Warning: SPOILERS For Batman: Prelude to the Wedding Harley Quinn vs. The Joker
Harley Quinn and The Joker are a textbook example of an unhealthy and abusive relationship. Typically though the abuse has only traveled one way from Mister J to Harleen. Harley Quinn has always been the victim. However, in the latest issue of Batman's Prelude to the Wedding series finally has Harley get a little a revenge on her puddin'.
DC's Prelude to the Wedding miniseries has been all about the adventures of Batman's friends and family on the night before he gets married to Catwoman. Harley's status as the ex-girlfriend of The Joker has made her one of the one unsteady members of the Bat-Family. Yet in recent years, Harley's been more an ally to The Dark Knight than not.
The finale to the Prelude miniseries sees Harley face off against her own twisted love and it ends in the way every Harley and Joker face-off concludes, not in Harley's favor.
There's a very good reason that Prelude to the Wedding has saved Harley and The Joker's story for the very end of the series and not just because they're the dark fun-house mirror version of Catwoman and Batman's own relationship. The threat of The Joker has been seeded throughout the other Prelude to the Wedding issues. Joker is the reason that The Riddler went after Batgirl, Nightwing ended up in an alternate dimension with Hush and a lot more. For this and everything else he's done, Harley has had enough.
The issue begins with Harley literally running The Joker over and kidnapping him. Harley then proceeds to put her puddin' in a death trap of literal pudding, drowning The Joker in a vat of tapioca. Harley explains her intention isn't to really take out The Joker and not just because there's way The Clown Prince of Crime is going to suffocate by a dessert. She merely wants The Joker to know what it felt like to be trapped in a relationship with him and to prove to Mistah J that she was much accomplished than he ever made her feel.
The strangest thing isn't the death trap itself. It's that it all begins to work. Joker does eventually escape Harley's vat but not after being consumed by pudding for a bit and admitting to Harley that there was always something brilliant about the schemes. Harley Quinn has grown a lot in the comics from New 52 onwards but it's been mostly independent of The Joker. The first half of the Prelude to the Wedding issue feels like there's really some movement on her twisted relationship with The Joker. Both characters are acknowledging their past and moving forward, then everything goes awry.
Joker reveals that he knew all along that Harley would capture him. He even got to her henchmen first and used Joker Gas to bring him under his mind control. Joker then completely escapes Harley's clutches. The whole experiment, even Harley's victories, have all been about proving that The Joker will always be better and more prepared than Harley. Harley can never escape the shadow of The Joker.
Although The Joker doesn't kill Harley. Instead he lets her go because he hopes that, one day, she will come crawling back to him. In his own very Joker way, he still loves Harley. It's just communicated in the most abusive (vaguely repetitive) way possible.
It could be asking a bit too much of Prelude to the Wedding to really move Harley and Joker's relationship forward. Joker needs to survive the encounter and relatively unscathed because Prelude to the Wedding leads directly into Batman #48 where The Joker slaughters an entire church to get Batman's attention. It's still disappointing that even when Harley succeeds DC still finds a way to knock her down as less than The Joker.
Batman: Prelude to the Wedding Harley Quinn vs. The Joker is available now from DC Comics.