Treasure Chest Comics #16: Hunt for Harley

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Treasure Chest Comics #16: Hunt for Harley

Postby Red_Robin » May 7th, 2012, 4:03 pm

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Suicide Squad #6-7 - The Hunt For Harley Quinn
by TheJester

With the New 52 now a over year old, it's safe to say that the reboot has overall been a success. With incredible stories, great cliffhangers and a whole cast of new villains, the Batman comics in particular have had a generally positive response from the fans, as well as critics alike. But this doesn't come without its controversies.

Possibly the biggest outrage upon the announcement of the New 52 was the redesign of fan favourite Harley Quinn. A key member of the Suicide Squad, Harley now sported chalk white skin, red and black pigtails, and an outfit more revealing than Poison Ivy’s - sparking outrage from fans and female writers at the sexualisation of
the character. This issue was once again raised in Suicide Squad #3, following a Deadshot/Harley sex scene and a certain joke about a clown car. Although the character's personality hadn't changed much, this Harley was a much more darker, grittier interpretation - raising the question;

Has our original Harley Quinn been lost for good?

It seemed the writers for Suicide Squad decided to redeem the character for the fanbase, and so comes The Hunt For Harley Quinn story arc. Following the course of issues 6 and 7, the story follows Harley's attempt to regain The Joker’s face from GCPD custody, (see Detective Comics #1 for more details) whilst we also see her slightly altered origin story.

I was sceptical when I heard about the origin re-telling, but I can honestly say that the arc definitely impressed me and is a staple read for Harley fans. In many ways, I actually think the re-vamped origin is better than the original. But without further ado, let's get onto the story.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Issue 6 - THFHQ Part 1

This issue picks up where the fifth left off, in which Harley learns of the Joker's apparent 'death' and betrays the Squad by causing a riot at Belle Reve Prison and escaping, in the attempts to gain information on his disappearance. The new Suicide Squad, dictated by Amanda Waller, have been instructed to bring her back - dead or alive.

Somewhere in Gotham City, the Squad (codename: Task Force X) still led by Deadshot, tracks Harley Quinn through the alleys of the city. He is less than pleased with his new team members Lime and Light, and Savant, who apparently faked his own death in exchange for a reduced sentence during the team's training. To slow her down, Deadshot shoots Harley in the arm, and then they watch as she stumbles out into the street and oncoming traffic. Amanda Waller reminds Deadshot that if Harley gets caught, it puts the entire Task Force X program at risk. Harley enters an open door, and the team prepares to take her out – only to be surrounded by goons dressed as her. As the team fight back, Deadshot realizes that they are back to square one, with no idea of Harley’s location.

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Meanwhile, at Arkham Asylum, Harley wheels a gurney deeper into the asylum, passing by the Jokers's old cell, and realizing that though she can never go back to the way things used to be, her memories with the Joker will never go away either.

We now see the first part of her new origin, depicting her first day dealing with the Joker. She flatly stated that she didn't believe any of the information about him that was contained in his file, suggesting he is all about control, and that his performances create mayhem so that he can be the eye if the storm. Without looking, she sensed that Aaron Cash was preparing to take down the Joker, should he get agitated, and she told him to back off. Her display impressed the Joker.

During their first session, Joker attempts to guess Harleen’s past, suggesting she has something missing in her life, but she brushes this off. Before ending their session, she warned that if he planned to use the weapon he held behind his back, she would ‘kick his nuts up through his mouth.' Given that he was planning to attack her with a straight razor, the Joker was further impressed by his new doctor's attitude.

Back in the present, Harley removes the shroud from the body on her gurney to reveal a very much alive Dr. Serrano, her superior when she worked at the asylum. Harley asks whether it is true that the Joker is dead, and the doctor splutters that he was apparently skinned alive, and that the GCPD is keeping his face in evidence. Having got the information she needs, she slits the doctor's throat with a straight razor.

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At the warehouse, now surrounded by the corpses of all of the Harley 'look-alikes', Deadshot orders the team to seek out any who are still alive for questioning. King Shark dangles a live one over his gaping maw, threatening to chomp off his head if they don't get answers. The victim doesn't have any answers, but from inside King Shark's throat, Yo-Yo begs him to tell the others that he is still alive. Rather than let Harley's henchman say anything more, King Shark smashes him against a wall. Fortunately, Lime and Light find a pair of Siamese twins who are still alive.

Harley sneaks into the old hideouts where she and the Joker used to stay. She thinks of how people are unaware of the relationship she had with the real Joker. On their tenth session, Joker had explained how being able to make someone laugh gives him power. Out of the blue, he turns to her and revealed that he knew her father had been killed by a drunk driver.

