A gleeful romp in Gotham’s criminal underworld comes to a close as Paul Dini wraps up his two-issue run of ‘Harley Loves Joker’.
The first issue of ‘Harley Loves Joker’ concluded with the Clown Prince of Crime allowing the weasel-themed cat burglar, the Grison, to join his gang, much to the dismay of Harley Quinn. When it comes to robbery and destruction, it seems the Joker favors the Grison’s criminal prowess, more than the bumbling antics of Harley. After a crime spree interlude, Joker reveals to Harley that he was setting up the Grison to take the fall for a recent string of robberies, while secretly retaining his love for Harley Quinn. This reinforces the title as the Joker loves Harley, as much as ‘Harley Loves Joker’. By the last page, the Grison is subdued by Batman, and the dynamic criminal duo make their escape.
While there are many aspects of this mini-series that I find difficult to stomach, there are a few qualities that are classic Paul Dini. For one; the running gag of Harley’s pet hyenas, Bud and Lou, who make a comedic appearance in ‘Harley Loves Joker’. Much like her love for the Joker, the destructive habits of her beloved pets just make them more endearing to Harley, even when they threaten most of the other characters. Their names, Bud and Lou, are also an homage to the famous comedy duo Abbot and Costello, whos antics are most likely an inspiration for Dini’s vanilla-flavored comedic plots.
Another hallmark of Dini’s writing is a more tender subject; the Joker’s verbal abuse of Harley Quinn. Of all of the highlights in the infamous, toxic relationship between the titular characters, Paul Dini seems to emphasize that Harley continues to love the Joker, even though he is clearly a psychotic, abusive boyfriend. From the spectrum of Serial Killer to Confetti Bomb, which is the usual Joker repertoire, it is odd that Dini keeps reinforcing Joker’s consistent spousal abuse. The tropes are strong with this one.
If I had to choose between reading ‘Harley Loves Joker’ or rewatching ‘Batman: the Animated Series’, I would honestly watch the cartoon. Paul Dini’s quality storytelling gets showcased in episodes like ‘The Grey Ghost’ and ‘Almost Got ‘Em’. Hell, even the Joker Christmas Special gave a better perspective of Dini’s love for these characters, which he has fostered since the 1990s. Do not be confused, I do love Paul Dini’s writing style, I just believe his talents have been watered down in this two-issue run of ‘Harley Loves Joker’.