Review: The Joker’s Asylum II – Harley Quinn #1

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Or – “I’d Be Her Puddin’ Any Day, Crazy Or Not…”

I don’t know what it is about Harley Quinn or the root of her perverse appeal, but for some reason, the character is just irresistable.  Maybe it’s her madcap ways, maybe it’s her devotion to love and Mister J, maybe it’s the sheer number of hot young ladies swanning about in her skin-tight costume at conventions and various adult sites that don’t respect copyright, but if I was ever of a mind to date an imaginary psychopath, she’d be the first girl to get a jingle from me…

The Joker’s Asylum II – Harley Quinn #1
Written by JAMES PATRICK
Art by JOE QUINONES
Cover by CLAUDIO CASTELLINI
Letters by PATRICK BROSSEAU
Colors by ALEX SINCLAIR
Published by DC COMICS

Previously, on The Joker’s Asylum:  Doctor Harleen Quinzel started out as a perfectly rational woman, by all accounts, a psychologist with a specialty in criminal pathology who nonetheless becomes overwhelmed by irrational feelings for the Joker, himself an unrepentant lunatic and sometime spree-killer.  In an effort to make him notice here, Harleen created a alternate personality for herself (having a name that lends itself to the cause certainly didn’t hurt her, and Otto Octavius is quite jealous) in the form of Harley Quinn, a bouncing, bubbly harlequin who’ll do anything for her puddin’.  In her travels throughout the DCU, she’s been a villain, a sometime hero, and even became an Amazon alongside Holly Robinson (not THAT Holly Robinson) during the excrable Countdown crossover.  Now back to her old ways, Harley is locked up in Arkham Asylum, just another victim of whatever is in the water of Gotham City that turns pecadilloes into full-blown psychotic tics.  Maybe somebody switched the fluoride for PCP?

“Hello,” begins the on-panel narration, “Joker here.”  I immediately hear the dulcet tones of Mark Hamill in these lines, as the Clown Prince of Crime regales us with another tale featuring one of his fellow Bat-villains in the style of the late Alistair Cooke (complete with a glass of wine and a velvet smoking jacket and a cute little puppy on his lap.  This guy lives better than anyone I know while incarcerated in a mental institution.  SO not fair…)  The story proper opens with a barefoot Harley racing down the halls of Arkham, clad in her prison orange pajamas, chased by orderlies, guards and even a couple of dogs.  She easily makes her way to the yard, vaults the fence, and finds herself cornered on a cliff outside the asylum.  Doctor Arkham arrives to try and figure out why she’d pull such a stunt so close to her parole, and Harley reminds him what day it is.  “It’s the most wonderful day of the year…  My FAVORITE day of the year…  The one day I will NOT be away from Mister J!”  Leaping off the cliff, Harley cries out, “Happy Valentine’s Day!” as she plummets into Gotham Harbor.  After what had to be a long freezing swim and a race across the filthy streets of Crime Alley, Harley arrives at the Joker’s latest hideout, excited to see her beloved again, only to find that he’s gone.  Quickly entering their personal arsenal, Harley grabs herself an assault rifle, and tells one of the few remaining thugs that she needs one more thing:  A box of chocolates, hand-picked with the Joker’s favorite centers.  Heh…

The sight of Harley with a giant machine gun is funny, and the whole sequence is quirky and entertaining, but things get heavy, as she traces her “boyfriend” to the headquarters of the Falcone mob, where Joker is being raffled off as a prize for the capos to abuse as they wish.  Harley intrudes, and Falcone sneers, “Harley Quinn…  If I’d known you were coming, I’d have made sure we had Kool-Aid and coloring books.”  That’s an awesome line, but the followup is even better, as Harley replies, “I’m rubber, you’re glue, whatever you say bounces of me and makes a six-inch-diameter EXIT WOUND in YOU!”  She demands the Joker, and Falcone again blows her off, laughing that she’ll hit him with a giant mallet or something, to which Harley retorts… BY SHOOTING HIM IN THE CHEST.  Falcone offers her anything, and Harley requests that he send a bottle of good wine to Joker’s hideout, and sets out to retrive the man himself from Falcone’s safe house.  The GCPD, however, has other plans, surrounding the location and causing her to again have to get violent, this time with and RPG.  Every time somebody mocks her M.O., Harley responds with extreme prejudice, which I find kind of delightful overall.  She arrives (after a car chase of Blues Brothers proportions, mind you) at Falcone’s safehouse, where a thug laughs that she’ll probably just squirt him with a flower or something, and Harley cries, “Finally, SOMEBODY got it right!”  She then shoots acid in his eyes from her trick flower and breaks in to save her puddin’, only to find that he’s gone.  AGAIN…  But someone else is in the room, someone who has a proposition for her.  “He’s in Arkham,” says the barely visible voice of Batman, explaining that there’s even a candlelit dinner waiting if she’ll just turn herself in.  She does, and is reunited with her lover at the last possible moment to let them enjoy Valentine’s Day together.  “Where’s my present?” asks a recently-beaten-down Joker.  Heh…  We return to the framing sequence, and we see that Joker’s cute little  puppy has killed and is now eating what might be a bird, but could be a bat.  The moral of Mister J’s tale?  “Even the cutest things can be dangerous sometimes…”

It’s hard to do comedy well, especially in a Batman comic, but this book had me chuckling from the first pages.  From Harley’s narration of her life, to the black sequence where a dying Joker thug tries to explain that he can’t find Lemon Ganache chocolates to the ending narration, it’s a fun little story.  The Joker’s opening and closing bits are really well-done and the Harley story moves at breakneck pace, befitting a character with her energy.  Seeing Harley in action is an eye-opener, reminding us that, for all her cuteness and all the pretty girls who put on half her outfit on the internet, she’s as much a force of nature as the Joker himself, albeit with fewer triggers for her insanity.  Batman’s gambit is brilliant as well, and although there’s no explanation of when this takes place, I like to think it’s Bruce Wayne, voiced by Kevin Conroy, behind the mask.  It’s an out of continuity tale that works no matter when you learned to love Ms. Quinn, and it does what a one-shot should do, in making you wish it was an ongoing series even as you realize it probably wouldn’t be this much fun every month.  The Joker’s Asylum II – Harley Quinn is a good outing for Harl, and earns a well-deserved 4.5 out of 5 stars overall.  The only thing this book was missing was sexual tension with Poison Ivy and a big wooden hammer to brain people with… 

Rating: ★★★★½

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  It’s the burning fanboy question:  Do you believe that Harley Quinn has a physical relationship with Poison Ivy, or is she just oblivious to subtext?  (And remember when couching your answers, we’re a family-friendly site, here.)