Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity was written by Kami Garcia, with art by Mico Suayan and Jason Badower. The colours are by Annette Kwok, and letters by Richard Starkings and Comicraft’s Tyler Smith.
What do you need to have read?
It is a stand-alone series, as it’s part of DC Black Label, so you can read this series on its own. That said it is a retelling of the Mad Love story, you can read this in comic form, novelisation, or the Batman: The Animated Series Episode.
What do you need to know?
Harley is trying to track down the Joker before his magnum opus, to avenge Edie’s murder.
I’m just going to come out and say it: I did not enjoy this issue. Nor did I enjoy this series, so if you’re looking for a glowing discussion then you’re not in the right place. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to drag the issue or the series, and I don’t have any tea to spill, but I am always honest.
The issue begins with a shot of present-day Joker without his makeup on. I’ve always maintained that I like the look of this Joker, and that still stands. I like this image and that it confirms Harley’s suspicions from the previous issue. Is it needed? No. Is it memorable? No. But as the series progressed I’ve found his story much more compelling than Harley’s. unfortunately, this is just a brief glimpse of his present day, and we quickly descend back into his past.
His past has been an interesting angle for this character and, as I’ve already said, more compelling than the present-day storyline. This flashback into his past is almost a montage of the development of his present-day modus operandi. It is a little gratuitous by this point because I feel that we’ve seen so much already. As I write it has been a very long time since I’ve read the previous issues (and unfortunately have no desire to go back) but I’m struggling to remember why he’s so intent on mimicking art. I remember the art references, the use of paint, etc but was he an art history buff? What we see here does not add much to what we already know, other than he is self-taught and has worked as a hitman. If that is something that you were dying to know then you’re in luck.
We work from the past to the present day where we see Joker setting up a gas bomb at the concert as his ‘masterpiece’ work. Why? I don’t know. The visuals are very gross to see as peoples skin starts bubbling and they die. Joker appears on the stage to tell us that it is a reference to Hieronymus Bosch, but I wish he had explained why. Why these artworks? Why these artists? We will never know.
Joker tries to get away and Harley pursues him all the way to… you’ve guessed it ACE Chemicals. If you are unfamiliar ACE Chemicals is usually the place that Joker falls into a vat of chemicals and comes out looking like the Joker. You can see this in media such as The Killing Joke, Mad Love, or Batman (1989). I think that this is a very clever reference to have. We often link Joker and ACE very quickly, but it is also the place that Harleen often takes the same chemical bath to transform into Harleen. Suicide Squad (2016) does this scene brilliantly. So ACE isn’t just the birthplace of Joker, it’s also the birthplace of Harley Quinn.
From the first issue I have been asking- is this going to be a Mad Love retelling? Harley drop kicks Joker onto the ground. She is on top of him. Her hands around her neck. And Joker is egging her on. It’s very Mad Love. He’s encouraging her because he has seen darkness within her and wants her to embrace that. The narrative is almost about to save itself in my eyes and then Gordon arrives and pulls her away. Joker is arrested (again) and Harley resolves to become a murderous version of Batman… so Red Hood? The end.
I felt that this final issue lacked punch because every time I thought it was going somewhere it would pull away. Honestly? It bored me. This has been sun has a long time coming, with seven other issues, plus a long pandemic break and the payoff was not worth it. The whole series ended with a whimper rather than a bang.
Coming Soon… Suicide Squad: Get Joker