Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Batman: White Knight Presents Harley Quinn #3 Review



Dressed To Kill?


Writer: Katana Collins
Art: Matteo Scalera
Colors: Dave Stewart
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: December 22, 2020

Batman: White Knight Presents Harley Quinn #3 follows Quinzel and Quimby as they track down the killer after a botched attempt on Simon Trent's life aka the Gray Ghost. Through some fairly solid detective sleuthing, Q2 discover the killer is filming interviews on special camera equipment that leads them to the next series of clues, and the revelation that Quimby is connected to the victims. With each bread crumb, the connections between Quimby, the movie star victims, and the killer get increasingly bizarre. We wrap with a cliffhanger that confirms one of the characters is cuckoo for cocoa puffs, and it isn't Harley... for once.

Was It Good?

Yes. It's a straight, detective, murder mystery set on the streets of Gotham. But for a brief appearance of Batman and the mainstream canon references to Harley Quinn, this story wouldn't be out of place with the detective stories of Columbo or Kojak. I reference those shows specifically because they have a very gritty, street-level vibe to them that's hard-boiled but not quite detective noir. If you like gritty, urban, detective stories, this issue succeeds on every level.




Short Story Long

We open with Simon Trent (the Gray Ghost) strapped to a chair as Ethel (the "Killer") interrogates him about his personal relationships with Sofia Valentine. During the interrogation, Ethel films the questioning on an old-time Hollywood camera with the film you can't find any more for an as-yet unrevealed purpose. During the questioning, Trent escapes his bonds with a nifty knot trick and tries to escape. In the chaos, Trent is slashed with a rare bolo knife that Ethel seems an expert at throwing, Ethel is shot in the arm by Trent, and a small fire destroys most of the camera with its film.

Not a lot happens in terms of action or exposition, but the interaction between two characters and the conclusion of the scene practically inundates the reader with little clues and tidbits to fill out the puzzle. Half the fun of a detective mystery is trying to figure it out on you're own, so when the writer gives you sprinkles of clues to play along, they're doing it right.




Cut to a diner scene with Quinzel and Quimby as they pour over the evidence and lives of the murder victims. It turns out they're all associated with an old movie starlet group called the Dashing Dames. They discuss the possibility that the next victim could be a surviving member and that one of the survivors could be the murderer, albeit unlikely due to the age of the starlets. Quimby takes this moment to come clean about a secret but is interrupted before he can finish by a call about Trent. 

Again, this is a nice bit of seed-planting by Collins. No scene in this comic is throwaway, and every little clue adds to the fun.

Cut back to Ethel in a meeting with her benefactor. They talk about Trent's escape and what they need to do next to clean up the mess before it affects their plans. Here we get a little clearer exposition about the big plan, which is to create a whole new Rogue's Gallery of villains to inhabit Gotham. The how and why of doing all this is not clear, and the dots don't quite connect. But what we do get is there's a larger master plan at work, and Ethel is not who she really claims to be.

The plot thickens.




[SPOILERS]

As the issue moves along, we learn a number of secrets along the way. Quimby is actually Sofia Valentine's son, but he's kept it a secret so as not to affect his place on the investigation team. Sofia Valentine was known for her expertise in throwing bolo knives, the weapon "Ethel" used to slash Trent.

The Darkroom, the only place in Gotham that has the special camera and film, sold all its stock to a mysterious purchaser (Ethel's boss?). And somebody left old interview film reels of Sofia Valentine there for Quimby to find.

With all roads leading to Valentine, the group heads to her home for an interview where we learn Quimby has been lying this whole time. He not only concealed his mother's identity from the other detectives, but Quimby has had a creepy fanboy obsession with Harley Quinn since he was a wee lad, even though he claimed to have never heard of her until they met.

This is the fun stuff and why I regard this issue highly. It's the little crumbs that keep dropping and reveals that lead to more questions than answers.

Where does it all go? Who knows, but I'm very keen to find out.

Bits and Pieces:

Batman: White Knight Presents Harley Quinn #3 takes the detective crime drama and sprinkles in just enough DC lore to make it familiar while still being strong enough to stand on its own. The art style is squarely in the Murphy-verse, which is a compliment, and big props to the artists for Harley's street clothes design. Her regular clothes are a smart blend of her alter ego and professional detective leisure suit that adds to her presence. If I had to pick one word that encapsulates this run so far, that would be it: Smart.

9/10


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