Hello, my friends. It’s been a while since we ventured into this chestnut of a side-series, so let’s rectify that. As such, welcome back my fellow “puddin’s” to another entry in the series known as…
At the end of my review of the three-part prequel series to “Justice League: Gods & Monsters”, I originally stated that a review of “Justice League: Gods & Monsters Chronicles, Season 2” would be next. However, those plans have been dashed for the time being. Instead, other ideas have developed. For the next two entries, we’ll be covering the two mini-series that ties in with the DCUAOM’s 29th entry: “Batman & Harley Quinn”. You can get the full details in my review, but here’s a quick recap of the premise. Poison Ivy and the Floronic Man are working on a formula that will transform every single lifeform on the planet into part-plant creatures in order to restore nature’s balance. Not only that, but Swamp Thing is a key part of their plan. However, the chemical combination is far too unstable and will ultimately wipe out every entity from the face of existence if it’s carried out. As such, Batman and Nightwing are forced into an alliance with Harley Quinn in order to stop them. First up, we’re gonna see how we built up to the events of the film as we delve into…
Originally released for Digital Download over a bi-weekly period starting on July 31, this five-issue series was eventually collected with its fellow sequel series into a trade paperback and released in print on March 7, 2018. Written by Ty Templeton and drawn by Rick Burchett (for issues 1, 2, 4 & 5) & Luciano Vecchio (issue 3 only), how do the pieces get put in place for what was to come in the movie? Let’s dive in and see how our anti-heroine gets “The Last Laugh”.
We open at the Joker’s headquarters where Bruce Wayne a.k.a. Batman and Dick Grayson a.k.a. Nightwing have caught the Clown Prince of Crime off his guard while Harley is in a state of constant laughter. While the Dynamic Duo smack his henchmen around, the Joker tries various tactics in order to strike back. However, his Pie Bazooka blows up in his face and his Mecha-Joker ends up malfunctioning.
With his hideout falling apart, he heads to the roof in order to escape. However, he notices his escape balloon hovering in the air with a sign attached to it notifying the proper authorities of his location. As he heads back down, Harley reveals that she was the one who not only set it up, but that she was the one who sabotaged his weapons and mech suit. She explains that he went through the trouble of hanging up various pictures of Batman being mutilated, but he never bothered to have a single picture of her.
Afterwards, the Dark Knight arrives and knocks the Joker out with a single punch. Later, Commissioner James Gordon, Det. Harvey Bullock and the Gotham Police arrive to arrest their felon. After Nightwing explains that Harley was the one who helped them, Batman warns her that the Joker will be seeking revenge for her betrayal. Just as she states that the “trying to kill each other” routine is their way of keeping things fresh in their relationship, the Joker yells at Batman that Arkham Asylum will be unable to hold him forever. Furious at how he doesn’t even seem interested in eventually getting back at her, Harley manages to deliver a swift kick to his groin before Batman has to step in and subdue her.
Just then, a series of vines pop in as Pamela Isley a.k.a. Poison Ivy arrives to rescue her comrade. As Harley gets freed from her imprisonment and our heroes are forced to fend off Ivy’s devious roots, Issue 1 ends with Isley telling Batman that she and Quinn will be long gone by the time he breaks free, not to mention that she needs Harley by her side.
Issue 2 opens with Quinn waking up in Ivy’s hideout as Pamela is making breakfast. Suddenly, Harley is shocked to discover someone within the facility. It turns out to be Shrubby as Poison Ivy explains that he’s her henchman and that his real name is Doug. As our threesome have breakfast, Isley tells Harley that she plans on preventing Wayne Enterprises from tearing up the banks of the Newton River in order to build a hotel complex. It turns out that “a non-sterile form of Fatshedera Lizei vine” grows there and it’s the only form of plant existing anywhere in the world.
However, the only thing that’s preventing her from confronting Wayne Enterprises is the lack of proper equipment and fellow operatives. Pamela decides on robbing a bank in order to finance those key components, but Quinn shoots that idea down since it’ll just draw unwanted attention. As Shrubby suggests robbing someone that doesn’t turn to the police, Harley mentions an “old friend” that’s currently away and decides to steal from them. After Ivy thanks Quinn for her help and on how much she needs her, the scene ends with Harley happily crying over the kind praise. Because of her soft spot for her friend’s tears, Poison Ivy ends up crying as well.
