BATMAN: WHITE KNIGHT PRESENTS: HARLEY QUINN #1/ Story by KATANA COLLINS & SEAN MURPHY /Script by KATANA COLLINS/ Art & Variant Cover by MATTEO SCALERA / Colors by DAVE STEWART / Letters by ANDWORLD DESIGN/ Cover by SEAN MURPHY/ Cover Colors by MATT HOLLINGSWORTH/ Published by DC BLACK LABEL
After years of Harley Quinn being portrayed across multiple media as a female Joker or a scatterbrained ditz, it’s almost as if a veil was lifted this year. Now more writers are remembering that Harley only plays crazy and dumb. I may be wrong, but I think that shift can be credited to Sean Murphy’s take on the character in the original Batman: White Knight series. And yet, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
The irony is that now this version of Harley has been given her own mini-series and while it is good, it doesn’t sparkle as much in a world where there’s two other Black Label series devoted to showing a smart take on Harley. Not to mention Joker War ended with Harley playing a major role in ending the conflict. And let’s not forget the Harley written by Tom Taylor in Injustice: Year Zero and both of the DCeased series running right now.
Batman: White Knight Presents Harley Quinn #1 picks up some two years after the end of Batman: Curse of the White Knight. The Joker and Jack Napier are dead. Bruce Wayne is in jail. And Harley is raising twins and feeling totally overwhelmed by the responsibilities of parenthood. She’s mostly cut off from her old life, what with most of Gotham’s supervillains being dead and her medical license suspended. Still, the GCPD seek Harley out for advice regarding a new serial killer whose dramatic MO seems frighteningly familiar. Could a new Joker be getting ready to strike a killing blow against the still-wounded Gotham City? And if so, can Harley stop them?
Katana Collins does a fantastic job conveying Harley’s voice. It makes a wicked sense that the biggest challenge Harley would ever face is trying to raise children and being forced to conform to the expectations that come with motherhood. This makes it all the more painful that the opening of this issue retcons Harley’s background to make her a former exotic dancer, paying her way through medical school on her tips, who falls for Jack Napier before he became The Joker because he stood up to defend her from another gangster. There’s nothing shameful about dancing, but that and the gentleman gangster trope are both so clichéd and I thought the reality of White Knight was better than that.
The art duties this time around are taken up by Italian artist Matteo Scalera, who has worked on Batman, Deadpool and Daredevil before. His personal aesthetic is similar to Sean Murphy’s, though more streamlined. The art has a light, airy touch that stands in contrast to the darkness of Gotham City. The coloration Dave Stewart uses for Harley likewise clashes with the world around her, further emphasizing Harley’s feelings of alienation and inability to fit in along with her natural expressiveness. It’s a brilliant visual conceit and very well executed throughout.
Despite my misgivings over the opening flashback, I found myself enjoying this book immensely. I am looking forward to the next issue. Fans of the world of White Knight will be deeply satisfied by this series, as will Harley Quinn fans who delight in a Harleen Quinzel that is an evil genius only playing at being a blonde bimbo.