Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #2 Review

Writer: Kami Garcia
Artist: Mico Suayan, Mike Mayhew
Cover Price: $5.99
Release Date: January 1, 2020

Returning to the Black Label world of Criminal Sanity, the stakes are rising.  Harleen Quinzel is tasked with finding out who is devastating Gotham with these horrific murders before the killer strikes again.  Is Harleen getting too involved in this case?  Will she find the killer in time?  Is the killer the Joker?  Come on.  The last question was rhetorical.  (Refer to the book title.)

So we start immediately with the cliffhanger of the last book.  I always appreciate it when the issue starts this way rather than beginning with a flashback or starting in another scene that is not the cliffhanger continuation.  Start the story where it last ended, right?  We see that the Joker killed someone and made “art” out of them.  It looks like all limbs were amputated and reattached to a torso that was attached to a clock that may or may not has crushed the victim's head.  They were posed in a dramatic way, like a tree kind of.  Just check it out.  Looks cool in a weird way.  Possibly before the victim was killed or maybe as a fresh corpse, the killer mounted the body above candles in an effort to melt the fat off so as to be collected in trays.  

Look, I get it that this is where people may check out due to how gory this is but its Black Label.  This is kind of the point of the imprint.  This scene is based in reality though.  (Mostly.)  Harleen even mentions an example of Peruvian gangs selling this on the black market.  Understandably, Gordon expresses to Harleen his concerns about this leaking to the press before he is ready to release it.  As Harleen walks out she gives Gordan what appears to be an afterthought clue to the park bench murder.  (Guy who was missing his entire lower half.  On a park bench.  And was murdered.)

I like the narration on the next page a lot.  It gives you quick basics on killer psychology for those who may not be as familiar.  She breaks down the crime scene, the killer’s supplies, how he acted during, and she eliminates common groups of suspects based on logic.  This narrows her down to psychotic violent criminals.

Harleen calls Dr. Crane at Arkham to inquire about the current whereabouts of Victor Zsasz since he could be a plausible suspect.  He informs her that there is literally no way he has left the building.  Look at him, no one is letting him out of their sights.  Back to square one Harleen.
So for this issue, we begin to get flashbacks of this universe’s Joker.  His dad is exactly the piece of shit you would have expected.  The kid wanted to go trick or treating but instead is beat up by his dad.  We begin to get a montage scene of all the abuse that the father subjects his kid to.  Most murders have a history of traumatic brain injuries and parental abuse and we see each occur here.  One thing that kind of annoyed me was that the hospital staff did not seem to pick up on the constant abuse.  Medical personnel are trained to look for these things regardless of any excuses that the victim or perpetrator may give.  I guess this is just Gotham life.

The next scene gets to Harleen having a conversation with the medical examiner concerning the last victim.  She explains that the suspect has some sort of medical training based on the excellent suturing.  That should help to narrow down the suspect list.  Harleen also wants to pull records off the Joker’s first confirmed victim (the father) but can only do so partially.  There’s a page missing.  Harleen needs to find it.
And. Here. We. Go.  The Joker in his full glory.  He kind of acts like a Heath Ledger Joker but dresses like a Jared Leto Joker if he was obsessed with Columbine.  He walks through this shady ass Gotham bar (what bar in Gotham isn’t?) to this guy eating a steak.  It seems like the Joker hired him to get some gear for him.  The guy tells the Joker that it will take longer to get and since that is the case, the price goes up.  Unimpressed, the Joker slowly grabs the guy’s steak knife and stabs the guy’s hand.  Don’t ever fuck with the Joker.  The art shows that this is all happening in the present time since the scene is set in black and white with the exception of the Joker’s iconic green hair and red smile.  The artist does a great job here displaying the Joker’s soulless eyes.  They remain consistent and intimidating throughout the book.
Looks like that guy in the hoodie that was stalking Harleen in the last book was her brother.  Their mother is dying and he wants Harleen to be with them to say goodbye.  She refuses.  This leads to a flashback showcasing an example of the abuse that her mother inflicted upon her.  Harleen now focuses her energy on her work.

It appears to be a high school flashback with the Joker for the next few pages.  Some jock who appears to have fucked with him has now become his target.  The Joker explains that sometimes the best way to beat someone isn’t always in a fight, especially when you can destroy their reputation and leave them humiliated instead.  The Joker isn’t riding that high for long though because he is back at home.  His dad strikes again.  Also, I really like the art of the next couple of pages.

Harleen is back at GCPD and it appears as though they have found the park bench killer.  Is he also the Joker?  After talking with him, Harleen is sure that he is not.
The Joker is about to strike.  This scene is reminiscent of a horror movie.  The Joker walks up to his next victim and begins to talk to her like they know each other.  I can’t tell if this was Harleen’s roommate or another victim entirely.  The next page opens up in “Joker’s Lair”.  She is tied to a chair and freaking the fuck out.  This is the cliffhanger and definitely one of my favorite parts of the series so far.  
As a side note, we have to remember this is an out of continuity story where characters may not have the same jobs as they would in canon (Harleen) or have yet to devolve into their costumed criminal selves (Dr. Crane) or they have a known origin (the Joker).  I am a pretty big stickler with those sorts of things but I feel like the characters of the DC Universe fit well in the story that is being told.    

The art is great throughout.  I love how detailed the black and white scenes are.  The little color in these scenes serves to highlight very important elements of the character as if they were saying to others “this is all you need to know about me.”  The colored scenes are amazing.  They convey every delicate emotion the character is feeling and it almost makes it feel like you are there.  It is like a movie.  This book is not at all bad to just look at.  My only gripe with it is a negligible personal preference.  I think that I would like to see the “present” parts of the story in color and the flashbacks in black and white.

Bits and Pieces:

If you liked the first issue and were worried that the momentum would not maintain into the second, you can put those fears down to rest.  This issue continues to be amazing and my favorite Black Label book so far.  With realistic logic applied to a well-written story showcased by fantastic art, this is a book well worth the read. 


No comments:

Post a Comment