Saying this, he slaps a wad of paper down onto the table in front of her, revealing the pinkie finger of the man who had run down her father. Joker consoled her and promised that he could show her how to do what he had done, apologizing for having failed to bring the rest of the driver's corpse in with him. Coming out of her daydream, Harley decides that it is better to have some of the man she loves than none of him, and prepares to steal his face back from the police.

After shooting one of the siamese twins through the head, his brother reveals that they hadn't told Harley that the Joker was skinned and dead, because they knew she would shoot the messenger. Deadshot is surprised at this news, and Waller confirms that the Joker was skinned alive, and that his face is being held at Gotham City Police Headquarters. Deadshot realizes immediately that Harley will be hitting Police HQ next, and the squad rushes across the rooftops to find her.

From a nearby rooftop, they watch as Harley surrenders to the police, having persuaded them into arresting her and taking her inside the station - exactly where she wants to be.

Issue 7 - THFHQ Conclusion
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The Suicide Squad creates a diversion in order to get inside the GCPD, and subdue Harley Quinn. Using Lime and Light's abilities, they create an illusion to make King Shark look like Clayface, distracting the officers long enough to get Deadshot and Savant inside the station.

Meanwhile, Harley has found her way to the evidence room where the police have kept the Joker's face, after it was peeled off by the Dollmaker. This triggers another flashback, when her superior Dr. Serano had discovered Harley's crush on the Joker. Harleen quickly realises this was because Dr. Serano had stolen her notes which she intended to publish as her own. Angrily, she thrusts Serano into the wall, and grabs a shard of broken glass, intending to kill her. However, they are interrupted by one of the guards who was disturbed by the noise. After she kills him, Harleen breaks the Joker out of his cell and they run away together.

Back in the present, Savant comes across Harley and they fight. However, before he realizes it, Harley has trapped him in one of the holding cells with his foot on a pressure mine. If he moves, the mine will explode. Mockingly, she tells him to enjoy his stay.

Outside, Lime and Light are having difficulty maintaining the illusion around King Shark, but he suddenly disappears into the sewer, leaving the girls behind. Lime is grazed by a police bullet, and she orders her sister to escape before she is caught too. Surrounded by police, Lime agrees to come quietly, and begins to confess about the nature of the Suicide Squad. Over her headset, Amanda Waller shouts that if Lime says anything about the team, the nano bomb in her neck will be activated. When Lime nearly states Waller's name for the police, Light is forced to watch as her sister's head explodes.

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Elsewhere, Deadshot wanders through the halls of the police station when the lights go out, suddenly. He activates his infrared lenses, and Harley responds by igniting some road-flares, blinding him, before knocking him unconscious with a sledgehammer.

In the final flashback, Harley remembers how the Joker had taken her to the Ace Chemical Processing Plant, claiming that he brought her there to celebrate her birthday; not her real one, but the one of her 'rebirth'. He explains that this was the place where he was born; what happened there fixed him, and it can fix her too. Before she could try to escape, Joker tossed her into one of the chemical vats. After draining the chemicals, Harleen emerges a changed woman, with chalk white skin and harlequin red and black hair. Joker dubs her ‘Harley’, and she passionately jumps into his arms and kisses him.

Deadshot wakes, unmasked, and tied to a chair in the dark. Harley approaches with a knife, stating that they need to talk - but not with him. Taking the Joker's face from its case, Harley stretches it out, and hangs it over Deadshot's own. Despite his own feelings of horror, he tries to play along. She demands to know why he - the Joker - left her. She shouts angrily that she loved him, and uncomfortably, Deadshot responds that she should prove it by killing the Batfamily; what she was created for.

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Smiling, Harley responds that she knew her Joker would come back to her. Before she can finish her sentence, Deadshot shoots her in the gut, leaving her unconscious in a pool of blood on the floor.

*****

Writer Adam Glass gives a strong story, whilst Clayton Henry provides gorgeous artwork in this gripping story arc. For me, these issues shine due to the depth of Harley's character, and redeem all the misconceptions about her new look. Her revamped origin is a fresh take on the character, plus grittier for the new generation of comic fans, yet doesn't stray far from her roots. Rather than being the typical ditzy blonde, she’s actually very intelligent and is therefore more enjoyable to watch. On top of that, her relationship with the Joker certainly isn’t love at first sight, like many variations. This arc gives a reasoning for Harley to fall in love with him, by making the Joker avenge her father’s death. This all makes the duo seem like a much more believable couple – though an odd one at that.

The cliffhanger ending leaves many wondering what will become of the Squad and if Harley can truly let go off her past. The tie-in to Detective Comics #1 is a nice touch, and gives the final pages of the comic a truly chilling end.

