Younger readers may find it hard to believe, but Harley Quinn hasn’t been a part of the Joker’s world for very long.  In fact, her first DCU appearance is barely fifteen years old, not even old enough to get into a rated-R movie.  Your Major Spoilers (Retro) Review of Batman: Harley Quinn #1 awaits!

BatmanHarleyQuinn1CoverBATMAN – HARLEY QUINN #1
Writer: Paul Dini
Penciler: Yvel Guichet
Inker: Aaron Sowd
Colorist: Tanya Horie/Richard Horie
Letterer: Willie Schubert
Editor: Darren Vincenzo
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: $5.95
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $30.00

Previously in Batman: Harley Quinn:  For all the things we disagree about, Major Spoilers Editor-In-Chief Stephen and I agree on the merits of ‘Batman: The Animated Series.’  For my money, it’s the best Batman of the 1990s, and is as transformative as the 1970s Neal Adams version in the minds of the general public.  One of the strongest decisions that show made was to give The Joker a sidekick to play off, creating Harley Quinn (formerly Arkham Aslyum’s Doctor Harleen Quinzell) and making their bizarre love/hate relationship central to the animated Joker.  Though she appeared in several issues of the comic-book adaptation of BTAS, Harley was never a part of the DC Universe until this book came out near the turn of the century, which is kind of amazing given how beloved a character she has become.  We begin on the outskirts of Gotham City, which has been ravaged by a massive Earthquake as part of the ‘No Man’s Land’ crossover, as Poison Ivy delivers supplies to the survivors of the devastated city, only to stumble on to a chunk of metallic debris lying in the middle of what was recently a clear road into the city…

Ivy (who is being strong-armed by Batman to be a productive member of society by growing vegetables to feed the masses) decides to provide aid to the stricken woman, carrying her back to her hideout and binding her wounds, admittedly just for the entertainment value of it all.  Along the way, she realizes that she knows this woman…


Harley admits that she is, in fact, the doctor who wanted to make her name interviewing the Joker (an origin told in the comic book ‘Mad Love’ and also as an episode of ‘The New Batman Adventures’), leading to her falling (you should excuse the expression) madly in love with Mistah J, and agreeing to help him in his repeated escapes from the Asylum to bedevil the Bat.  Unfortunately, it’s a deal that couldn’t last forever…


I have to say, I like the way Dini works Harley into the DCU canon, easily moving past the differences between TV and comic continuity to allow Harley to maintain pretty much the same personality as she transitions between media.  She continues to tell her story to Ivy, explaining that she waited for many months for her man to arrive, only to be suddenly freed by the massive earthquake.  Escaping Arkham, Harleen encounters evidence that The Joker is also loose, and breaks into a costume shop to piece together a costume with which to surprise him, while The Joker petitions an old ally for help in the new post-Earthquake economy.


This arc, by the way, is an interesting (if bombastic and flawed) story, which sets The Penguin on his current path as brilliant mob boss and unseen force in the shadows, a portrayal that seems to feature heavily in his ‘Gotham’ iteration.  As you might have guessed, The Penguin isn’t particularly interested in giving up his materiel and resources to a lunatic in the name of their old “friendship”, but before he can lay the smackdown on Pengy himself, the newly-minted Harley Quinn makes her appearance…


I like Yvel Guichet’s version of Joker as seen in this book, though I’m not entirely thrilled with the overall art on the book.  Guichet is prone to weirdly-mutating anatomy, and it’s particularly odd given the clean, solid lines of Dini and Timm’s animated series from which Harley sprung.  Still, the duo quickly outmaneuvers The Penguin, taking what they need to set up their own evil love nest in the old abandoned amusement park…


That last panel features the anatomical bizarreness that I mentioned earlier, by the way…  Working together, Joker and Harley carve out their own chunk of the ravaged city, which catches the attention of Gotham’s protector, leading Batman to meet Harley Quinn once again for the very first time…  or something.


There’s a clear Bugs Bunny cartoon influence to this battle that is theoretically amazing, but once again, a bit off-putting because of the art.  Harley comes out on top in her fight with The Batman, escaping back to her Joker, who is nonplussed by her return.  A running gag in the issue comes with the contrast between Harley’s lovestruck storytelling to Ivy and the actual events of the story, which show Joker to be, at best, tolerant of his new sidekick.  Returning home to her Puddin’, Dr. Quinzel gets a rude awakening…


…as her beloved lures her into a dilapidated rocket and fires her into the stratosphere.  Why, you ask?  Because he was actually starting to care whether she lived or died.  Awwwkwaaard…


Harley succeeds in controlling the ship enough to crash it back down to Gotham, where Poison Ivy found her, leading us out of the flashback (which, by the way, is really deftly handled by Dini’s scripting), and into another moment of inspiration by Poison Ivy…


Though she was portrayed for many years as just a femme fatale in a green leotard, Pamela Isley’s transition into chaotic wildcard is one that I have also enjoyed, and one that’s partly due to her BTAS appearances, as seen here.  Harley cries out in pain, but when Ivy tries to give her something for the pain, she instinctively leaps away, revealing another surprise…


This whole sequence is masterfully put together, giving us an origin of Harley’s sorta-kinda superhuman powers in the space of a few panels without feeling rushed or overly eager.  Ivy explains that she has declared a truce with Batman due to the extenuating circumstances of the disaster, but Harley can have her revenge on the Joker, so long as she also takes out Batman, and Harley agrees to the terms.  She commanders the Bat-signal, and offers to help Batman find her Puddin’.


Working together, Batman and Harley Quinn invade Joker’s Tunnel Of Love stronghold, and Harley confronts her sweetheart…  with her fists.


Harley and Batman clash over who should get Joker, and amazingly, she gets the upper hand with a giant mallet, confronting the man she loves on an abandoned amusement park ride.  I’m ready for another ending like Tim Burton’s 1989 ‘Batman’, when things take a turn for the weird…  Well, weirder.


Awww…  That’s really sweet, in a terrifying sort of way.  What’s most interesting to me is that, in a book that is ostensibly a Batman story, not only is the focus on giving Harley a big introduction, but she actually gets the upper hand over the Dark Knight at a time where his three-steps-ahead paranoia was on the verge of ridiculousness.


Harley’s canonical debut is one of those stories that seems to pull off the impossible, dropping a character into the middle of a super-complicated crossover event and making it look easy, taking the bits and pieces of that weird story and making them work for the betterment of the story.  Paul Dini’s script is on the ball throughout, leaving Batman – Harley Quinn #1 with a solid 3 out of 5 stars overall, even with occasional art-related wonkiness, bringing our lady Harley into the DCU in style, and setting her up as the super-popular character she is today…

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About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. Ah, memories. Haven’t seen this one in a good long while. It was one I had bought just before I’d moved and was somehow lost, despite the fact this was a title I had been looking forward to and how excited I was that Harley was making her leap from DCAU to DCU.

    Great review, and I agree on MOST points except for the art. I agree it wasn’t the greatest, but I’d give it just over 3 stars since it worked well enough for me.

    “Batman: The Animated Series…(snip) …it’s the best Batman of the 1990s”

    For me personally, B:TAS is the best incarnation of Batman period (with “Batman: The Brave and The Bold” coming in at a VERY close second). While I liked Batman well enough in comics, I was never really a Batman fan until B:TAS came around and actually made me not only enjoy the character within the series, it made me care about Batman as part of the DCU as well.

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