Meanwhile, the Gotham Barbecue Festival is under attack by Mitchell Mayo a.k.a. Condiment King as he douses the patrons with tear gas in order to easily rob the fair. Fortunately, Batman & Nightwing show up as they evade his strikes and ultimately bring his failed plans to an end.
Afterwards, Bruce mentions how he expected Harley to show up due to her & the Joker having previously planned to strike the festival and that she would mean to do so in order to stick it to her former partner-in-crime. However, Dick explains that she’s not into revenge and that she’s more about having a lack of subtly. As if on cue, they suddenly hear a noise from above as they spot Quinn flying through the sky on a Whoopie Glider. She ultimately makes it to her friend’s apartment in order to proceed with her mission.
Because the rooftop door is unlocked, Harley heads inside and reaches a safe hidden behind a lion’s portrait. She manages to open it up and acquire the jewelry, but it turns out that the apartment’s occupant wasn’t away as originally thought as Issue 2 ends with Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman preparing to strike back for Quinn’s thievery.
Issue 3 opens with Harley explaining that Pamela is in financial trouble, but Selina isn’t willing to accept her pity as she trips Quinn up with her whip. Harley manages to shock her with a joy-buzzer and attempts to flee, but Catwoman quickly recovers and trips her up just as Batman and Nightwing arrive.
With Bruce fending off Selena’s advances, Quinn uses this moment of distraction to make her escape. Back at her hideout, Poison Ivy acquires a few chemical barrels from a mysterious figure in a trenchcoat. Just as he takes his leave, Harley arrives back to show off the jewelry that she acquired.
Pamela praises her for the assistance before telling her to exchange them for cash in order for her to acquire some chemical compounds. As such, Quinn and Shrubby take their leave. Meanwhile, Batman and Nightwing are on patrol as Bruce exclaims that Harley is still a threat to Gotham despite not being as meddling as either the Joker or Poison Ivy. Just then, they spot a pair of crooks trying to break into a store. They easily defeat the felons and take their leave, unaware that Harley and Doug were hiding out in a pawn shop.
Having just turned in Catwoman’s jewels for cash, Shrubby invites her to the Iceberg Lounge where masked criminals are playing poker. As she sits down to play, Quinn lets the lackeys know that she no longer works for the Joker. Just as Shrubby tells them that she’s with Poison Ivy now, they think that she has now become Pamela’s henchwoman. Insulted by their belief that she’s “queen of the henchmen”, Issue 3 ends with her venting her frustration out on them.
Issue 4 begins one night later with Doug arriving back at his apartment as he discovers Batman and Nightwing waiting for him upon his arrival. They try asking him for Harley’s whereabouts, but he manages to jump out the window and run away. Fortunately, Batman explains that he subtly placed a tracking device on him so that they can follow him to their destination.
Back at her hideout, Poison Ivy is demonstrating her ability to make plants move to her secret supplier: Jason Woodrue a.k.a. Floronic Man. It turns out that he taught her this ability as he exclaims that she’s successfully moving away from siding with mammals. However, she’s not entirely convinced as she tells him to leave. However, he’s forced to hide since Harley has suddenly dropped by.
As Jason manages to cover his identity and properly takes his leave, Quinn voices her displeasure of constantly doing what other criminals have in mind and expresses her desire to cause a mischievous act with herself at the forefront of it. However, Pamela isn’t entirely up for it at the moment. After Harley voices more of her frustration, Isley tries to explain that she’s going through a rough moment and that she’s the only person who truly cares. Unfortunately, Quinn gets teary-eyed and runs off.
She then comes across Shrubby who informs her that Batman’s following him. As such, she offers to provide a distraction in order to help him get away. From there, she calls out to Batman as he and Nightwing confront her. She then makes them chase after her as she reaches Pamela’s hideout. Just as the Dynamic Duo catch up, Issue 4 ends with Harley looking to surrender Isley to the proper authorities in order to get her friend some much-needed help.
Issue 5 begins a year later at Arkham Asylum with Quinn in front of the psychiatry board for her legal hearing. With her attempt to prove her legal sanity on the line, we transition back to our current situation as Poison Ivy is furious for her friend betraying her. Batman fires a Batarang at her which knocks over several chemicals. However, Pamela exclaims that the beakers also contained her carnivorous plants as she sends them after our heroes.