Though most of the Suicide Squad reboot has been hit-and-miss, The Hunt For Harley Quinn stands out as the strongest story to date and is a definite read for all Harley lovers. However, I would suggest new readers should steer clear as it does give a very different portrayal of the classic interpretation. Some readers will never see the past the redesign, but for those who can, it’s a fantastic story about everyone’s favourite hopelessly romantic psycho.

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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #16: Hunt for Harley

Postby Benji » Dec 16th, 2012, 2:18 pm

Nice one Jester! :)

Harleys been one of my favourite characters since TAS, she doesn't seem as sweet as she once was but it seems like the writers have still managed to do justice to the character.

I haven't read any of the new 52 yet as I've only just started with reading graphic novels the past couple years but it seems like it's become a lot darker than I thought. Does anyone know if these comics are in GN form or will be in future?

-- Dec 16th, 2012, 2:20 pm --

Never mind, just found them on Amazon.
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #16: Hunt for Harley

Postby BobGun » Dec 16th, 2012, 5:26 pm

Congrats Jester, that was a great read!

I've not read any of the new 52 either; I thought I'd wait a while, then choose what I fancy. I'll definitely be looking to read this at some point.
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #16: Hunt for Harley

Postby TheJester » Dec 16th, 2012, 5:51 pm

Thanks guys!

As I said in the review, I've had a sort of Marmite relationship with the New 52. However, I do absolutely love this story arc and I'm definetly going to check out Issue #15, which ties into the DEATH IN THE FAMILY arc. I've always defended Harley's redesign, so I thought I should share my opinions with you guys :)
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #16: Hunt for Harley

Postby DarkFlux » Dec 16th, 2012, 6:27 pm

Nice read Jester and congrats on the win.

I gotta say though, the new origin still doesnt quite sit well with me. I mean before she was very much just another victim of the Joker in a way. A more innocent and bouncy personality that he corrupted (dont exactly agree with her being a "dittsy blonde"; she had a PHD after all) and didnt even really care about. She was just a means to an end. Now that Joker goes out of his way to kill her fathers killer (assuming its really him) it makes it seem too personal to me. Then theres the chemical bath which just serves to make the freak accident of the Joker less unique. What, Ace were developing "crazy clown solution"? Why is that stuff still left around?

And her visual redesign still sucks :(

Still, you gave a good insight into it and its cool to hear the thoughts of someone on the other side.
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #16: Hunt for Harley

Postby TheJester » Dec 17th, 2012, 12:23 am

DarkFlux wrote:I gotta say though, the new origin still doesnt quite sit well with me. I mean before she was very much just another victim of the Joker in a way. A more innocent and bouncy personality that he corrupted (dont exactly agree with her being a "dittsy blonde"; she had a PHD after all) and didnt even really care about. She was just a means to an end. Now that Joker goes out of his way to kill her fathers killer (assuming its really him) it makes it seem too personal to me. Then theres the chemical bath which just serves to make the freak accident of the Joker less unique. What, Ace were developing "crazy clown solution"? Why is that stuff still left around?

I will say I wasn't too fond of the chemical bath transformation. I prefer it when Joker has no idea of how he came to be. I'm not afraid to admit the New 52 writers are god awful at times, not just in writing, but in understanding of the characters.

Regardless, it's the Harleen Quinzel in this variation I very much prefer. I think it's more tragic that she was once an educated woman who's mind was warped by the Joker. Sure, when she's ditzy it's very easy to see her fall in love with him; whereas in this version, you get a better understanding of excatly how Joker seduces her. His needs for this are the same in every other variation, but in different manners.

Maybe I'm in the minority here, but you know.
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #16: Hunt for Harley

Postby TFDutchman » Dec 17th, 2012, 10:28 am

Great work, Jester. Harley and Deadshot have been what keeps bringing me back for more Suicide Squad, though like many I have my issues with it. Mostly Harley's altered origin to make her have the same condition as Joker through falling into the acid. I felt this robbed Harley of an essential quirk that made her so interesting in the first place. The fact that she was little more than a love sick puppy who would do anything for Joker. Nothing altered or special about her, just an insane desire to be with him and please him (which in my opinion made her just as, if not more, dangerous than Joker). Now the altered origin makes it seem as though while she was willing to follow Joker after leaving the Asylum, it's the chemical change that really pushes her over the edge and turns her into what she is.

Regardless, I still enjoyed the first arc of the Suicide Squad and The Hunt For Harley Quinn was great fun to read. :D
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #16: Hunt for Harley

Postby The Scarred Side » Dec 17th, 2012, 12:45 pm

I love Harley Quinn! And who better to win her comics than our own Quinn Like Jester! Great Job Jesty!
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Re: Treasure Chest Comics #16: Hunt for Harley

Postby gary2692 » Dec 18th, 2012, 4:15 pm

You lucky WHAM, Jester!
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