When The Joker disappears from Gotham City, only Harley Quinn can step into the role. That’s the shocking twist that readers of Batman: White Knight are currently reeling from, as Sean Murphy’s rejuvenated take on Gotham City puts not just one, but two Harley Quinns into the spotlight. The series was pitched as the story of a cured Joker holding Batman accountable to Gotham, but with Issue #3 now on the shelves, it’s the saga of Harley Quinn that’s gaining more attention… or Quinns, as in the original and the modern replacement.
When the classic Harley Quinn returned to Joker in the previous issue, it was soon teased that the modern, psychotic, sex-crazed,’Suicide Squad’ Harley would have a role in White Knight. And what a role it’s going to be, with Harle– sorry, Marian Drews taking on a new mission, a new costume, and a new name as she looks to bring the Joker back. Even with the original Harley and Jack Napier himself trying to keep the clown in the closet.
As we alluded to above, the return of Joker minus his psychoses didn’t go as he had planned. Seeking out Harley Quinn to finally propose and stop their crazed love affair, Jack realized that in his years-long joyride… Harley had been replaced. In the nick of time, the original Harley – Dr. Harleen Quinzel, as introduced in Batman: The Animated Series – came to retrieve Jack now that his mental state matched her own. And through it all, the “imposter” Harley, a woman named Marian Drews, shouted at the injustice. The old Harley “left,” meaning she had no claim to the man Joker was now locked inside of. The issue concluded with hope for Jack and Harleen… but Marian was already planning her next move.
Issue #3 returns to Marian (Murphy’s version of the modern Harley in DC’s main comics), still stewing over the wrong-ness of this entire development. Jack and Harleen may see his medication as allowing him his sanity, but Marian knows it’s all a lie. She’s in love with Joker, not Jack, and as far as she’s concerned, they’re both standing in her way. It calls for something new.
New shoes. New clothes. New makeup. New weapons, too. And though this new version of not-Harley isn’t given a name as part of this reveal (Marian would never give herself her own nickname, c’mon), the fusion of the lovers is clear. As Murphy confirmed on Twitter, the combination of Harley’s diamond pattern and Joker’s acid flower (on both the front and back of the jacket) is meant to signify her own adoption of the Joker in absentia… which is a nice accent to her own new moniker.
The unlikely honor of dubbing this new identity of Marian Drews falls to the Mad Hatter, after she refers to herself as Joker’s “stand-in.” Murphy has shown a particular knack for neo-futurist-punk style in the past, and this fusion of Joker, Harley, and The Crow certainly delivers on the concept that “Neo Joker” would suggest. Aside from agreeing with Hatter’s assertion that this story, and Marian’s role in it is growing “curioser and curioser,” it’s impossible to predict what Murphy actually has in store for the Neo Joker. With Jack and Harleen only at the start of their campaign to rule Gotham through legal, supported means, it doesn’t look like the original Joker will be returning any time soon – meaning Neo Joker may truly claim the position of Batman’s nemesis… assuming she doesn’t put Harleen and Jack – the two holding her lover prisoner – in her crosshairs.
Murphy has explained that a true origin story of Marian Drews will be coming in Issue #4, explaining how a presumably ordinary little girl grew up to fall in love with DC’s most crazed criminal. Not to mention, take the identity of Harley Quinn when Joker’s original lover grew tired of competing with Batman for attention. And any concerned that such a story is inherently submissive should keep their concerns at bay for now. Murphy has emphasized his desire to not erase, replace, or simply deride the modern Harley, but give her a respectable story, as well.
Making her the Neo Joker of his Gotham City is a terrific start, and the ground she covers on her former lover and her former lover’s… lover is just as impressive. It was a brilliant plan hatched by Jack Napier: use the Mad Hatter’s mind control card to command Clayface – then dissolve his body into every other criminal and supervillain in Gotham, thereby turning his former colleagues into a single tool. Even more brilliant is just how quickly Neo Joker uncovers the plan removes the card, and – with help from Hatter – prepares to take control of that Rogues Gallery Army for her own purposes.
You have to admit, Jack’s plan to be Gotham’s white knight proves Joker was a cunning criminal. But swiping his army out from under him? The new Harley is looking like a Neo Joker already.to be decidedly NOT Caucasian.
Batman: White Knight #3 is available now.