While I’ve been traveling this week, I’ve had a number of great guest posts. Today I have one by Alexander Añé of Talking Comics about the upcoming first meeting of the Joker and Harley Quinn since the start of the new 52. He examines what her role might be in the Death of the Family arc as well as what effect the changes to the character in the reboot may have on the relationship. His thoughts follow.
As seen on DC Women Kicking Ass
With Joker’s return in Death of the Family, and subsequent tie-ins with Suicide Squad, a big question for Harley Quinn is how does this relate to the events of Suicide Squad? Technically, this will be the first, “face to face,” encounter between the two characters in the New 52. What can we expect to see from the classic case of mad love?
Suicide Squad #7 lays a foundation for Harley Quinn and a follow-up to the events of Detective Comics #1, helping to resolve some tension for Harley since Joker’s disappearance. It also helps frame the new dynamic between Joker and Harley, speculatively foreshadowing the nature of their reunion inDeath of the Family.
Suicide Squad implies that Harley’s relationship with Joker is rooted with a forced collaboration when Joker transforms Harleen into Harley himself; some might argue it’s a stark contrast to her original origin story pre-New 52. The partnership goes its course until Joker abandons Harley and disappears during the events of Detective Comics. Suicide Squad also clues us in on Harley’s perspective of Detective Comics, the anger over being abandoned and the lingering trademark affections.
Something I found very interesting about the closing scenes to the issue was a line of dialogue by Deadshot enacting what Joker might say, “Why are Robin, Batgirl and all the rest of his distractions alive? Stupid girl, do what I created you for.” If Deadshot’s belief is true, that Joker did mean to have Harley target the Bat family, does this indicate her role Death of the Family? It seems very reminiscent of a creator/monster relationship, a sense of disappointment and rejection from the creator coupled with anger from the monster’s abandonment.
Since that issue, and Harley’s return to the Squad, she claims to have turned a new leaf. Saying that Deadshot “let Dr. Harleen Quinzel out,” she currently seems to have some sort of fixation on Deadshot. It might just be that she’s swapping Joker for Deadshot, just as she swapped Deadshot for Joker during Suicide Squad #7. This sort of posturing would lead me to believe she’ll side with the Squad but it might be as likely she’ll have a relapse back to Harley.
If the Joker plans to attack Harley, and the rest of the Suicide Squad, then it might be that disassociation from being, “Harley” that saves the group. Either that or the anger from being damaged by the Joker in the first place. The reasons for an all-out assault on Harley aren’t clear but Joker’s usual reasons for lashing out at Harley are anchored in disappointment. This is outlined Paul Dini’s Mad Love, Joker attacks Harley out of outrage and being disappointed in Harley’s schemes; especially if they are more successful than his own. The disappointment now might be Deadshot’s prediction that she hasn’t lived up to what she was designed for: killing the Bat family.
If she does side with Joker, which might very well be the case, she’ll have to deal with the Suicide Squad and whomever she targets of the Bat family. This isn’t entirely implausible since during the Hunt for Harley arc she maintained an excellent prowess against the whole squad to attain her objective. She demonstrated the capacity to become her own boss and then subdued multiple members of the Squad. The problem with her plan, and which lead to her being dragged back to the Squad was her affections for the Joker. If she were to join Joker in his plans, I would anticipate him giving her up again to make a getaway or help advance his plans in some way.
Though the origin story might have changed, and the costume with it, I think it’s safe to say the core of Harley does remain the same. It is within that temperamental flux between anger and affection that make her a dangerous piece of the story within Dead of the Family. I’d be very interested to see what Joker’s attitudes might be toward her and how she’ll take to him coming back to the picture. It might signal her leaving the Squad, either leaving with him or staying with the Squad. Although from how Adam Glass writes Suicide Squad it’s very plausible to expect a healthy body count from the Joker so there might not be much of a team for Harley to band with in the aftermath.
Death of the Family rolls onto shelves this month, with the Suicide Squad tie-ins following up in November and December.