Harley Quinn’s first appearance was not in the pages of a DC comic book but on the small screen in Batman: The Animated Series in September of 1992. The then sidekick/girlfriend of the Joker was created by Paul Dini and Bruce Timm. Now, in 2019, she stars in her own television series on the DC Universe streaming service. For me, this series along with her overall rise in popularity is due to the amazing DC Comics series that debuted during the New 52 in December of 2013. The self-titled Harley Quinn series featured the amazing team of Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti with artwork by Chad Hardin. This book finally saw a Harley Quinn off on her own away from Gotham looking to make an independent life away from her abusive former lover the Joker. This series is a must-read for any Harley Quinn fan.
This series on DC Universe almost seems like it’s a version of that previously mentioned series come to life. The self-titled Harley Quinn series also chronicles the life of Harley away from the Joker. She is out to become the criminal Queenpin of Gotham City. With the help of her friend Poison Ivy, as well as other misfit villains, she tries to earn her place in the Legion of Doom. The series features the voices of Kaley Cuoco as Harley, Lake Bell as Poison Ivy, Alan Tudyk as the Joker and Clayface, Ron Funches as King Shark, J.B. Smoove as Frank the Plant, Jason Alexander as Sy Borgman, Wanda Sykes as the Queen of Fables, Giancarlo Esposito as Lex Luthor, Natalie Morales as Lois Lane, Jim Rash as The Riddler, Diedrich Bader as Batman, Tony Hale as Dr. Psycho and Christopher Meloni as Commissioner Gordon.
This past Friday was the premiere of the first episode of the series on DC Universe titled, “Til Death Do Us Part,” directed by Juan Meza-Leon and written by Dean Lorey, Justin Halpern and Patrick Schumacker. This episode starts off with the beginning of the end of the relationship between Joker and Harley Quinn, when Joker uses her in order to escape from Batman by leaving her with the empty promise that he would break her out of prison. A delusional Harley spends a year in Arkham Asylum waiting for Joker to break her out while Poison Ivy and the rest of the annoyed inmates try to give her the bad news that he was not coming.
On her one-year anniversary, she if finally broken out not by the Joker but by Poison Ivy. But like in any toxic relationship, Joker is able to manipulate Harley back with him, despite Ivy’s plea to leave him. Soon after, the Riddler announces that he has a riddle so funny it makes people’s head explode, and he is now threatening to broadcast it all over Gotham City. This, of course, is something that the Joker cannot stand as he is supposed to be the “funny” villain. So, in order to please the Joker, Harley offers to find Riddler and kill him. Both her and Batman both end up finding the Riddler’s hideout and end up trapped over two pools of acid. When Joker arrives, the Riddler leaves it up to him to choose which of the two lives or dies. Easy decision correct?
Nope, Joker chooses to have Batman released as he could not live in a world where Batman was killed by anyone other than himself. With that, Harley is dropped into the pool, where she has a moment of clarity and finally realizes that the Joker only really loves Batman. Fortunately for her, the entire scenario with the Riddler was staged by Ivy to show her that the Joker never cared about her once in for all. The pool of acid was actually nothing more than a whole lot of margarita mix. This leads to Harley finally deciding to take a stand and go off on her own. She starts by changing her iconic classic Harley Quinn costume and putting on one closer to what we have seen in the recent pages of her comic book. Then she goes back to the Joker to let him know that it’s over. He, of course, reacts violently and tries to have her killed. This fails and now we have the true beginning of Harley’s independence.
This is a fantastic start to the animated Harley Quinn series. Right off the bat, it makes it very clear that it’s not going to be afraid to use lots of adult language and a lot of violence. One of my favorite things about this episode was the way they show the traits of a dysfunctional relationship. Even though Harley Quinn is a smart individual, her judgment was still clouded by the Joker. But with the help of a good friend she was able finally make the tough choice to get away and be on her own. Also although Commissioner Gordon plays a small role, their take on his character making him needy only to have Batman constantly giving him the cold shoulder is hilarious, not to mention Ivy’s house plant, Frank. I really liked the bright vibrant colors that are used in the animation that make the adult humor stand out more as it’s not what you usually expect from DC animated series. I look forward to seeing what crazy adventures Harley gets into as she tries to proves that she is not just a sidekick or a girlfriend but a possible equal in the Legion of Doom.
The second episode of DC Universe’s Harley Quinn titled ‘A High Bar’ premieres this Friday December 6th, exclusively on their streaming service.
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