Hello, my friends. Despite already experiencing a set-up tale and a main film, we still have more “puddin'” to eat up here. As such, I welcome you back to another entry of…
Our favorite Clown Queen of Crime has seen her fair share of ups-and-downs over the course of a prequel series and an animated film. From her intents on being a better criminal to becoming a better citizen, she’s been on a wild journey from Gotham to Weinwright Swamp. Just because she’s gone through a massive journey and emerged as a better person, that doesn’t mean that this story has ended though. We still have one more tale to discover as we venture into the further adventures of…
Initially released via Digital Download on a weekly basis starting on October 23, 2017, this anthology tale would be collected into a trade paperback with the tie-in prequel and saw a print release on March 7, 2018. So, what have our principle characters been up to since the end of the film? Let’s dive in and find out.
We open Issue 1: “Busted” (Writer: Jeff Parker, Artist: Craig Rousseau, Colorist: Tony Aviña) in Gotham City six days following the film’s climax as a hulking figure named Blockbuster is causing a rampage through the streets. Fortunately, Bruce Wayne a.k.a. Batman arrives in the Batmobile and uses his car to keep the fiend occupied for as long as he can. During the commotion, he contacts his butler Alfred Pennyworth in order for them to meet up at the bowery, despite opposing traffic from the fleeing civilians.
Batman then fires a cable which wraps around the adversary’s leg and drags him for a while, but Blockbuster is able to recover and grab onto to it in order to withstand his ground. Fortunately, Batman releases the metal cord as the towering figure falls into the water. Just then, Alfred arrives with a Supressor as Bruce acquires the compound before sending his butler on his way.
Batman then sees Blockbuster struggling in the water and offers to help him out, but the muscular being manages to leap from the bottom and jump out in order to pursue the Dark Knight. They work their way up the side of an apartment building as we learn from Batman that Blockbuster is actually a guy named Desmond and that he acquired his codename from a compound that he got from Cadmus.
Bruce manages to evade his foe before kicking him off the side and uses his cape to glide down while Blockbuster slams into the ground. Batman then proceeds to spray the Supressor into Desmond’s mouth as he proceeds to turn back into a regular human. Upon learning that the young man turned into the fiend after arguing with a cafe attendant that he only wanted two shots of Espresso, Issue 1 ends with Batman producing a sign to every coffee shop in town to never serve Desmond ever again.
Issue 2: “A New Leaf” (Writer: Jeff Parker, Artist: Luciano Vecchio, Colorist: Wes Abbott) opens in Arkham Asylum two days following the movie’s climatic scene. Pamela Isley a.k.a. Poison Ivy (who’s allowed to wear her costume while in prison for some reason) is met upon by a young orderlie named Ken as she’s given her dinner. Learning that he’s only two days into his job, she’s easily able to woo him in conversation before asking for some pudding and flowers. A short time later, he returns with her dessert along with a Geranium and a Philodendron. However, her connection to “The Green” is still strong as she uses the Geranium to spray a stunning chemical on him before manipulating the Philodendron’s vines to open her cell door in order for her to escape.
Unfortunately for her, she’s barely on her illegal path to freedom when she’s instantly confronted by Batman as he correctly predicted her attempted breakout due to having checked Arkham’s employee roster for the day. Instead of immediately taking her back to her cell however, he walks around the wing with her and tells her that even though this is the only facility that’s able to contain her, she actually shouldn’t be kept here in the first place. Pamela is stunned as she says that there’s no other penitentiary for super-criminals like her to be kept in just as they pass by the cells containing Killer Croc, Clayface and Mr. Freeze. Batman says that their hatred towards society ranges from them being abused by others at a young age, a loss of self-identity or not even having the one person who helps ground them and assists in maintaining their humanity.
Afterwards, they head up to the roof as Batman tells her that he would consider giving a request to the Arkham employees on relocating her to a different cell in order to place her among more stable prisonmates. After he brings up the fact that her friend Harley has made strides in turning her life around for the better, Pamela shares her doubts. She says that even though our hero is seeing a potentially positive light from her, her radical attempts to save the Earth’s plant life has ended up crossing paths with him. Plus, she questions why he should even trust her and risk getting taken advantage of. Batman explains that they’re in the open and surrounded by lots of ivy, but she didn’t attempt to escape at any point. With Isley agreeing to give his compromise some serious thought, Issue 2 ends with them shaking hands as he looks to place her in a work release program as part of her rehabilitation.
Issue 3: “The Judgment Of The Green” (Writer: Matthew Dow Smith, Artist: Sandy Jarrell, Colorist: Tony Aviña) opens in Weinwright Swamp shortly after Jason Woodrue a.k.a. the Floronic Man was lit on fire. He manages to dive into the water and extinguish the blaze as he swims for a while before emerging from a puddle to see that he’s been summoned by the Parliament of Trees. From there, Dr. Alec Holland a.k.a. Swamp Thing emerges and tells him that he must pay for his lethal actions.
