Rebel Angel Reviews - Mad Love the Comic Book
Where it All Began for Harley
Rebel Angel Reviews Mad Love
Hello, I'm the Rebel Angel, bringing you the best of heaven and the worst of hell. Today, I'm reviewing one of my favorite comic books, involving one of my favorite comic book characters. A comic also based on one of my favorite cartoons in the 90s, Batman the Animated Series. I grew up with the Dark Knight's adventures on Fox Kids. I never missed an episode. With Kevin Conroy as the mysterious Dark Knight, and Mark Hamill playing as the Joker, I was hooked from Episode 1. But the series is also well known for other things, such as reinventing Mr. Freeze into a more tragic villain, its dark and gritty tone, and of course, the greatest contribution to all us geeks out there, the creation of Harley Quinn, Joker's henchwoman. That's right. Harley DEBUTED in the animated series, with no prior incarnations in any other form! She was created by the legendary Bruce Timm, one of the animators and story writers of Batman, and she debuted in the episode, Joker's Favor, though she didn't put on the Red and Black till a later episode. But how did Harley come to be? What's her story? Well, this comic has all the answers for you. Now, this comic was also adapted into an animated cartoon in the big reboot. And it goes by the name Mad Love. However, the animated series did cut out a lot of Harley's origin, and was a bit shorter, lengthwise. So, to those who want the WHOLE story, pick this comic up at Comixology. It's very cheap! Anyway, on to the review, and of course, SPOILER ALERT.
The comic begins with Commissioner James Gordon going to his required dental appointment, despite his outright hatred of the thought of it. He enters the doctor's room, only to find that the dentist is none other than Joker himself! He tries to make a break for it, but is stopped by metal streamers, fired by Nurse Harley Quinn! Joker looms in, with the intention of drilling out EVERY SINGLE TOOTH in Gordon's head, but then, who should show up but Batman himself, throwing in a pair of chattering joke teeth, which obviously lead him to the dentist's office. Harley admits they were her idea, as well as blasting him with some Nitrous Oxide to distract him. However, when she lets out a "What a gasser" line, Joker grabs her by the jester cap and asserts that only HE makes the punchlines. WIth that, the two loons leave, with a Grenade as a going away present. Batman however quickly disposes of it, and Gordon is safe... though his hatred of dentists offices is now further asserted.
Meanwhile in the Batcave, Batman is looking at Harley's past. As it turns out, Harley was a young promising college student who won a gymnastics scholarship, but wanted a degree in the psychology department, by ANY means. Wink wink, nudge nudge. Apparantly, she wanted to become one of those pop psychologists. You know, with their own self-help books and all that? But then it all changed one day.
Meanwhile, in the Joker's lair, Harley is wanting to have a little "fun" with Joker, even dressing in a slinky red nighty. But Joker is too engrossed in offing the Bat once and for all. Harley offers the plan of "just shoot him," but of course, the Joker's pride is too great. He wants Batman's death to be the ultimate tribute to his comedic genius against his cape and cowl. But then, he finds a plan he forgot about all along. The Death of 1000 Smiles, where Batman would be lured to a trap door, and dropped into a specially prepared piranha tank full of smiling piranhas, ready to rip him to shreds.... and therein lay the problem. PIRANHAS CAN'T SMILE. Joker once again falls into despair. Harley tries to cheer him up... but is then BOOTED out by an angry Joker. Harley reflects on her unfortunate life... and then blames Batman for making Joker and her miserable... from the very beginning.
We then enter a flashback scene, where we see Harley's, or rather, Harleen Quinzel's first day at Arkham Asylum. She's greeted by a superior, and shown around... when we learn he real reason for coming to Arkham was to treat a patient, and write a tell-all book... and then she saw him. The Clown Prince of Crime. From that first look, everything began to fall in to place. Later that night, Harley finds a single rose, with a card inviting her to "come down and see (Joker) some time." When Harley confronts Joker, he begins working her like a pro, tempting her with all sorts of juicy secrets.
