Harley Quinn and Batman: The Last Laugh is a series that serves as a prequel to an animated film of the same name coming out in August 2017. It tells the story of Harley finally ending things with Joker and setting out on her own. It is styled after Batman: The Animated Series, but, unfortunately, Part 1 mostly fails to capture the same magic that the show had. While there are moments that everything comes together, both the story and the art feel rushed and lacking.
Ty Templeton’s storyline starts in media res with the Joker’s plans to poison the guests at the Gotham BBQ Festival being mysteriously foiled and Batman swinging in post explosion. Right off the bat, this had me questioning who the audience for this is supposed to me. That is far too childish of a scheme for the people who grew up watching the show to enjoy. It only gets worse from there as each item Joker tries to use to defeat Batman fails in a very slapstick like manner all while Batman remains busy beating up Joker’s thugs. The fact that they have Harley calling Joker “daddy” is an especially creepy thing to add in with this kind of audience confusion. Ultimately, my biggest issues with the writing are that 1) Harley leaves Joker because he did not attempt to abuse her, which is wrong on so many levels, and 2) the relationship dynamic between Ivy and Harley is all wrong. When Ivy rescues her, she states: “You people can’t have Harley to abuse any more. I need her.” This results in Harley getting all swoony, but this just another example of the removal of agency that surrounds the character. Ivy shows up uninvited, takes her without asking, and then tells her to “Slow down with the PDA s.” If this is supposed to be Harley Quinn’s story, she should at least be able to participate in her own escape. Also, Ivy would not do or say any of those things because she is not controlling of Harley in the same way as Joker is. It is not all bad though. Batman doesn’t speak a lot, but Templeton really captures the way that Batman spoke on the show and that goes a long way to help capture the right atmosphere.
The art doesn’t do much to help. Rick Burchett’s lines are oddly inconsistent. Ivy’s vines are very well done and the occasion panel has polished smooth lines and appropriate shading, but the very next panel might look as if they were simply not done yet. Still, Kieren Smith’s colors are spot on and Wes Abbott’s letters are great! They pop well and provide a needed steady focal point. All of the explosions and Harley’s giggles are particularly well done.
Ultimately, many people are going to read this regardless because they are excited for the movie. If you are simply looking to feel a little nostalgia, this does have the potential to be enjoyable. Despite the fact that it would be a pretty terrible episode, it does invoke a sense of Batman: The Animated Series. A girl can only hope Harley Quinn gets better treatment in the movie. 2 stars.