Review – Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #3: Dark Beginnings

Comic Books DC This Week
Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #3
Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #3 cover, via DC Comics.

Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #3 – Kami Garcia, Writer; Mico Suayan, Jason Badower, Artists; Annette Kwok, Colorist

Ratings:

Ray – 7.5/10

Ray: Black Label is known for its unusual takes, but Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity, with Harley Quinn being the straight woman in a serial killer thriller, is so far afield that it almost feels like a creator-owned comic that was retrofitted into this format.

In Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #3, Mico Suayan is joined by new artist Jason Badower, replacing Mike Mayhew, as Harleen continues to investigate the Joker and the killer leaves more elaborate corpses around Gotham. The choice to make the flashback segments in full color and the modern segments in black-and-white is interesting – because almost all the gore takes place in the present, it turns the horrific visuals into something haunting and artistic rather than overtly grotesque.

The scenes of the Joker’s new killings are juxtaposed with flashbacks to him as a gifted but abused teenager years back. But is this the original Joker who stalked Harley and murdered her wife? I’m skeptical, but this kid is a threat either way.

A bad joke. Via DC Comics.

I’m less fond of the flashbacks to a young Harley’s life, which show she grew up with a rich and abusive mother. A phone call from her brother indicates that mother is probably dying, but it’s not clear how much this will play into the story. This is yet another touch that pulls Harley away from her iconic characterization, making her a grittier and more troubled character without an iota of the chaotic energy that defines her.

This character is a decent one as an investigator with a brilliant handle on how to find a serial killer, but I’m not sure where the through-line is to make this a Harley Quinn story. Badower’s art is a good fit for Mayhew’s style, making this a smooth transition from the previous issue, but the story continues to move at a snail’s pace as Harley unlocks new clues and finds new horrors. It feels like Kami Garcia is definitely at home in the pitch-black themes of this comic, but it’s really not what it advertises on the tin.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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