Detective Comics #23.2 – Harley Quinn #1 Review

Matt Kindt seems to be taking DC by storm. The man who is taking over Suicide Squad next month tackles some of the characters today. Last week he gave us a great issue with Deadshot and this week he sets his sights on Harley Quinn. What can go wrong? Apparently everything.

Positive

A few characters have undergone some radical changes in the New 52, chief among them Tim Drake, though not too far from him would be Harley Quinn. Once she was a comedic, light, and lovable character whose zany schemes made it impossible to not fall in love with her. The New 52 has taken her down a darker path, and seems to have become much more a reflection of The Joker than ever before.

Artist Neil Googe, who will be doing issue #26 of Flash with temp writer Christos Gage, does a fantastic job here. His art is exactly what I’d expected from this issue, giving a wacky and fun look that was very fitting of a Harley Quinn issue.

googe's quinn

Negative

I’d really been looking forward to this issue but found myself extremely disappointed by it. It just failed to do anything new or interesting and a large chunk of it was spent rehashing Harley’s Origin from an earlier issue of Suicide Squad with the addition of how she got her current (and awful) outfit.

While the second half of the issue almost reaches a point that is enjoyable, that’s all taken away a moment later when Harley murders hundreds of people for no other reason than she had nothing better to do with her time.

This entire issue felt very underdeveloped, having concepts and ideas that just never seemed to click or fully form when talking about Harley’s past and those that did just simply did not jive with the character.

Harley’s transformation from a brilliant young psychiatrist to a criminal psychopath in the span of a kiss is just bad writing. I’d always imagined that Joker had legitimately won Harley over, that despite the rudeness and aggression and the general psychotic behavior that he’d genuinely charmed her and she fell in love with him. Her new origin has her giving up control and playing dumb for a man who, as far as we’re led to believe, only hurts her physically and mentally. There’s such a departure from the character who first made her debut in Batman the Animated Series that at times it feel as if it’s another character completely.

There was always violence and abuse in their relationship, but there it was always a dark and intelligent portrayal of a co-dependent relationship. This re-imagining of a classic trope is appalling.

Verdict: Rating1

If this story was written for a different or new character I might have looked upon it more favorably. What was written simply doesn’t connect with Harley Quinn, or rather, who Harley Quinn should be. I am okay with and understand character changes and growth, but this latest addition to the DC canon strips Harley of her identity and demeans and degrades her integrity. I love Harley Quinn and she deserves better treatment than she’s been getting.

  • MyNameIsZ

    Holy crap 1/5 that sucks 🙁

    • Jacob Torres

      Yeah. I do have to admit, to Kindt’s Credit, that Harley’s
      inner monologue throughout the issue was well written and possibly
      enjoyable but if you’re a fan of pre52 Harley then this was especially
      painful. I’m sure those who are new to the character would find this
      enjoyable, but the New 52 Harley is a step backwards in many ways and a major slap in the face to her fans.

  • Tracy Boarder

    You’re right. Mass-Murderer Harley loses any semblance of likability and any type of “redemption” is pretty much impossible now. Like Catwoman, she’s always worked best in that moral grey area, otherwise Harley loses that Loony Tunes style zaniness that I’m sure contributed to her popularity.
    Considering the current artist try-out controversy surrounding her, and with Palmiotti & Conner’s explanation that they ARE going for a Loony Tunes feel for Harley, I worry that either DC is going to remove them from the book (Like they did to Maguire in JL3000) because they have a vendetta against fun, or that we’re going to have yet ANOTHER New52 contradiction of character. Either way, it’s going to be incredibly frustrating to see.

    • Jacob Torres

      I definitely understand your worries. In this case I’d be perfectly fine with a contradiction of character so long as it reverts Harley to who she was Pre52. I was really upset to hear about Maguire’s departure from JL3000. His work on Justice League International was great! DC’s War on Fun and the way they’ve treated some of their creative teams lately has been extremely disconcerting. I’m a major fan of Palmiotti and Conner though and they’ll definitely do the character justice, but let’s just hope Editorial leaves them be with it.

  • You took the words out of my mouth completely. I may not have a single comic, but from what I’ve seen in the new 52 Harley has been getting destroyed. The Harley we used to love needs to come back…
    Don’t even get me started on the outfit..