Joker’s Asylum II: Harley Quinn

Written by James Patrick
Art by Joe Quinones
32 pages, color
Published by DC Comics

DC’s Joker’s Asylum one-shots are such a simple idea—the Joker tells stories about one of the other Batman-centric villains—that it sounds like it would be hard to go wrong. I admittedly missed out on this series of one-shots the last time around, but so far I must admit I’m surprised with how much fun the Joker’s Asylum II specials are. Take, for instance, the Harley Quinn one-shot. The idea is straightforward, with Harley trying to rescue a kidnapped Joker, but what makes it work is the way that James Patrick and Joe Quinones channel the sheer derangement of Harley.

What struck me almost instantly in Harley Quinn was how well Patrick writes Harley’s dialogue. When she chirps early on, "Sorry! No more time for talking! Now I baked you some cookies and left you a card, but since you’re here, I might as well say it in person…" I found myself "hearing" the dialogue in Arleen Sorkin’s voice. (Most famously known as the voice actress to play Harley Quinn in her various animated series appearances.) There’s just the right whimsy and danger underlining her words at any given moment; she can be sweet and fun as she’s trying to line up the right confections for the Joker on Valentine’s Day, but when a henchman complains that he’s lost a lot of blood, Patrick has her turn on a dime from cute to dangerous. That’s exactly the way Harley Quinn should be written, and it was refreshing to see how well Patrick got the character.

The plot of Harley Quinn itself is a little slight, but it’s in many ways little more than a stage for Patrick’s interpretation of Harley Quinn. Watching her tear Gotham upside down to try and find the Joker before Valentine’s Day concludes is funny, and it lets Patrick move her from one situation to the next in rapid succession. Patrick even works in some good running jokes, with my favorite being the, "What’s she going to do…?" series of questions that always end in a deadly punch line from Harley. Patrick’s writing is a treat here, and he’s definitely someone to keep an eye on.

Quinones’s art was one of the surprises for me (in a good way) in Wednesday Comics, so seeing him draw Harley Quinn was a treat. Quinones draws characters with a smooth, fine line that reminds me of a strange cross between Michael Allred and Darwyn Cooke; there’s the litheness of Allred’s characters, but the slightly blocky forms of Cooke. It’s a great look, regardless of whom it might remind you of; the looks on Harley’s face as things go either for better or for worse are hysterical, and watching her spring into action is a real treat. Quinones is one of those artists who definitely understands how to draw motion, too; Harley springs across the page like a gymnast, but even the act of her screaming into the phone looks lively.

Joker’s Asylum II: Harley Quinn is a nice reminder that a story can be short and sweet but still leave a strong impression. Patrick and Quinones have turned out a strong one-shot, and I’d like to see the two of them work together in the future. More importantly, I’ll welcome work from either one of them down the line; they’ve both proven themselves quite ably, here. If this is life in the looney bin, I’m all right with that.

1 comment to Joker’s Asylum II: Harley Quinn

  • Kirk Green

    There aren’t many writers who “get” Harley Quinn the way that Paul Dini wrote his creation… and James Patrick is one that does.

    If this is any representation of his ability to write in character, we can expect great things from this new writer who has just arrived on the DC scene.

    If you want more evidence, look up his earlier independent work “Death Comes to Dillinger”. What a tour de force!