Batman: No Man’s Land Vol. 3

I’m finding it difficult to write about these latest No Man’s Land trades.

Not because there’s nothing to say, but because there’s simply so much going on that it’s difficult to hone in on any one person or event.  With so many characters receiving a spotlight issue or two, it’s tough to focus my attention.

An incredibly brief synopsis of this trade might read something like this: Batman and friends continue working to contain Gotham’s criminal element while fighting to find food and supplies for its remaining residents.

That’s essentially it.  It’s simple, but the comics themselves are anything but.  We learn so much about how individuals handle adversity differently, and how certain criminals can thrive in this environment.  The utter desolation of the city doesn’t mean a complete loss of hope for some, although many are beginning to question how they can continue on like this indefinitely.

Reading these comics, there are always one or two individual issues that stand apart from the rest.  They may not have the biggest impact on the overall story, but they catch my eye and stay with me longer than the rest.

In this trade, those issues were Batman #570 and Detective Comics # 737, a storyline featuring Joker and Harley Quinn titled “The Code”.

This is one of the first appearances of Harley Quinn within the main continuity, and she truly enters the fray as her own unique character.

In this story, Joker has just shored up a new territory, and Harley goes to do some investigating in the penthouse apartments.  In one, she find a book laying out the rules of love, and settles down to read it.

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According to this book, Harley has been making herself entirely too available, and that’s why the Joker doesn’t pay her any mind.  Deciding to change her act, Harley begins acting more independent and less reliant on Joker and his whims.

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While Harley puts her new knowledge to good use, she also suggests to Joker that he hold an election and run for President of Gotham, using “Batman would never do that” as her reasoning.  Joker thinks it’s a brilliant idea and begins campaigning full force.  It’s a completely ridiculous scenario that fits him perfectly; in a city of utter chaos and instability, of course Joker would choose now to try and instill a little order to everything around him.

The election storyline is fun, but Harley steals the show.  As she grows more and more independent, the Joker begins to miss his ever-loyal lackey, and appears to even miss the nicknames he once claimed to loathe.

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I couldn’t help but love Harley in this story.  She is so determined to get her “puddin” to pay attention to her and return her affection.  Even with a city in ruins around her, she is single-minded in her goal to get the Joker to love her back.

It’s innocent, naive, and absolutely crazy, yet you can’t help but sympathize with her.

It’s also rather effective.  Joker doesn’t seem to take too kindly to not being the center of Harley’s world, and her indifference starts to wear on him.  It’s the classic “ignore him and he’ll come running” trope that is perpetuated in every women’s magazine published for the past fifty years.  With the Joker at least, it seems to work perfectly.

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Marry?! There’s a word you’d never expect the Joker to utter.

This just proves how masterful Harley is.  If she can control the Joker, there’s really no stopping her.  Even Batman hasn’t been able to make Joker change his tune about anything.  This girl’s an evil, lovestruck genius.

If this was all there was to her character, she’s be entertaining, but luckily beneath that sweet and playful exterior is a strong and skilled fighter.  Taking on Huntress and walking away virtually unscathed, Harley proves that she can hold her own against Gotham’s best.

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This, for me, is what makes Harley such an enjoyable character.  She’s goofy and childish but also fierce.  Strip away the psychotic tendencies and she’s exactly what I want to be.  I have a feeling she strikes a chord with a lot of readers for this very reason.

Of course, her resolve can only last so long, and after thinking her lovable Mistah J has been killed in a blast, she can’t help but express her undying devotion, much to Joker’s dismay.

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She tried, she really did. She even succeeded for a while there, making the Joker pursue her for a change.  Alas, her weakness got the best of her, and she flew into his arms and undid all that she had accomplished with their relationship.

These two make for a highly dysfunctional pair, but perhaps that’s why they’re so great together.  Harley loves Joker; there’s no doubt about that.  However, in this story we get to see that although the Joker’s feelings may not be identical, he at least loves the attention and adoration Harley gives him.  Sure, he’s tried to kill her once or twice, but he has his moments of caring, if only because she doesn’t.

I’m not sure what it was about this particular storyline that stood out to me so much.  Harley Quinn is certainly a key factor.  She’s fun to read about and is unlike any other Batman villain I’ve seen.  Plus, she’s paired off with the Joker, and his interactions with everyone are always fun to read.  Harley is essentially a hyper little puppy that follows the Joker around constantly, much to his chagrin.  She’s innocent, she’s sweet, she’s utterly psychotic.  She’s also loyal to a fault, and one can’t help but admire that loyalty, even if it kicks her in the butt or ends up with her strapped to a rocket.

Harley Quinn is a deranged love-struck psycho, and yet she still manages to be adorable and likable.  She walks a fine line that few other characters can manage, being a villain that the reader wants to root for.  In the midst of tragedy and city-wide destruction, Harley’s single-minded focus on getting the Joker to love her heightens her naivete while endearing her to readers.

Much like the Joker, Harley has a perfect blend of violence and comedy. She has the added touch of sweetness though that makes her a truly unique villain, and one whom can’t help but steal the show every time she’s featured.

She’s funny. She’s crazy. She’s awesome. I bet deep down, even Batman likes her.

-Jess

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