Is Batman a good kisser?  What about Bruce Wayne?  Now, those of us among the cognoscenti are aware that the individuals in question are, in fact, one and the same.  Or are they?  The difference between Bruce Wayne and the Caped Crusader, whether due to acting skills or mental illness or, as long-time Batman readers tend to suspect, a combination of both, has not really been a subject of exploration in the New 52.  It is appropriate enough, given that the New 52 appears to be in its waning days in terms of labelling if not continuity, that this oversight be rectified in the pages of the New 52’s most surprising hit comic.

The success of Harley Quinn has never relied on intricate plotting.  Rather, the book gathers its power from character and theme, art and action.  And dialogue of course, lots and lots of crystal-sharp dialogue.  The simple premise of this issue is that Bruce Wayne has decided to auction himself off, i.e. offer himself as an evening date, for charity.  Harley swings into action by securing one million one hundred dollars from the mattress of a corrupt banker.

So far, so funny.  But the auction itself becomes the target of the Carp, a fish-armored villain, and his assistant, Sea Robin.  This inept pair manages to kidnap Bruce Wayne, setting up Harley for the great rescue.  Following her heroics, Batman confronts her with his usual glowering suspicions, making an unsuccessful stab at convincing us that Harley Quinn really does exist within the  nevertheless ending the evening with a kiss that Harley opines is not as good as that she had received from Bruce Wayne.

The twin highlights of the book are a pair of dream sequences.  Harley’s dream comes with art and colors from Ben Caldwell.  It is a celebration of playboy lust and chaotic mayhem.  Bruce Wayne’s dream comes with art by Aaron Campbell and color by the ever-busy Hi-Fi.  It’s images are a mode of relative realism similar to that used for The New 52: Futures End weekly, contrasting with both the Harley dream sequence and the slightly cartoonish work of John Timms and Paul Mounts that makes up the main body of the comic.  The weirdness of Harley-inspired violence making its amusing entrance into this milieu provides the high point of the comic.

Grade

A-

Conclusion

Harley Quinn dating Bruce Wayne. The Joker's girlfriend kissing Batman. Of such images is a plethora of fanfiction created. In this case, the wishes of fans have become the command of an entire flying squad of talented comic creators. Were this any other book, the damage wreaked to character and continuity would be epic. But this is HARLEY QUINN, and like the denizens of a world governed by cartoon physics, the inhabitants of this book can sustain damage from no source. The harder you punch, the harder they bounce, and the louder we laugh. And Bruce Wayne, by the way, is a better kisser than Batman, which probably comes as no surprise to anybody.