COMIC REVIEW: DETECTIVE #831

Author: Bill Ramey
Friday, April 6, 2007

From DC COMICS: "Writer Paul Dini — creator of Harley Quinn — returns with art team Don Kramer and Wayne Faucher (JSA)! A bizarre incident forges a temporary alliance between the Dark Knight and his daffy-but-deadly adversary Harley Quinn. Forget everything you think you know about Dr. Harleen Quinzel as Batman uncovers long-buried secrets from his enemy's unknown past."

THE GOOD: Paul Dini's back writing DETECTIVE.
THE BAD: Where's Batman?

I’ve never been too big on Harley Quinn. I’m not saying that I disliked the character or anything, I just never really took to her as I have other Bat-villains. The bottom line with Harley for me is that I can take her or leave her.

Why I’m I beginning this review of DETECTIVE COMICS #831 talking about The Joker’s girlfriend? Well, Harley is essentially the star of this month’s issue, “Kind of Like Family.” In fact, DC should have included the following in the credits: “Starring Harley Quinn with special guest appearance by The Batman!”

Consequently, if you are a big fan of Harley, you’ll most likely dig the heck out of this issue. However, if you are like me and can take or leave her, you might feel the same way about “Kind of Like Family.”

Writer Paul Dini -- who created the Harley Quinn character with Bruce Timm for BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES -- gives us a story about Harley attempting to win her parole from Arkham Asylum. It opens with her being turned down by the parole board, which just so happens to include a certain Gotham playboy billionaire.

Just moments after receiving her denial -- thanks to Mr. Wayne -- Harley is sprung form Arkham against her will. We find out rather quickly that the person behind the plot is none other than the new Ventriloquist. It seems that Scarface -- you know, the dummy -- is planning a big heist and wants to include Harley in on the gig. But is Harley going to be a willing participant? From the looks of things, Harley has maybe changed her colors.

On the surface, it looks as if Dini is intent on making Harley “good” in the comics. The only problem with this is that there is really no explanation of why Ms. Quinn has had a change of heart and if it is indeed sincere. Perhaps he plans to explain all this in the future.

On the other hand, this “Good Harley” comes off as being too obvious, if you will. Can Harley flip that easy? One gets the impression that it’s just a matter of time until “Mistah J” re-enters her life and things will change.

Now don’t let the fact that I’m not a huge Harley fan lead you to believe that “Kind of Like Family” isn’t good, because it actually is. In fact, there are two really good parts that I quite liked.

One, Dini provides us with Harley’s internal monologue that indicates that she's, well, quite "conflicted." And secondly, there’s a really nice flashback to an Arkham meeting between Harley and the original Ventriloquist, Arnold Wesker.

As far as Don Kramer’s artwork, it’s “OK+.” Gets the job done, but certainly lacks in the “WOW!” factor. I’ve said this before -- and it’s probably a petty nitpick -- but Kramer draws people in a way that they all look sort similar. Are y’all getting that too, or is it just me? I do quite dig his Batman, I must say.

One last comment about the art -- Simone Bianchi's covers are damn badass!

As I said, if you are a big HQ fan -- and there are a lot of y’all -- this is a must buy/read for you. You all wanting more Batman in a Batman comic might find DETECITVE #831 a bit lacking. I enjoyed it, but I kind of like it better when the star of my Bat-comics is, well, Batman.

"Jett" is the founder and editor-in-chief of BATMAN ON FILM, BATMAN IN COMICS, and ON-FILM.NET.

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