Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Review: Joker's Asylum Harley Quinn


As someone with a fairly long pull list and a predilection for Superman titles, I don't often get buy issues on a lark. I usually have a big stack waiting for me already. So it really takes something special to lure me into buying a stand-alone issue ... a convergence of events.

It happened last week. There were only 3 books in my file. I have always had a fascination with Harley Quinn. And I really like the artwork of Joe Quinones. With those things lining up, how could I not buy Joker's Asylum II:Harley Quinn.

I am glad I did. While not as haunting as the Mad Hatter one shot, this one was certainly entertaining and had a great ending. It am so glad that I didn't pass this one up. James Patrick, someone whose work I have never read, spins a nice story.

As with all the Joker's Asylum books, this one has the Joker 'hosting' the story in a framework style. I usually think that these pages are wasted, not necessarily adding much to the story. But here it worked wonderfully.

As the Joker discusses Harley, he pets a cute puppy. He then challenges the reader to figure out why he has the puppy with him. I have to tell you, I worried about the well-being of that little dog.

But on to the story.

The issue starts with Harley attacking the guards at Arkham and escaping. Despite being close to release, Quinn says that this is Valentine's Day, the one day where she needs to be with the Joker. And since he is on the outside, she needs to be too.

One thing I really love about this book is how it really does a great job of focusing on the duality of Quinn, the conflicting parts of her personality. Sometimes that is shown verbally ... such as Doctor Arkham questioning why Harley would throw away months of cooperation with this escape.

But it is also shown visually and when it is done right, it works beautifully. Take the panel above. Sure Harley is talking about how much she loves the Joker and needs to be with him. And her ponytails even frame her face in a heart-shape, accentuating this romantic talk. And yet her expression is absolutely feral, twisted in rage. Love and anger mixed together.

She flees to the city and heads to the Joker's hideout only to discover that the Clown Prince has been kidnapped. Boss Falcone has taken the Joker with the plan to auction him off to the highest bidder. The Joker has made enemies on both sides of the law it seems.

Harley vows to get her puddin' back and enjoy Valentine's Day together.

As much as I loved the heart-shaped pony tails panel, I loved this one even more. Here is this beautiful women talking about lemon ganache candies but brandishing this assault rifle. It is another way of showing the different sides of Harley.

Quinn dons her clown outfit and heads to the 'auction'. There she continues showing us what a free-wheeling character she is. She says 'I'm rubber and your glue. Whatever you say bounces of me and makes a six inch exit wound out of you.' I love the perversion of this school age taunt. She then becomes a whirling dervish killing all of Falcone's men and tossing a grenade as an exclamation point to the fight.

Falcone still needs a little convincing and nothing will persuade more than a bullet to the knee. He tells Harley where the Joker is stashed. As she leaves, she tells Falcone to send a nice Chardonnay to the Joker's old hideout or she'll come back to finish the job. She asks for a nice Chardonnay ... in the midst of all the carnage. Fantastic.

After similarly dispatching some GCPD troopers, she is on her way to save her Puddin'.

Once there, she realizes she is out of bullets and needs to resort to some old tricks like 'acid in the squirting flower' trick. To be honest, I think this is the first time I have actually seen this trick work. Usually Batman is dodging this.

At last ... she has her Mr. J! But when she checks the room where he supposedly is ... the chair is empty. And someone else is there.

Yep ... it's the Batman.

I love this panel. Since these Joker's Asylum stories aren't Batman stories, he usually has a very small part to play. Usually he appears like a force of nature. Here he simply looms silently in the corner.

He tells Harley that he has rescued the Joker and brought him back to Arkham.

Why did he rescue the Joker? Because he realized that it would be easier to bring him to Arkham and have Harley follow the Clown Prince there willingly than it would be to fight Harley and bring her back by force.

If she wants to be with the Joker, she needs to go back to Arkham. Batman even promises a romantic dinner setting if she will go. After a brief contemplation, she agrees.

I loved this. It reminded me of one of Harley's first stories Mad Love where Batman tells the Joker that she is a more dangerous foe than the Joker ever will be. Here, the Batman would rather take on the Joker than fight Harley. Throughout the book we see how the crazed passionate Harley Quinn is a very capable fighter. Who would want to fight her?

And yet she also has this sickeningly sweet side, holding her hands out cutely as she asks to be brought in.


I think no panel better sums up the Joker/Harley relationship than this. Look at the absolute mania on her face when she sees the love of her life. She is beside herself with glee for seeing him. Despite being strapped to a gurney, it's the perfect day. In the meantime, he looks almost glum asking where is his present.

She is funny, cute, sexy, passionate, romantic, intelligent ... and well a little crazy. I bet a lot of people would gladly embrace her as a paramour ... at least for a little bit.

And so we get to the end of the story and the Joker's concluding comments. He shows how the puppy has a dead bird in its bloody maw and says that it shows that even something adorable can be dangerous sometimes. A perfect assessment for Harley.

Overall I thought this was a great little story showing the complex nature of Harley Quinn ... both the good and the bad. I love how it clearly intimated the respect that the Batman has for her as a foe. I was very entertained.

Lastly, I really like Quinones' art. He really does a great job here, keeping Harley cute and deadly. Quinones does expressions really well allowing the reader to really flesh out what the characters are thinking. I also applaud his ability to draw Harley in a realistic way without veering into cheesecake or provocative poses. Really a nice job here. I hope he continues to find work at DC.

Overall grade: A

3 comments:

Landry Walker said...

Weird. I was reading this review and thinking "Wow. This guy reviews comics like Anj at Supergirl Comic Box Commentary does. How strange!"

And I get to the end and see your name. I guess you officially have a distinctive and notable review style.

Anyway, great review. I enjoyed the book as well. I think one of the most important things to do with these one-shots is boil the character down to the most recognizable and fundamental level. This book definitely succeeds in that regard.

Anj said...

Weird. I was reading this review and thinking "Wow. This guy reviews comics like Anj at Supergirl Comic Box Commentary does. How strange!"

And I get to the end and see your name. I guess you officially have a distinctive and notable review style.

Anyway, great review. I enjoyed the book as well. I think one of the most important things to do with these one-shots is boil the character down to the most recognizable and fundamental level. This book definitely succeeds in that regard.


I'm glad you found me here. Frank Diabolu (who runs a great Martian Manhunter site) put this together as an overflow blog for people with character specific sites. While The Comic Box keeps me busy, I may be struck by the muse about a book and post here.

Who knew I had a distinctive style! I often look at my reviews and think I have logorrhea.

But I agree, this book was pure Harley and that's why it worked so well.

Diabolu Frank said...

I've never been a big Harley Quinn booster, but this looks like it was fun. It's cool how Quinones evoked Timm without copying him.