Harleen.  She knows that what she is doing with the Joker is not right. She realizes that not only is this career suicide but if she is caught, that is pretty much the end of her life as she knows it.  She feels like she is the only one who can save the Joker so she has to.   
So this continues with a day dream or a fantasy that she is having about the Joker.  He is pretty much saying that she is as crazy as he is and that is why they should be together.  Again, this is Harleen rationalizing this to herself. The weird part is the harlequin dress that she is randomly wearing here.  She claims that it is from reviewing files on Jervis Tetch earlier but I am pretty sure that it is because Stjepan Sejic really wanted to draw her in a dress like this.    

Now were moving on to Harleen getting yelled at by Dr. Strange.  He has a right to be pissed. If you remember from the last issue she covered the camera when she went to hug Joker and he is now calling her out on it.  He tells her that the Joker is only telling her what she wants to hear. Other with more experience have tried and not gotten much further in the mystery of the Joker.  It really seems like he wants to pull her from the project but he doesn’t after she pretty much just says please. He turns around completely and even agrees to keep the cameras off.  He was making okay points, not really sure why he would agree with her here. 
Harleen and Joker are flirting in the cell, no straight jacket on when they are almost caught by Mr. Bronson.  Apparently he is the closest thing Harleen has to a friend which comes into play later. The Joker and Harleen get away with it again.  As Harleen is leaving Arkham, she runs into Mr. Bronson. They make an agreement that he won’t barge in during sessions anymore. Harleen is riding this high, what could go wrong?

Next up, Harvey is in full hallucination mode here.  Let’s talk about her characterization here for a quick second.  It’s not bad, just not the way I prefer my Two Face. Here it seems more like an extra personality rather than a split one.  He is constantly in agreement with himself and there is no conflict. I always like it when Harvey is more or less the voice of reason and Two Face is the angry violent version.  Anyway, the Executioners are at his door to ask for Dent’s leadership. It is weird because the reveal is through them putting their mask on but in the next panel, no masks. Why not just show the masks?  Why put them on? Then I would assume to be an extremely awkward exchange of taking them off and putting them away while they walk into the living room. Regardless, here Harvey reveals his plan off freeing all of Arkham Asylum so they can wreak havoc on Gotham City.  In his mind this will force the politicians to see they have been going easy on criminals I guess. 
We move on to Harley and the Joker back in Arkham.  I kind of like the small detail of Joker having nerve damage.  He can’t feel anything unless it is intense. It would help to explain how he can better handle all the beatings he takes.  For the next page or so we see a montage scene of sorts with the Joker and Harleen getting closer, and other interactions she is having with people around her.  This ends when Batman shows up.
Batman is there to interrogate the Joker because of some other shit the Joker might be involved in.  Harleen is not having it and demands he leaves. He eventually relents. Another small detail here is the lettering for Batman.  It is grayed out like to indicate his voice is being modulated or disguised. I am actually a big fan of the Affleck voice modulation and hate the Bale yelling.  Either way, Batman should never should sound like Bruce Wayne.
Eventually, we see the Joker and Harleen consummate their relationship.  Is that word only for marriage? We see them fuck. They finally just kind of go at it.  This will serve to further cement Harleen’s feelings toward the Joker. Things are beyond serious.  She will save him…

This is where the story gets interesting for me.  Two Face is here in full force to orchestrate this break out of Arkham Asylum.  It happens a few times but I want to point it out now. I love the point of view perspective of the art here.  You see the coin flip while he is holding the pistol and it just looks really cool. His goons free Poison Ivy who serves as kind of like a catalyst to this break out.  She uses her plants to overwhelm the Asylum. The break out is in full effect and going well until the Joker is freed. Of course. He manipulates the rest of the prison population into believing that the Executioner’s are there to kill them.  This makes an all-out war happen between the Executioner’s, the police, and the Arkham inmates. The art is fucking amazing on anything that has to do with Waylon Jones. Do yourself a favor and at least check out those scenes.
Harleen shows up to the Asylum and is pretty much briefed by Commissioner Gordan as to what is going on.  She freaks out and goes after the Joker. As she adventures deeper into the asylum, she sees that it was and is the scene of chaos.  Killer Croc shows up and tries to eat her. She is saved by Poison Ivy. I would have liked to have seen more of her but this is pretty much all you get.  Next you see Mr. Bronson meeting up with the Joker. It seems as though the Joker lets him get away.
Two Face runs into a couple of cops.  It is kind of cool seeing the coin flip for each before he kills them.  That leads him into Harleen. He gives more exposition as to why he is Two Face and challenges Harleen to diagnose and cure him.  Again, really check out the art on this part. The coin flip, the pistol aim, the focus of perspective, all really really good. This is right before he is about to kill her.  Luckily, the Joker is there to save her. He beats the shit out of Two Face until Harleen stops him.  
This is until Mr. Bronson returns.  The Joker is pleading his innocence but he doesn’t care.  It looks like the Joker is about to be killed when Harley…saves him.  This pretty much ends Harleen Quinzel and cements Harley Quinn. The Joker has fully converted her to his side and while she is in shock she runs into his arms.  
This is where the issue began to go down again for me.  We are at the Batcave. Bruce and Alfred are discussing Harley’s research and he blames himself for her downward turn.  Alfred reassures him that she made her own decisions, albeit possibly in part to the Joker’s manipulation.  
What I really did not like is that this entire series was a buildup of how Harleen became the famous Harley Quinn but then it is never really shown.  We skip to four years later. What the fuck? Why? I guess to show her fully transformed? We saw her as Harleen the entire series then at the end we get a little bit of Harley.   That’s like having something be a three step process and skipping number two just to barely get a little bit of number three. That was what I was hoping to see this entire time. Or like ordering a burger and they didn’t add in the meat.  You get the point.      
The art kills it, which is nothing less than what you would expect.  I have already pointed out the great things of this issue that I really liked.  Everything with Killer Croc looked amazing. I loved the intensity of the Two Face coin flips through his perspective.  There is not really ever a bad piece of art throughout. The colors look great to match. Another thing I liked is how well the colors played off of Harleen’s make up when she applied it.  All in all really no complaints here, except maybe all the men’s faces. They all looked “too clean” I guess would be a way to put it. 

Bits and Pieces:

Upon my first read through, the break out scene was enough to really invest me in the issue.  However, when I read it again I noticed that it was not enough to keep my in the air. There were a lot of plot holes and many things never fully explored.  What happened to the Executioner’s? I was hoping to see more of the Joker being the Joker and not just a semi good boyfriend. We completely skip over the actual conversion of Harley Quinn to some “four years later”.  It was beyond overly romantic throughout. I would have liked to have seen more of the break out scene, maybe with some focus on the Bat family. Two Face was a fun character to follow and the art was constantly amazing.  With that being said, there was a lot of hype that I feel as though this book did not live up to.



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