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Harley Quinn’s Fresh Origin Completely Reimagines Her Tragic Relationship with the Joker

by Lidia Lucovic

Harley Quinn has undergone significant character development since her inception as the Joker’s romantic partner and accomplice. This evolution is strikingly portrayed in a compelling dream sequence where the present-day Harley’s values clash with her initial encounter with the Joker — and this time, the Joker finds himself outmatched. In the skillfully crafted narrative “Stacked Deck” by Chris Condon, Jacob Phillips, and Steve Wands in Harley Quinn: Black + White + Redder #3, the pivotal moment is revisited when Dr. Harleen Quinzel seeks a meeting with the Joker, aiming to write an exposé to capitalize on his notoriety. However, in this rendition, Harleen is delayed, and upon her arrival, she discovers that her colleague, Dr. Joan Leland, had conducted the meeting in her place and suffered severe injuries at the hands of the Joker.

Traumatized, Harleen escapes to Central City and hones her abilities by facing off against the Flash’s Rogues. Upon her return to Gotham, seeking closure with the Joker, she is met with his attempt to manipulate her with a tale of woe. However, now older and more discerning, Harleen sees through his facade, recognizing the Joker for what he truly is: a self-absorbed psychopath. She departs victorious while the Joker seethes in his defeat — only to awaken beside “Mr. J” in her classic mask, revealing that it was all a dream sequence.

Stacked Deck pays significant tribute to the work of Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, Rick Taylor, and Tim Harkins in their one-shot creation, The Batman Adventures: Mad Love #1. This comic narrates the transformation of psychologist Harleen Quinzel into the Joker-obsessed character Harley Quinn. The story was later adapted into a renowned Batman: The Animated Series episode, marking Dr. Leland’s introduction as Harley’s supervisor at Arkham. Moreover, “Stacked Deck” directly references Mad Love, quoting passages verbatim when the Joker attempts to exploit young Harleen’s compassion by recounting a fabricated, sympathetic narrative about his abusive father. In the climax of Mad Love, Batman shatters Harley’s illusions by revealing that the Joker has repeatedly concocted various versions of this fabricated story to manipulate countless psychologists, highlighting the Joker’s deception.

Stacked Deck radically alters the dynamics. When Harley resumes her interactions with the Joker in her contemporary persona, she proves impervious to his manipulations. In contrast to the original storyline where Batman exposes the truth to her, Harley quickly discerns the Joker’s tactics and decisively distances herself from his influence. The narrative, which reimagines Harley’s initial backstory, vividly illustrates her ability to deconstruct and disempower the Joker with incisive words. It underscores that in her present portrayal, the Joker stands no chance against the formidable Harley Quinn.

Revisiting a character’s origin narrative with a modern perspective provides a valuable lens to assess their growth and evolution. Harley Quinn has transcended her initial role as the Joker’s manipulated companion, and immersing her present self back into her past highlights her remarkable acumen. Understanding the tragic nature of her initial encounter, witnessing Harley Quinn effortlessly subvert the narrative and triumph over her primary tormentor is profoundly cathartic. It reaffirms that she has always surpassed the circumstances that gave rise to her character.

“Harley Quinn: Black + White + Redder #3” is a significant installment in the comic series that delves into the world of Harley Quinn. The intriguing title, with its emphasis on a specific color scheme, promises a unique visual experience, likely using a predominantly black and white palette with occasional red highlights for dramatic effect.

In this particular issue, readers can expect to witness a pivotal moment in Harley Quinn’s character development. The storyline may revisit her origins or key events, shedding new light on her growth and resilience. It’s an opportunity to showcase Harley’s evolution beyond being merely the Joker’s accomplice, illustrating her intellect, strength, and ability to outwit her tormentors.

The deliberate use of color, particularly red, could carry symbolic meaning or denote critical elements within the narrative. The number “3” indicates its place in the series, potentially suggesting a continuation or progression of the story arc, leaving readers eager to explore what happens next.

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