While Batman and Nightwing fight for their survival, Harley comes in and tackles Isley since she’s scared of her friend losing enough of her humanity to the point where enough innocents have been hurt and that she must be brought to a brutal end. Our heroes manage to free themselves from the vicious plants as Poison Ivy isn’t phased by Harley’s tears, allowing her to make her escape. Seeing the destruction from afar, Shrubby realizes that he’s no longer working for Isley as he takes off as well.
Back inside the hideout, Quinn tells out heroes that Pamela is long gone. With the realization of her current life status, Harley willingly surrenders herself as Batman and Nightwing take her away. We then shift ahead one year as she answers a question that was asked of her at the beginning of this issue: “What does it mean to be sane?”. After describing it as “an awareness of shared reality and a sense of responsibility for my choices & actions”, the psychiatry board approves of her word choice. Not only that, but they’re also proud of the fact that she hasn’t been in contact with any prior felon and has even acted sane without medications for the past year. As such, she’s granted parole and is allowed to be freed from Arkham. We then cut to the following day where she’s being let out with no one there to pick her up. With her psychiatrist wishing her the best of luck, the series ends with Harley walking off to begin her life anew and all on her own.
As a tale that preps the viewer for the film, it’s mainly solid in its execution. Harley is relatable in the fact that she wants to prove to herself and those around her that she’s capable of being her own person in her own field of expertise. However, no one is willing to take her seriously or give her a chance. She’s experienced this through the Joker where he never gave her proper appreciation and only used her a means to his own end. Though Poison Ivy never goes near as extreme as he does, she too is only using Harley to make her own plan work. Because she’s been under many criminals’ thumbs over the years, she was never given the opportunity by the Joker or Pamela to operate a crime by her own hand. Essentially, she wants her own feeling of self-worthiness and to be taken seriously as someone who could handle things on her own terms. She does end up getting a piece of that satisfactory level after willingly turning herself in at the end and spending a year rehabilitating herself in Arkham. Upon the film’s conclusion, it turns out that her arc becomes complete when she gets her own TV show, thus completing a character arc that begins here and concludes in the movie since the struggles she goes through in helping Batman and Nightwing help assure those around her that she’s more than worthy of sharing her talents on her own terms. After all, she is good-natured but was misguided throughout her life. After all, she still cares for her friend Pamela. Despite their own character arcs that are at odds with each other, Quinn is looking out for Isley’s humanity since they do compliment each other through their friendship. Poison Ivy offers guidance and empowerment while Harley pays back by making sure her friend’s schemes never go too devious and heartless. Plus, it was interesting to see a particular plot point from the film (Isley having a soft spot for Quinn’s tears) be set up here, thus allowing for further context with the proceeding film. There’s even a foreshadowing to Harley’s budding friendship with Nightwing when she mentions about his hair and even mentions how he got it cut by the end. As far as Poison Ivy is concerned, this sets up her initial displacement from her longtime BFF and her budding team-up with the Floronic Man. When she asks for Harley’s help with her present situation, it doesn’t feel like she’s trying to intentionally take advantage of her friend. She’s too focused on protecting a valuable vine and gathering the necessary resources to do so that she’s partly unaware of Quinn’s present predicament. After feeling betrayed by Harley after her friend is willing to turn her in, this solidifies her villainous status for the film, especially a simple tear from her friend doesn’t phase her anymore. As such, it explains why a full-on teary-eyed display is needed to sway Poison Ivy back over to her side. Finally, Batman and Nightwing remain stagnant and solidified with their set-up in their eventual roles for the film. Bruce remains stern and serious against Harley while Dick is more upbeat, which Quinn will be able to play off of when the events of the movie rolls around.
Overall, this is a simple prologue that mainly delivers in its set-up. Each chapter is short enough to make it a casual read, the artwork is mainly solid in replicating Bruce Timm’s style and the characters are just as enjoyable as they would turn out to be in the film. While the narrative could have benefited from a more solid set-up between Pamela and Jason Woodrue for their eventual plans, it was still enjoyable to see the pieces fall into place for a film that was solid in its comedy and thrills. Give this five-part prologue a read, since you’ll never feel like a second banana by the end of this tale.
Next Time: After the events of the film, what has become of everyone’s favorite Clown Princess of Crime and the rest of our principle characters? The movie may be over, but further tales have yet to be told as we dig into the further adventures of “Batman & Harley Quinn”.
Batman (created by Bob Kane & Bill Finger), Harley Quinn (created by Paul Dini & Bruce Timm) and all related characters are owned by DC Comics.