Harley Quinn’s current ongoing series has been all about Harley moving on from her past life with the Joker, and finding her own identity. Today’s issue made that struggle a very literal one—and it had an immensely satisfying resolution.
Spoilers ahead for Harley Quinn #25, by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Chad Hardin, Alex Sinclair, and Tom Napolitano.
Although Harley has changed a lot since she left Gotham, she’s still willing to go through some extremes to get what she wants. Case in point, this issue is about her breaking into Arkham Asylum to free her current boyfriend, Mason... putting her right in the Joker’s path, as his cell happens to be right next to Mason’s.
Even before the two encounter each other again, the Joker’s toxic mind games have been tormenting Harley. He leaks her disguise to some guards, making the break-out a little harder, and in true Joker style, he’s been trying to poison Mason against her by revealing her dark past, when she was at the Joker’s side.
But Harley really has changed over the course of this series—she’s become a better person now that she’s out of the Joker’s shadow—but that doesn’t mean she’s not going to lash out at the Joker for what he’s tried to do to her.
Harley originally enters the Joker’s cell just to talk, to tell him how she’s moved on without him. But the Joker goads her and goads her, to the point that they start brawling. And Harley just beats the shit out of him, again and again, even biting part of his lip off when he tries to kiss her. Every time the Joker tries to turn it around, Harley gets the upper hand again.
It’s an ideological upper hand as well as a physical one, because while she’s beating the crap out of Joker, Harley actually comes out and says that she detests what he makes her do, and how violent she gets around him. The Joker hasn’t moved on from their sadistic, maniacal past, but Harley has—and she’s done being his lapdog.
But while it’s satisfying to see Harley articulate just how done she is with the Joker, it’s equally satisfying just to watch her smash him into submission. It’s visceral and triumphant, a culmination of everything Harley has become since she left him.
Even when he’s beat though, the Joker just can’t stop antagonizing people—and Harley finally realizes something Batman realized about his archnemesis decades ago. The Joker traumatizes people, pushes them to their limits, because he wants people to snap and bring themselves plummeting down to his level: That infamous “all it takes is one bad day” mantra from The Killing Joke.
Harley is done having bad days, though. She’s put them behind her, and in the process, it’s made her comic one of the most fascinating to read, out of DC’s current crop.