Three months of begging, pleading and studying up on Joker's gags, gimmicks and jokes later, Harley is ready for her first appointment with Joker.... until he mentions that his father was an alcoholic monster who tended to abuse him for no apparant reasons. There was only one time he was ever happy though... when Joker was seven, his father took him to the circus, and laughed so hard at the clowns, particularly one with checkered pants that was chased around by a little dog, and every time he would go to kick the dog, his pants would fall. So Joker decided to try to make his dad laugh, by having his father's sunday slacks around his ankles, and taking a pratfall, inadvertantly tearing the crotch clean off... resulting in a broken nose, and a three day hospital stay. Joker then concludes with, "But hey, that's the downside of comedy, you always take shots from folks who just don't get the joke." Days go by, and Harley becomes convinced that Joker is merely just a tortured soul who wants to make the world laugh. Harley and Joker's relationship begins to change from patient and doctor to boyfriend and girlfriend, going so far as to switch places psychologist wise, with Joker analyzing HER.
And then the day came. Joker had escaped Arkham and began a spree of murder, which ended with Batman bringing him in, beaten and bloody, much to the ire of Harley... and this was enough for her to rob a costume shop and joke shop, go to Arkham, break Joker out and become his new henchwoman. Harleen Quinzel was no more. Now there was only Harley Quinn. Harley did admit, she DID want Joker and her to be more than just henchwoman and employer... she wanted them to be husband and wife, with their own little litter of murderous moppets. Then... Harley gets an idea.
Later that night, a tape arrives at GCPD. The contents? Harley PLEADING to Batman to help. Apparantly, Joker was planning to gas all of Gotham for spoiling his Dental plan. So, she asks Batman to meet her at the docks at Midnight. Batman arrives early to case the joint, make sure there are no boobytraps or henchmen or nasty surprises. And then, he shows up in person to speak to Harley herself, only to have the Joker arrive, ready to fill them full of lead, but a quick toss of a Batarang reveals... it was a mechanical duplicate! Harley then knocks Batman out with a cocktail of drugs, revealing it was all a set up.
At Gotham Aquacade, an aquarium themed bar, Harley has Batman chained up, tied up, without his utility belt and upside down over a tank of Piranhas. Harley then reveals her improvements to the Death of 1000 Smiles, that the victim is to be hung upside down, making the frowny faces on the piranhas seem like smiles. Harley then tells him, that though she'll miss their usual fracases, she just wants to settle down with Joker... and this gets Batman to do the ONE thing you never EVER see him do... he LAUGHS. Harley is rightfully creeped out, but then, Batman explains that ever since Joker first laid eyes on Harley, he had her pegged for hired help. He then goes on telling her that he's used PLENTY of sob stories to get sympathy. Especially the one where his father took him to the ICE SHOW when he was 7. Harley corrects him in saying it was the CIRCUS, but Batman counters with, "He's got a million of them, Harley." Harley no longer wants to hear it, and prepares to off Batman, but then, Batman reveals Joker will NEVER believe she did it. All that would remain would be scraps of cloth and bone, and anyone can fake that. Sure, Harley had the belt... but...
A while later, Joker recieves a phone call from Harley, telling him about the "good news." However, Joker is NOT pleased at all. If anyone was going to kill Batman, it was going to be HIM! And so, after a few slaps and angered scolds, Harley, in fear picks up a swordfish to defend herself, but Joker grabs it, reminding her of the downside of comedy. YOU ALWAYS TAKE SHOTS FROM THOSE WHO JUST DON'T GET THE JOKE. And then KNOCKS her out the window, and onto the ground below. Joker then prepares to leave, but realizes, this is the perfect opportunity. He then decides to do the one thing he never would, just SHOOT Batman, but Batman knocks the gun's trajectory with his knee, shooting the piranha tank, and setting them on Joker! Joker however manages to escape, falling onto the top of a transit train, but is then verbally accosted by Batman, saying that Harley came closer to getting rid of him than Joker EVER did. After a brutal round of punches, Joker is sent screaming into a smokestack! And so, Joker seemingly died.
Meanwhile, Harley, bandaged, and stuck in a stretcher, is wheeled into Arkham Asylum, pledging that she would start all over, no more Joker, no more criminal tendencies. She now saw Joker for what he really was. But then... she sees a single red rose with a card saying, "Get Well Soon, J." The cycle never really ends for her.
And so that was Mad Love, the story of Harley's harrowing origin! And what did I think of it? It was a great comic! Don't get me wrong the animated version is an amazing version itself, but this showed Harley willing to do ANYTHING she had to, in order to get what she wanted. Not to mention, when Harley is knocked off the building, you actually FEEL the impact. My rating for this? 10 Batarangs out of 10.
- The comic is well drawn and well written
- The characters look amazing, as if they actually came from the show itself
- The story is engaging, and it tells us Harley's story.
- Can't think of any!
Until next time, this is Rebel Angel, and I'll see you later!