Jason says that he was only trying to prevent Earth’s ecosystem from suffering the same fate that his home dimension went through. However, he believes that humanity must be wiped out in order for it to be eternally preserved. That statement convinces the Parliament to have the Floronic Man eliminated, but Swamp Thing questions their decision since this is normally “not the way of the Green”. Woodrue dives back in and reemerges in the swamp in order to escape.
However, Holland managed to pursue him and demands that he returns in order to face the consequences. Floronic Man refuses as he punches him through his chest, but Alec recovers from the strike and stops another attack as he asks him again to come back in order to pay for his crime against humanity. However, Jason refuses as he prepares to strike again. Just then, massive roots emerge from the water as they subdue the Floronic Man and proceed to drag him back to the Parliament. As such, Issue 3 ends with Holland saying that the Green has decided that Woodrue is unworthy of being its champion as we close on a final credit for the late co-creator of Swamp Thing: Len Wein.
We begin Issue 4: “A Dark Night” (Writer: Amanda Deibert, Artist: David Hahn, Colorist: Tony Aviña) five days following the movie’s climax as Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman is being pursued by Batman after completing a museum theft. As she exits the building, she’s suddenly approached by Dick Grayson a.k.a. Nightwing. He follows after her, but she manages to kick him onto the ground and pin him down. Unfortunately for her, this served as a long-enough distraction for Batman to catch up and arrest her.
Afterwards, Dicks tells Bruce how things haven’t felt as exciting since their recent venture. He then notices the themed-restaurant called “Superbabes” and see a waitress in a Harley Quinn outfit as he excuses himself from Batman on the notion that he’s “hungry”. He heads inside and walks up to her think that it’s actually Harley, but it turns out to be a regular waitress as he disappointingly takes his leave. Later, he’s arrives at the Bat Cave as he tells Alfred about his current situation. He explains that even though he didn’t expect Harley to still be working at Superbabes and wishes the best for her in terms of her career, he still doubts that anyone would be willing to hire her in spite of her criminal background. Alfred tells him to give her a call, but Dick says he’s only bored.
Instead, he decides to take the faithful butler out, but gets hysterically shot down by Bruce when he tries to ask permission to drive the Batmobile. Instead, Nightwing and Alfred head out on the Bat-Cycle as they arrive at a familiar tavern. While Harvey Dent a.k.a. Two-Face entertains his fellow villainous patrons with the Elton John & Kiki Dee song “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”, Dick manages to spot Doug a.k.a. Shrubby and tries to talk to him. However, Shrubs is in no mood to chat and only says that Harley’s not here.
Afterwards, a Cat-Thug remembers him from the previous visit as a fight breaks out with Nightwing easily defeating the approaching felons. After the bartender also tries to attack, Dick takes him down and hops over the bar in order to serve himself a glass of milk. Shortly afterwards, Batman arrives and lets him know that they’re heading out. Just as Bruce wonders where Alfred is, he and Nightwing soon discover that their butler has gotten in on the karaoke act himself as he belts out the Blind Melon song “No Rain”. With the Dynamic Dio stunned on the realization that Pennyworth has a stellar singing voice, Issue 4 ends with Dick asking Bruce if he would like to sing next. It turns out that he discovered Batman’s hidden vocal talent (a possible nod to the “Justice League” episode “This Little Piggy” where he sings the song “Am I Blue?”) during shower time as the Dark Knight takes his leave in a huff.
Issue 5: “The Good Doctor” (Writer: Amanda Deibert, Artist: Dario Brizuela, Colorist: Franco Riesco) opens up in Harley’s rundown apartment 10 days after the film’s climatic scene. She writes an un-etiquetted recommendation letter (falsely stating that it’s from Nightwing) to the Gotham Medical Center on her desire to work for them before prepping to head out. However, nothing in her wardrobe is presentable enough for her job interview. As such, she tosses a lit match into her closet as she gleefully heads out to shop for some proper clothes.
Just as she’s about to head inside an upscale clothing store, a female customer walks out and accidentally bumps into her. Quinn notices that the woman’s clothes matches her color scheme as she drags her into a nearby alley and demands for her outfit. She even threatens the attorney on being her “bosom buddy” if she doesn’t take Harley to various shops in order to find an outfit on par with or even better than what she’s wearing. Ultimately, she ends up giving Quinn her clothes and is forced to flee for her life while wearing Harley’s trenchcoat as her only means of decency. Afterwards, Quinn bursts open the doors to the upscale clothing store just to make a “Pretty Woman” reference before heading on her way. Needless to say, the employees seem to be far too familiar with that particular movie.
