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Feature Review #15
Scarier Than The Joker Himself
Mad Love
(Batman Adventures)
When the various "Adventures" (DC's code-word for comics inspired by the animated versions of its heroes) books first came out, i didn't pay much attention.

But then i picked up a copy of "Batman Adventures" and was immediately hooked. The "Adventures" books may well be the freshest and most original takes on the Batman and his friends and foes that i have read in many a year.

But why? i asked myself, and myself answered, Because they can use whatever they want from the Batman's 60-year history, but they aren't stuck with a strait-jacket continuity that that 60 years imposes on the "real" Batman titles.

And so we come to Harley Quinn -- though they're trying to put her in the "real" Batman continuity lately, which i think is a BAD mistake, Harley is very much a creature of the animated show -- the Joker's prankish and ditzy henchgrrl, a wise-cracking foil for both the Joker and the Bat, cute and funny and deadly and frightening if you really look past the clown suit.

In fact, Harley Quinn may be more frightening than the Joker himself, and that is a good trick.

And why? Because she loves Joker and just wants to please him. And to please a murderous, psychopathic clown, you have to be even crazier than he is.

This book, then, is Harley's story. It tells us who she was, what she wanted to be, and how she became what she is.

It is a curiously gentle and sad story, as well, considering the violence of many of its events and the madness giggling from its pages in every panel. Harley is rather a sad clown at base; the thing she wanted that caused her to kick over the traces and turn to crime -- Joker's love and approval -- is the one thing she will never have, no matter how desparately she tries to please him, because there's room for only one love object in Joker's life... the Batman, no matter how twisted that love's expression may be.

Watching Harley cold-bloodedly attempting to commit an elaborate and nasty murder, just so Joker will notice her, is chilling. Watching Batman manipulate both Harley and Joker, even with his hands tied, is an example of what makes the Batman the icon that he is.

And reading Harley's final words, which echo the sickest of the old Goffin & King Brill Building songs, is sad and horrifying and ominous all at once.

If you are a Batman fan but have not yet discovered the "Adventures" books or even the animated series, this graphic novel is a good place to start.

And i envy you.