Written by Adam Glass
Illustrated by Clayton Henry and Ig Guara
Hunted through the streets of Gotham City, her former teammates on the Suicide Squad in relentless pursuit — Harley Quinn is out of friends, out of luck and out of time. Will Harley find The Joker before the Squad finds her? Place your bets, people: It’s Harley Quinn vs. the Suicide Squad! Plus: Harley’s origin revealed — it ain’t pretty!
This issue is billed as ‘The Origin of Harley Quinn,’ and while we get that, this issue is about much more than how she began.
Is that a good thing? Find out after the cut, but be warned as there are spoilers aplenty.
“Suicide Squad” is a book that seems destined to fail. It is replacing a beloved book of a similar stripe (“Secret Six”), also replacing that book’s popular writer (Gail Simone) with an untested editor-turned-writer (Adam Glass). It is taking a widely popular character (Harley Quinn) and making her more sexually suggestive and shoehorning her into this team. This team which, by design, has to feature villains, and villains that could conceivably be killed off at any time, in order for the premise to make any sense. This description also leaves out that the original “Suicide Squad” is one of the most respected and revered comics DC has ever published. For these reasons, among others, I have not picked up an issue of Suicide Squad yet. But, like anyone who watched Batman: The Animated Series growing up, I have a familiarity with Harley Quinn, and since this issue was supposed to give us her origin, I thought this might be a good place to try out this series.
The team, as it is assembled in issue #7, is made up of Deadshot, King Shark, Savant, and Lime and Light, and the team is on the hunt for missing member Harley Quinn. If this team isn’t exactly setting your metaphoric loins on fire, you’re not alone. Deadshot and King Shark are Secret Six alumni (Deadshot was part of the original Suicide Squad as well), Savant is an, at best, sixth string Batman family villain, and Lime and Light are new characters introduced as part of the New 52. This is a pretty lackluster group of characters which is not insurmountable with good art, good writing and an exciting story to tell.
And the art here is pretty good; Guara and Henry bring a vaguely animated look to the book, which is an interesting choice considered that these are villains with explosives planted in their bodies. For some reason, visually, I am reminded of “GI Joe” properties, a not unpleasant comparison, and I especially like the way that this team handles the non-Harley Quinn members of the team. The action here is clean and direct, and overall, the art is enjoyable.
However, it is incredibly difficult to tell how exciting or well written this story is, because of the last page of the comic. Again, spoiler alert for anyone who doesn’t want the ending blown up for you.
So, basically, Harley has stolen the Joker’s face, which was cut off in “Detective Comics” #1 and places it over the now captured Deadshot’s face and wants to “talk to Mr. J.” Deadshot plays along, and when she’s enamored with talking to the Joker, plugs her with a shotgun in the gut, letting her bleed out at issue’s end.
So that sets up two possibilities for this series going forward, and each of those possibilities presents two divergent paths. So, let’s take a look at the four possible outcomes here:
Outcome #1 – Harley Quinn is dead, and that is a good thing.
For a series to matter, there have to be consequences to what happens, and if this book wanted to be taken more seriously, killing Harley Quinn for good is a huge step in that direction. The marquee character (and one of the more popular female characters DC has, despite less than great work associated with the character over the past 10 years) of this book is killed less than 10 issues into the run. That takes balls, and lets the public know you’re serious.Continued below
Outcome #2 – Harley Quinn is dead, and that is a bad thing.
For a book that wasn’t exactly Justice League in terms of its numbers, killing off the star is a bad idea. If this book had any shot of continuing for the long haul, its best chance was on the back of Harley. Despite Deadshot being the focal point of the book, Harley was shaking her proverbial moneymaker, and was probably the force that allowed it to be #71 on the February sales chart. 71 may not be such a great place to be, but it is ahead of books like “Deadpool” (oh, how the mighty have fallen), “Fear Itself: The Fearless,” and a ton of DCnU titles. In fact, it was the 26th highest ranked DC title, putting it exactly in the middle of the pack, sales wise. To take a book that is, at least commercially, working, and piss off its most vocal fan base is a pretty dumb move.
Outcome #3 – Harley Quinn is not dead, and that is a good thing.
Characters are placed in near-death situations all the time – i instantly thought back to “The Flash” #3, where the issue ends on a cliffhanger of Barry Allen being shot in the head, only for him to be fine in the next issue. If there can be a creative and non-stupid way for Harley to live through this, I can buy the idea that people will buy this issue because of the cliffhanger, and buy the next to see how it all resolves itself. If next issue is fantastic, and people buy it and dig the story, perhaps you’ve done the book good by teasing the death of its star.
Outcome #4 – Harley Quinn is not dead, and that is a bad thing.
If this is your typical, cheap comic book false death, then I can’t see too many people coming back for more. This book killed one of its characters (Lime, if you care) this month already, and with the death of Rocket Red in “Justice League International,” we can see that DC is serious about killing off characters – if by characters you presume the words “minor” and “insignificant” in front of characters. But when they tease the death of a (relatively) major player and don’t deliver, people won’t care that Lime is dead – they’ll care that they were tricked, yet again, into believing a character is dead when they’re not.
Harley Quinn fans are not your typical comic readers, for better and for worse, and DC had better know what it is doing here, or that entire group of readers who bought this issue for Harley’s origin will be one time readers.
Speaking of her origin, it is basically the same as her pre-‘Flashpoint’ origin, except that now the Joker dumped her into a vat of chemicals as well which is, undoubtedly, a much stupider origin. There was enough of a connection to the Joker to begin with, we don’t need parallel origins to get the point across. So, no makeup for this Harley, that is just how she looks. Or looked. Or will look in a casket. Or whatever.
Final Verdict: 3.1 – Pretty art, confounding plot