I’m not sure if many readers are aware of how much pressure has been unintentionally placed on Harley Quinn #11. Not only is it kicking off the “Joker Loves Harley” story arc, but it also happens to be the first major appearance of the Clown Prince of Crime of the Rebirth era (we’re not really counting his lurking in the shadows in issue #9).
Ever since it was revealed that there are, in fact, three Jokers in the pages of last spring’s Justice League #50, fans have been waiting with bated breath to find out more concerning that development, regardless of how they felt about it. After all, that knowledge turned the mythology on its head. I half-expected this issue to explore that thread, but from what I can tell, this arc will ignore it and most likely leave it to one of the writers on one of the flagship Batman books.
Instead, we’re led to believe that what we’ll be given is a more intimate tale looking at these characters who share the most checkered of pasts. Does that actually happen? Kind of. But more on that later.
With some interim artists handling the past couple of issues – who did do a fine job, I may add – it feels great to welcome back John Timms. Having been one of the pencilers who established the visual tone for Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s run, now seems like a fitting time for his return. And aside from his ability to draw our favorite gal from Brooklyn becoming second nature, I must say that his rendition of the Joker was something else. In my best attempt to put it into words, I would say that he exudes a calm malevolence, the very personification of what potential energy would be if it were about to kill everyone in the room at any given moment.
The long and short of it is that Joker has shown up in Harley’s home and is rather apologetic, which is not only uncharacteristic of him, but it also puts everyone on edge knowing how violently their last encounter ended – and in Harley’s favor to boot. She obviously trusts him as far as she can throw him, yet is willing to hear him out because, you know, we wouldn’t have a comic book to read if she didn’t.
Something else that deserves your attention is the budding rivalry between Joker and Red Tool (Harley’s close friend who happens to be an analog for Deadpool). Despite “Toolio’s” bravado, it’s kind of amusing to see how Joker can make just about anyone feel uncomfortable. One must wonder if this insane brand of chivalry will lead to Harley finally leaping into the masked man’s arms as he has long wished for, but in the meantime, the interaction between these two fellas may prove to be the show stealer.
While Harley Quinn #11 boasts quite the intriguing cliffhanger, I felt the narrative spread itself a bit too thin. With more shady deals in the mayor’s office being showcased as well as Harley and Red Tool battling a subterranean tentacle monster for some reason, this issue lacked the laser-like focus that the aforementioned return of the Joker so deserved.
Despite being a bit all over the place, Harley Quinn #11 contains much potential that I can only hope subsequent issues of this arc deliver on.