By James Patrick (writer), Joe Quinones (art), Alex Sinclair (colors), Patrick Brosseau (letters)
The Story: Joker settles in to tell us another tell, this one about Harley Quinn and her quest to break out of Arkham so that she can be with her Mr. J on the most specialist day of the year.
What’s Good: I’m a little leery of Harley Quinn as a character. Her backstory is very good, her interactions with Joker are entertainingly hilarious, and she acts as an excellent counterpoint to his often heavy-handed nature. In the wrong hands though, she can become nothing more than a pale imitation of the Joker—a female reflection of his psychosis with no motivations or desires of her own. Worse, she can be turned into an overly saccharine and annoying sidekick. Fortunately, Patrick avoids most of those traps here: since Joker is only introducing this story, the spotlight remains on Harley at all times and prevents her antics from competing with his, and at no time does she fall into the Zone of Irritation ™.
The story itself is absolutely the best part of this book. The whole concept of Harley being a cooperative inmate on every day except this one s pretty darn funny, and the offhanded and playful way she handles everything (except for the moments where she gets hilariously worked up over trivialities) gives it just the right tone. Batman’s cameo at the end, along with the rather inspired plan he concocts to try and catch her, was easily the highlight for me.
What’s Not So Good: The very cartoony look of the art fits the theme and tone of the book, and I have to admit that, although I’m not personally a fan of this look, it works very well in this context. Even for looking cartoonish though, a lot of the panels just fall flat. The colors are executed well enough, but there is very little use of light, shadow or any shading at all. Details like this (along with making the faces on characters not in close up less sloppy looking) would have made a big difference, and many have elevated the book from “okay” to “very good.”
Conclusion: This Arkham Asylum II installment isn’t as good as the outing with Mad Hatter, but it does tell a fairly light and entertaining tale. Non-fans won’t be missing anything by skipping it, but if you enjoy Harley and/or Joker, it’s worth a look.