A reformed Batman villain not only faces a murderous version of her worst fear, but also a chilling reminder of what she might eventually become.
The following contains spoilers for Harley Quinn #24, now on sale by DC Comics.
Harley Quinn’s development over the past thirty years has been fascinating, with the character transitioning from fan-favorite little villain to superstar anti-hero in a relatively short space of time. But Harley is getting a very frightening memory of the kind of person she was – and could easily become again if she’s not careful.
Harley Quinn #24 (by Stephanie Phillips, Matteo Lolli, Rain Beredo and Andworld Design) officially introduces the titular anti-hero of the Harley Who Laughs. A villainous and malicious variant of her (apparently from another timeline) that highlights just how terrifying a truly dark version of Harley can be.
Harley Quinn walks down a dark path
Harley Quinn has found herself in a uniquely difficult position of late. The former villain spent years as a threat to the entire world, even when out of Joker’s orbit. But over time, Harley has proven to be more of a heroic character than even she ever anticipated. She has proven to be humanity’s mainstay keeping Poison Ivy from going completely villainous, she has actively fought to save the world from the likes of Granny Goodness, and even during the events of story arcs such as “Joker War” worked alongside the Bat-Family. and “Shadow of the Bat”. She was even more or less accepted as a member of the bat family – albeit a loosely knit one.
But Harley’s recent deathblow – which required dunking her in the Lazarus Pit to ease her – has pushed her down a darker path that could risk undoing any progress she’s made. Harley kidnaps and interrogates the villainous Mr. Zsasz, using some of her darker impulses and abilities to gather information about the mysterious person who tried to kill her. As she searches the city, she finally catches their attention and confronts the new enemy. She’s shocked to discover that it’s technically herself – or at least a variant of her from another timeline, since the culprit appears to be the Harley Who Laughs.
The Harley Who Laughs is a wake up call
The “Who Laughs” moniker is always a worrying prospect considering the impact these characters have had since the inception of Batman Who Laughs. Originating from the Dark Multiverse reality of Earth-22, Batman Who Laughs was a version of Bruce Wayne who had been corrupted by the Joker’s final plan, turning him into a twisted fusion of the two characters. The Batman Who Laughs played an important role in many events – working with Lex Luthor and corrupting numerous heroes before becoming the main threat Dark Nights: Death Metal. While the Batman Who Laughs was killed at the end of this event, it appears that the Harley Quinn survived this timeline – and found its way into the core DC Universe.
In many ways, this version of Harley is probably the worst fears of the Core DC Universe incarnation. It’s a Harley completely corrupted by the influence of her surroundings. Instead of rising above the corruption and pain inflicted on her by the likes of the Joker, the Harley Who Laughs appears to be one that has fully and completely embraced the Joker’s legacy. Instead of the confident characterization and costume that embraces the modern Harley, the Harley Who Laughs appears to be wearing the scraps of the costume she wore when she was far more villainous. The Harley Who Laughs could be the ultimate example of just how dangerous Harley Quinn could become – and a reminder to the antihero of how much progress she’s made to become a better person.