BOOK OF THE MONTH: WIZARD #139
No Longer second fiddle to 'Mistah J,' the clown princess of crime goes from laughable to lethal with a new direction.
Harley Quinn has finally stepped out of the Joker's shadow… it's just too bad she won't get the chance to enjoy it.
Kiss the days of sucking up to "Mistah J" and playing the role of eye candy in Batman's Rogues Gallery goodbye. New series writer (and comics newcomer) A.J. Lieberman has transformed Harley Quinn into a realistic female character who just so happens to be a no-nonsense badass. However, the supervillain still looks super-sexy, hanks to the deft pencils of indy veteran Mike Huddleston (Oni Press' The Coffin). In fact, the creative duo plan on taking Harley one step further by not only treating her as a rogue to be reckoned with, but also making her a symbol for women's liberation.
"We're re-establishing Harley as a modern, independent woman," explains Lieberman. "We're trying to giver her a different backbone and make her stand up to the Joker as opposed to being his mat. She's going to be a little more emboldened, more of an empowered woman."
Since Lieberman and Huddleston took over Harley Quinn with November's issue #26, both the character and story have undergone a complete 180 from her previous status quo. Lieberman's transformed the character from comic relief into grizzled antihero with a sick wit.
"I'm just trying to make her a stronger character, a little more dangerous and a little more schizophrenic," says Lieberman. "A character where a reader will think they know what she'll do next, but it's up to us to fool them and give them something else."
In "Vengeance Unlimited," Lieberman and Huddleston throw Harley into a situation where the stakes - and the body count - are high. Framed for killing a Gotham City undercover cop named James Seaborn, the fun-loving femme fatale finds herself on the run from a detective known only as Bishop, Seaborn's former partner, who won't rest until Harley's six feet under. However, thanks to the GCPD department regulations that require Bishop to attend psychiatric counseling, the hardnose soon spills his guts to Harley's new alter ego, Dr. Jessica Seaborn (who's no relation to James, the name is Harley's idea of a cruel joke), for $80 an hour.
In addition to being hunted by a loose cannon detective, Harley's been forced to avoid an assortment of soldiers-for-hire, obsessed lunatics (most of whom are her new patients) and thanks to nearly killing him via an open elevator shaft, the Joker, all while relentlessly tracking the fiend who's framed her.
Despite Harley's new direction, Lieberman's kept her trademark twisted sense of humor intact. For example, when Harley finds herself on the business end of a machine gun pointed from a police chopper and told to get on her knees, she coolly replies, "Maybe when we get to know each other better." Even with the laughs, Lieberman and Huddleston have cranked up the action to 11, mixing elements of John Woo flicks with homages to "Charlie's Angels" and "The Long Kiss Goodnight."
"Huddleston's pencils serve as the perfect compliment to Lieberman's revamp of the series. Known throughout the small press for his dark and foreboding style, Huddleston nails the backdrop of Gotham City, but on the flipside, Harley has never looked more adorable, appearing less supermodel and more wholesome-but-hot girl next door.
"My concept on Harley was to keep her cute and bring her look back a little closer to the animated series, but then depict the world around her as very dark and serious," reveals Huddleston. "All this is taking place in Gotham City, so it should be pretty dark."
After what's sure to be a shocking and violent conclusion to "Vengeance Unlimited" in March's issue #30, Harley will take care of some unfinished business with her former beau, the Joker in issue #31. Lieberman and Huddleston kick off another five-part storyarc in June's Harley Quinn #33. If being on the run from a host of money-hungry lunatics wasn't bad enough, she's definitely in store for some headaches come summertime.
"In the second arc, we'll see a part of her that no one's ever seen," hints Lieberman. "A child comes into play that Harley has to deal with and almost become a mother to, but she's obviously a sick mother."
Sick mother or not, judging by the series new direction, this is one Harley that guarantees a wild ride!