She ultimately arrives at the Gotham Medical Center’s Aioli Clinic as she checks herself over before going in, even looking over her resume (which is just as poorly constructed as her fake recommendation letter). She approaches the receptionist and (in an over-the-top manner) demands to be given a job interview. Things go weirdly well as she’s met by Dr. Elizabeth Connor who leads Harley into her office for the official meeting. A suspicious Quinn offers her resume, but Dr. Connor tells her that it won’t be necessary, causing her to overreact into thinking that this is a setup. To her surprise however, Elizabeth tells her that she’s been hired and will give her things to do while Quinn works towards renewing her medical license. From there, Issue 5 ends with Harley asking why she was hired so easily. Dr. Connor explains that Bruce Wayne himself recommended her and he alone funds half of the entire Aioli Clinic.
With Issue 6, we begin the two-part tale “Task Force Ex” (Writer: Ty Templeton, Artist: Luciano Vecchio, Colorist: Wes Abbott) as some undiscriptive amount time has past since the film’s end. Harley’s look has changed and she’s hanging out inside of a zoo’s cage with a pair of hyenas that she used to have. She then shows them a gem that she stole from Catwoman that she plans on selling in order to buy them back, but this scheme gets put on hold when an official has been summoned due to her illegal trespass. As such, Quinn hops out of the cage and manages to elude the officer by hiding out underneath a bridge.
Just then, she discovers Waylon Jones a.k.a. Killer Croc holed up there as well. They then compare their current criminal statuses’ as Harley says that she’s been legally released. However, Croc says he’s on parole yet works for a government program that forces him to do things against his will and injects his blood with (as he calls it) “banana technology”. Quinn realizes that he meant to say Nanites and that they’re used to control his mind. As such, she gives him her jacket as a means to shelter his face and begins to help him escape. Unfortunately, they don’t get too far as a remote-controlled boomerang hovers overhead and spots them. From there, they’re found upon by three members of Task Force X: George “Digger” Harkness a.k.a. Captain Boomerang, Floyd Lawton a.k.a. Deadshot and Cl. Rick Flagg. Fortunately, Harley pretends to turn her back on Croc as a means of distraction as she jump kicks Jack & Floyd before taking off.
Rick tells them to go after Waylon while he takes care of Quinn. Deadshot asks him why since his team leader has the tranquilizer rifle while he has non-lethal rounds, to which Flagg says that it’s to prove that he’s not “a mindless killer”. Reluctantly, Floyd complies as he fires a single shot that takes out a tree branch and pins Croc underneath it. Harley hears this and tries to intervene, but Issue 6 ends with Rick arriving as he shoots a tranquilizer dart and causes her to go unconscious.
Issue 7 opens with Captain Boomerang rejoining Flagg as he decides to look through Quinn’s purse and comes across the pilfered gem. Suddenly, Harley wakes up and kicks him in the groin to reclaim her jewel. Rick is stunned to see her quickly recovered from the tranquilizer dart, to which she explains that she’s had “years of playing with toxins and poisons” and thus has become immune. As she starts to dash off while threatening to expose their “scummy mind-controlling secret government organization”, Harkness throws an explosive boomerang towards her. Fortunately, Harley backflips out of the way as the projectile creates a hole for her to go through.
Flagg tries to calm his subordinate down, but Captain Boomerang refuse to obey and begins to pursue Quinn. Rick is about to kill the disobedient fugitive via a remote bomb implanted in his neck, but Killer Croc has recovered in time as he grabs the colonel’s hand and destroys the trigger. Meanwhile, Jack has caught up to Harley when he starts hearing some laughter. However, it’s not coming from her. It turns out that they’re in the hyena pit as a group of ravenous beasts pop out and attack him. Back with Killer Croc, he crushes the tranquilizer rifle as he tells Rick that he’s aware of the bomb in his neck. However, he needs some “animal time” in order to maintain any semblance of sanity.
As he walks off, Deadshot reemerges and prepare to shoot him in the back. Harley sees this unfolding and throws her purse into the line of fire while she kicks Floyd in the face to knock him out. After she recovers her purse, she discovers that the gem took the brunt end of the shot and has now become shattered. With her score now up in flames, she berates Croc for ultimately costing her and demands that they go share his story with the world.
However, they don’t get the chance to escape as they’re suddenly surrounded by armed officials with the head executive herself Amanda Waller telling Waylon to get in the van in order to be escorted back to Belle Reve prison. Harley is mad at Croc for willingly following authoritative order and tells him to break free from his mind-controlled state. However, he says that he lied about that in order to quickly gain an ally. Furious for being used like that, Quinn swiftly kicks him in the groin before sulking about how “being a good guy” ruined her plan. Waller then offers her a job with her team since she was impressed with how skillfully her operatives were taken down. However, Harley shoots that opportunity down as the series ends with her vowing to always turn the other way whenever anyone else needs her help as she takes her leave.
