Batman: White Knight Presents: Harley Quinn #4 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 worth picking up before this.
What do you need to know?
The Producer, and Ethel, continue to weak havoc on Gotham’s golden age film stars. The shady FBI agent, Hector Quimby, is closer to the case that we first realised. His mother is an aged actress, and he had a fascination/obsession with Batman, and later Harley Quinn. Can he be trusted?
The issue begins with Bruce in jail. We see him walk through the canteen with his tray, while chaos explodes around him in the form of fighting. This shows him as a figure set apart, or above, the common fighting criminal. Perhaps this is a response to the fact that he turned himself in, rather than being forcibly incarcerated. It also says something about the way that the other prisoners seem to be leaving him alone. Bruce Wayne is no easy target. It seems likely that perhaps Bruce had to establish dominance within his new society to be left alone. This is a short sequence before he gets a visit from Harley, but I think that it is worth paying attention to.
Harley visits Bruce again and asks his advice about her situation with Hector Quimby, though she does not mention him by name. This discussion establishes an initial parallel between the Joker’s obsessive relationship with Batman and Quimby’s obsession with Harley. Obsessive relationships are a theme in this book, and we see this again later on in the issue. However, Bruce puts his therapist hat on and offers a different comparison. Instead of allying Quimby with the Joker, he compares him to Harley, another character with an obsession. He points out that obsessions aren’t necessarily bad, and that Harley’s obsession with curing Jack has overall been a good thing. This makes us think about Quimby in a slightly different light as it is unclear, for the moment, where his loyalties may lay.
During this visit, we also get a flashback, this one taking place on that fateful night in ACE chemicals. Interestingly, this is the first time we see past Harley in a version of her costume. As with Mad Love, she is doing it to save the Joker or Jack, but unlike that story, she is dressing in a disguise, rather than intentionally pandering to the Joker’s desire to see her as a harlequin. This small change gives her more agency as a character. By moving the rescue from Arkham, as in Mad Love, to ACE chemicals, it also suggests that Harley is not of the mind that Arkham is a bad place. She still very much believes that he can be cured, and shows loyalty to Jack rather than the Joker.
The contrast between Joker, who is getting carried away with torturing someone, with Jack, and his pride and concern for Harley is stark. This is probably my favourite moment between the two of them since the original White Knight series. Jack is very sweet. Who knew? It makes the ending of White Knight hurt all that much more. I love how this series builds on what we’ve already established to create a richer and more detailed universe. It also means that it is worthwhile going back and rereading past series’ with this new knowledge in mind.
We see the main villain, The Producer, and Ethel briefly so that the former can make lots of references using cinematic language. I’m still uncertain whether he is a criminal mastermind or a little crazy. Hey, this is Gotham so, maybe he’s both. It is established that there is a specific plan that he wants Ethel to follow and going to Quimby’s mother’s house disrupted that. Later we see The Producer’s network board, and Harley, Duke, and Quimby’s faces are all on it. It shows that he is not just recruiting out and out villains. He’s also thinking about the people who only need a little push. After all, all it takes is one bad day.
If we return briefly to the discussion on mothers, Harley goes to pick up her kids from Leslie, who has been looking after them. They look like they’ve been having a great time and have make-up or face paint on their faces. Notably, the little girl has white, red, and green stripes. Our attention is not directly drawn to it, but they are Joker colours, with his green hair, red lips, and white face, so we have to point it out. Leslie also refers to a previous conversation with Harley about post-partum depression. Although Harley brushes it off, it could explain why Harley feels like she’s struggling with the kids. I’m curious to see whether this is brought up again because it does seem like a good opportunity to tackle a difficult topic like this one.
Leaving her kids with Leslie again, she joins Quimby and Duke at the Gotham Film Academy, where they pursue Ethel and The Producer. While Duke is knocked out by The Producer: Harley and Quimby are faced with Ethel. Here is where things get interesting. It is revealed that Ethel was Quimby’s nanny, and aspiring actress, until she was glassed by Sofia and her life went downhill from there. I told you that we would return to the topic of motherhood. Ethel was more of a mother to Hector than Sofia ever was. Ethel then leverages this relationship to make Hector choose between her and Harley. We are left on something of a cliff-hanger, although the likelihood of Harley being killed in her book is pretty slim, even for Black Label.
What I appreciate about this series is that we are being drip-fed the clues to this mystery. We’re getting enough that we want to keep going, but not quite enough that we become bored. Each issue has a purpose, and that is not necessarily true for every series. I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Batman: White Knight Presents: Harley Quinn #4 is available from Comixology, Forbidden Planet, or your local comic book store. Alternatively the whole hardcover is available to preorder from Forbidden Planet.
Coming Soon… Harley Quinn #5