Batman: White Knight Presents: Harley Quinn #1 was written by Katana Collins, with pencils and inks by Matteo Scalera, and colours by Dave Stewart.
What do you need to have read?
This series is part of DC’s Black Label series which means that it takes place apart from continuity. However, it is a continuation of Sean Murphy’s White Knight universe, which started with Batman: White Knight, followed by Batman: Curse of the White Knight. As a result, those titles are definitely must read before this series.
What do you need to know?
Bruce Wayne has been imprisoned for being Batman. Harley has twins with the Joker, otherwise known as Jack Napier, whom she had to kill. There is another Harley, who replaced the original unbeknownst to the Joker, who was wrapped up in his obsession with batman. That Harley has rebranded herself as Neo-Joker.
I have mixed feelings about the White Knight universe. I adored the original Batman: White Knight but was not thrilled by Curse of the White Knight. However, this cover has a tiny image of Jason Todd and that does excite me. As a result, I am going into the book with an open mind, and I hope that I do end up loving it.
The first couple of pages hold promise for me because they involve Harley looking back at how she met Jack Napier, with was before her involvement with the Joker. While I adore the traditional Mad Love storyline, it is clear that Collins is taking a different road here, and I don’t hate it. I enjoyed seeing them meet while Harley is dancing to make some money for school, and Jack is dabbling in some shady business. It gives the characters just enough grey area that you think they could have gone either way. It also makes the reader a little more sympathetic towards their relationship, which makes it easier to understand why killing the Joker was such a big thing in Curse. In Mad Love, the point of the story is that whatever they for one another it is not love. It is the result of Joker’s manipulation of Harley. But apparently, that is not the story that is being told this time.
However, that is not to say that this is a fairy-tale romance. Harley, though she may seem stable at the moment, is not known for being the most reliable narrator. That accompanied by the fact that she is telling the story to her children casts some doubt over whether things did happen in that manner. There is room to argue that as she finishes the story by telling her children that their father was not a bad man, this is being used to achieve a very specific purpose, i.e., to illustrate the character of Jack Napier. As a result, this story is clouded by bias that makes me question its validity. I hope that this may be addressed as the series progresses, or else I am just a suspicious person.
This issue gives a lot of time to show how Harley is as a mother to her twins. We are given hints, such as the state of her apartment, that she is struggling. However, the fact that she is aware of this may be suggesting that she is trying to do better. It is perhaps better to be aware of your failings so that you can try to improve. She is reassured by Bruce, whom she visits in prison, that she is doing the best she can.
During this visit, we get a little more development between Bruce and Harley. At least as much as is possible when one is sitting behind bars. It is not something that I have shipped in the past, but it is sweet to see the bond between the two of them, and if it continues to be handled well, then I do not have a problem with it. This is Black Label after all, they can do whatever they want.
The main plot of the series seems to be the appearance of a new serial killer, responsible for what is being dubbed ‘The Golden age Murders’. As someone who is currently reading Criminal Sanity, this feels like a very similar plot, which Harley being called in to consult. If you’ve been keeping with my Criminal Sanity posts then you’ll know that my enthusiasm for the series is waning quite a bit with every issue. As a result, I feel a little done with this plotline, and I hope that this team are going in a very different direction.
After some persuading Harley agrees to help and arrives at the newest crime scene, which leads to my favourite moment in the whole book; A brief flashback to the death of Jason Todd, my favourite DC character. Unlike cannon White Knight suggests that Jason was Bruce’s first Robin and that no one knows what happened to him. Even the Joker couldn’t tell us. But it looks like that mystery is about to get unravelled, and I am beyond excited about it. Are we getting an Under the Red Hood storyline? I really hope so. I absolutely love how violent this colour palette feels compared to the cool blue tones of Harley’s present day. The colours reflect, not only what is happening to Jason, but also the frantic state of mind of the Joker in this moment, and I pray that we get more of this.
We meet an FBI agent at the crime scene called Hector Quimby. He doesn’t seem that important in the grand scene of things, however, I wanted to draw your attention to him because of his initials. HQ. Almost like Harley Quinn. I just thought this was an interesting addition to the scene.
After this brief flashback, we’re back at the present crime scene where Harley establishes that this is a Joker copycat killer, which leads her to surmise that Neo Joker is back. Neo-Joker is the second Harley, who branched out on her own but hasn’t been heard of for a while. I’m very interested in seeing more of Neo-Joker because she seems like she could be an interesting character. The issue ends with Harley, in her suit, off to hunt Neo-Joker down.
Overall, a very interesting first issue. It seems to be more plot-focused than Curse of the White Knight, which is a blessing, and I am excited to see where it goes (hopefully for more Jason Todd content).
Batman: White Knight Presents: Harley Quinn #1 is available from Comixology, Forbidden Planet, or your local comic book store. Alternatively, you can pre-order the complete hardcover from Forbidden Planet.
Coming Soon… White Knight Presents: Harley Quinn #2