Despite this being an anthology epilogue to the 2017 animated film, the majority of this tale does feel like its allowing its reader to see how our characters are doing since the end of the movie. If we start with the fifth issue of “Harley Quinn & Batman” and continue with the film before coming back here, then we get to see the full redemption path that Harley goes on while keeping with her impulsive flaws and somewhat random yet playful nature. During the course of her arc, Quinn even gets Pamela to see the error of her ways and sets up Ivy’s chance to turn her life around with Batman’s help in Issue #2. It shows that Pamela and Harley’s friendship helps to strengthen each other as comrades and fellow criminals since Poison Ivy gives Quinn a feeling of self-empowerment, while Harley instills her upbeat charm into Isley and makes sure that her closet ally doesn’t go too far towards losing her own humanity. They’ll argue and disagree on various things like regular friends do, but they’ll care for each other’s well-being. Sure, they don’t interact with each other here like they do in the prequel tale and in the movie, but their overall journeys sees them getting an opportunity to change for the better and they both ultimately take it. Speaking of Poison Ivy, Issue #2 happens to be my favorite entry of this seven-part tale. Seeing Batman take steps to help Pamela out of her criminal past speaks to how important Harley has become to them in different ways, ranging from their recent venture to Isley’s longtime kinship with Quinn. It speaks to the overall message of the film where no one is truly void of humanity if there’s still a chance that they can be saved. A close second for me is Issue #5, since it shows how one is still flawed with their past even though they’ve taken steps towards changing for the better. The outrageous behavior is a part of Harley’s personality, but it says a lot when she’s getting the opportunity towards working in the medical field again. I wonder if the TV Show “Ask Dr. Quinn” was part of her personal process towards getting her medical license back, since she was in that predicament during her rehabilitation within society. If I were to pick the weakest entry, then it would be Issue #1. The Batman-centered story doesn’t really connect with anything from the either the prequel tale or the movie in any way. This feels like a stand-alone or back-up story that would have fit perfectly in The New Batman Adventures’ tie-in comic “Batman: Gotham Adventures”, since there’s nothing explicit enough that kids wouldn’t be allowed to read it. It’s good on its own, but its inclusion here doesn’t make much sense. On a similar note, there’s the two-part finale to this series involving Harley, Croc and Task Force X. I can understand that a considerable amount of time has past from the film’s ending since Quinn has changed her style, but there’s not much here that informs her character progression from the events of the movie (or even the prequel tale) other than she hates being taken advantage of when working with someone else. Instead of Batman’s tale (since he does show up in Poison Ivy and Nightwing’s story), maybe we could have had an issue that connects her path towards a re-established medical profession to Amanda Waller having an interest in her joining her Suicide Squad. It could have shown how difficult of a tightrope Harley had to walk on between staying on her redemptive path and her own flaws tempting her to have another taste of the criminal life again. The two-part tale is still enjoyable as it is, but it would have served us if there was a presentable progression that helped us understand how things led towards said event. Other than that, Nightwing gets some closure following his recent venture while the Floronic Man gets some supernatural justice for his crimes against humanity and nature alike. The latter would probably my third-favorite entry from this saga, since it brings definite finality to this animated tale after he initially avoided punishment from Swamp Thing. Because we learn that Holland serves the Parliament of Trees, that could explain why he wasn’t allowed to punish Woodrue during the film’s climax since its his superiors who have to be the ones that can carry out any proper sentence. Either way, it was particularly interesting to see our own Guardian of the Green get a bit more to do here after being a false tease in the movie. Finally, the art work from the series’ various artists and colorists did a great job in capturing the look of Bruce Timm’s art style from the DC Animated Universe since he considers the film to be a part of his 14-year run of superheroic cartoons. They range from atmospheric & serious to bright & colorful, helping to bring a confident pacing to the seven quick tales. As an overall conclusion to its same-name movie, it ties up the loose ends presented there pretty well and sends those characters off in a satisfying way. Not much left to say there, but it effectively serves its purpose.
Overall, this is a comforting end to the DCAUOM’s 29th film. The characters are placed in positions to change for the better, the artwork is a nice treat for the eyes and the people on this project managed to blend their individual skills to created a cohesive finish line for its movie viewers. Other than a few previously mentioned narrative choices, it completes the experience that the movie and its prequel series with a complete overall arc for our main cast of characters. The trade paperback that contains this and the prequel story are available, so check it out for a deeper cut of “puddin'”. For now (at least at the time of this review), I’m unsure where else to go from here. There is a 12-issue digital-only sequel series to 2018’s own animated take on the Suicide Squad, but I’m not yet ready to tackle that yet. Until then, feel free to check out the rest of my content for more C-Cubed goodness!
Batman (created by Bob Kane & Bill Finger), Harley Quinn (created by Paul Dini & Bruce Timm) and all related characters are owned by DC Comics.