Review: Harley Quinn #13

13 has always been my favorite number and issue #13 of Harley Quinn does that number proud. There’s a whole lot going on in this issue but, it manages to not be too overwhelming. The first few pages knock you off balance a bit and set up an amazing story while the pages that follow are one of the best dream sequences that I’ve seen in a while. Break the myth you’re told early on with something more twisted and poignant than you could ever imagine. This issue gave us not only a great story but, an actual peanut gallery via a Greek chorus. We get to see what we think Harley wants only to have that twisted with a reveal that has us rethink what we’ve read. We got to see how dark and twisted Harley can get and appreciate how much she’s changed, how strong she is and how in control of herself, her needs, and what she is.

This issue takes us on a journey with Harley acting as lead interrogator/torturer of the recently captured and battered “Joker.” It seems fairly therapeutic for her to be able to literally cut the person who wronged her out of her head and life, slice by slice. When she gets to the meat of the Joker’s latest deception, she calls in back up to witness the telling of the story. Her employees and friends get front row seats and popcorn to act as an audience for a truly demented story time. On some levels it felt like having them there allowed Harley to have an actual conscience present to keep her grounded but it also felt like a cross between her own version of aversion therapy to rip the band-aid off of the last little bit of feelings she had for Joker and her allowing the people in her life to witness Faux-kers humiliation the way that Joker humiliated her. There’s so much awesomeness going on in this issue that I would love to share but, I don’t want to give too many spoilers because this really is an issue that you need to pick up and check out on your own. Yes, it is that good!

Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti add an extra layer to the Harley and Joker relationship conundrum. If you thought that what they had was sick, twisted and unhealthy, this issue lets you know that you ain’t seen nothing yet. Surprisingly, Conner and Palmiotti manage to create a rich, multifaceted base that they add layers to in odd to create a more fleshed out, realistic and relatable Harley. The writing duo deserve extra kudos for providing her with agency, autonomy, and depth beyond sexy outfits, a foul mouth and being Joker’s psychotic manic pixie dream girl. This issue might be the definitive turning point in the Harley mythology that gives us the Harley we crave by highlighting the things that made her a singular bad ass without the Joker.

John Timms‘ artwork is beyond on point in this issue. The pained facial expressions, the attention to detail in the lines, that change in style between the dream sequences, flashbacks, and the present day aftermath is pure magic and, I’m here for it. The transitions between each time line is so smooth that you barely see it happening but, you don’t get snatched out of the experience as a whole. It’s an artistic page turner and it’s so well done that you could probably get the story without the words by just turning the pages it would come out as a 7 for story. Luckily these three joined forces and created nothing short of a masterpiece and a nice jump off point for the issues that are to come.

Overall, Harley Quinn #13 gives you a front row seat to one of the most deranged subplots that I’ve seen in a while. The issue subtly tackles domestic violence recovery, the long-term and recurring effects of emotionally abusive relationships, stalking and if all of that wasn’t enough to cram in they add mental illness to the bag. With all of those issues you’d think that the issue would be heavy and bogged down but, Conner & Palmiotti manage to keep things entertaining and page turning without making light of the serious issues that it makes reference to. The issue also manages to work perfectly as a stand-alone issue and serves as the perfect intro to Harley for the uninitiated, it provides a bit of backstory, a lot of who she is now and a glimpse into the danger of her relationship with Joker. We also got to see the absurdity of the dangerous male phenomenon of expecting women to fall for them, through trickery, emotional manipulation, and lies, the dangerous act of falling in love from afar and feeling as if they are owed a relationship as a reward for simply existing and wanting the ” object ” of their obsession. This issue created a realistic caricature of an actual social problem that always plays out dangerously for women and gave some of the power back to the woman, Harley, who finds herself at the whim of an unwanted suitor and she is able to bring him to task and protect herself. This was an impressive, well thought out, and powerful issue of Harley Quinn and I hope to more like it.

Story: Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti Art: John Timms
Story: 9.4 Art:9.2 Overall: 9.3 Recommendation: Buy

DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a free copy for review