|Cover by Guillem March|
Gotham City Sirens #24 (June 29, 2011)
Writer: Peter Calloway
Penciller: Andres Guinaldo
Inker: Lorenzo Ruggiero
Colorist: JD Smith
Letterer: Carlos M. Mangual
The thing with Harley Quinn is that she’s an awesome character in theory but she is almost always annoying to read. Her voice (even her literal one in Batman: The Animated Series or Arkham Asylum) can just be so grating and her doormat personality so disappointing, that I have to admit that I am a somewhat reluctant fan. She kind of goes against everything I love and look for in a female comic book character and yet, I can’t turn away.
Therefore, I wasn’t really expecting much when I picked up Gotham City Sirens #24. I am completely unfamiliar with this particular series and since there are about 8,000 different Batman story arcs going on at once, I figured the chances were pretty good that this would just be mediocre. And you know what? In some ways it was (the storyline didn’t really grip me and the conclusion was incredibly anti-climatic) but this issue has these moments that really took me by surprise and made me take notice.
Gotham City Sirens #24 opened the way a lot of Harley Quinn stories open, I would imagine: Poison Ivy pleading with Harley Quinn to abandon the Joker and attempting to make the lovesick Harley see that she is being used. I think a lot of women have unfortunately had that conversation with girlfriends (I know I have, sadly) and as always, it never works. Harley helps the Joker escape and knock out Ivy but not before accusing Ivy of being in love with Harley. Oh Ivy/Harley, what could have been…
Anyway, the rest of the comic is typical Joker and Harley starting a riot with prisoners and of course, Batman gets involved and outsmarts them and all’s well that ends well. What was different for me was the inclusion of Catwoman as an almost direct partner with Batman. They worked together really well here and in fact, Guinaldo stressed the partnership dynamic between Batman/Catwoman and Joker/Harley with an awesome page that featured a direct mirror image of the two pairs as they both jumped into the middle of the same riot. I really liked Guinaldo’s plays on perspective and angles in his art, though that was definitely the strongest aspect. His expressions and facial features left a bit to be desired but I found his atypical use of perspective very engaging and almost dizzying at times, especially during fight scenes.
One thing that I really had trouble with was Calloway’s use of an inner monologue for Harley. Harley as a narrator can be a really difficult but super interesting device, mostly because of the extremely skewed way she views reality. Yet, Calloway’s interpretation of this character was out of place for me. Harley’s voice was calm, rational and deeply introspective. I was not expecting that at all. To me, Harley is high-energy, irrational and superficial. She’s all over the place and here, she was incredibly focused. I suppose that was Calloway’s way of giving the reader a fresh juxtaposition between Harley as a villain and Harley was a regular woman but I just didn’t buy it. It didn’t sound like her.
Still, the positive definitely outweighed the negative in this comic and I’m happy I picked it up on nothing more than a whim. I was pleasantly surprised and am now hopeful that there are more Batman comics out there that aren’t just mediocre but have elements that really call out to me as a fan.