Well, I hope that was enjoyable – and that the last chapter was funny. It was meant to be.
If you're not up with what's going on, read the following comics to catch up:
Countdown (#51 - #01)
Batman: RIP (currently appearing in Batman, Detective, Nightwing and soon, Robin)
And here's a bit of an explanation:
This is just my affectionate and slightly parodying commentary on the current events in the comics. Grant Morrison is taking the Joker in new directions in the RIP storyline, taking away his theatrical flair and style, his cunning wit and dapper charm, and making him into a drooling, eye-rolling, cross-dressing serial killer who utters nonsensical phrases and finger paints with blood. I know, I know.
Yet, at the same time, Morrison seems to be subtly suggesting that the Joker has Harley on the mind – there is a predominance of red and black elements – including the colours he paints his nails and the roses. This may be feeding back into Batman #663 in which Joker set up an elaborate scheme designed to eventually kill Harley because she was the one element tying him to his old identity, the one thing that he loved and he considered that his last weakness. In the end he decided he couldn't kill her, but she had to be scarred like him. She agreed, but Batman stopped it. The issue ended with Harley shooting Joker in the shoulder.
Since then there have been hints that that wound may have killed him temporarily. The references to Paris here are inspired by my pal zhinxy saying "you just know if she ever caused him to flatline, he'd take her on a trip to Paris!" It's the sort of thing that Joker respects and would even consider romantic.
Oh and he's been playing with Joker cards that have red splotches on their shoulders, possibly another hint to that event.
Anyway, it amused me to think that this odd, jibbering, unstylish state Joker is in may be directly related to the fact he and Harley are no longer together. That she became so much a part of his life on such an unconscious level that her prolonged absence has affected him to the point this is the outcome. That basically, Joker is falling apart without her balancing influence and supportive love.
It's not that I really think that's what Morrison is getting at, it's just so heartbreaking to see our dapper and charming J behaving so... out of character. With all the reunion hints, I just found it hilariously funny to 'find a reason' for it in Harley's absence. I think Morrison just thinks he's being really, really clever and innovative with Joker's charcter while the rest of us tear our hearts out in grief over seeing him in such a broken state. That is - it's so out of character, us fans are going why has Mistah J had this meltdown? But Morrison isn't honestly suggesting he's had a meltdown, he's just writing him in a really awful way.
I would love to say I am exaggerating Joker's behaviour in this chapter, but that is HONESTLY how Morrison is writing him.
As for Harley, well she left Gotham and wound up in Metropolis, an act I speculate was to take her away from the Joker so she wouldn't be tempted to visit him in Arkham and such. Since then, she's taken up with the Athenian Women's Shelter and has been talking a lot of jive about how she's now one with the Goddess and is over all her past delusions. Yet, there have been many hints she's 'protesting too much' and many hints the life she's living is not that satisfying to her as well as a few subtle clues Mistah J is still very much on her mind (and at least one not so very subtle clue in Countdown). Certainly, Harley's boisterous nature and exuberance make her an ill-fit for the touchy-feely spiritual hoo-ha of the Amazons and I have a feeling she misses her life of crime and her Puddin' more than she will ever freely admit. The Countdown incident I refer to is when they thought they were all on their own earth and Harley went to visit Joker in Arkham, only for him not to recognise her and she was utterly distraught. The reason he didn't recognise her was because they were in an alternate dimension and it wasn't 'her' Joker. She bawled 'that wasn't my Puddin' back there!' and was inconsolable.
I also wanted to address the notion that Harley is a disempowered victim, an attitude often extended to people who choose to stay in abusive relationships. The belief being that there could never be a conscious choice about it and that it's impossible that people have decided to stay with the relationship because they are fulfilled on other levels and consider the abuse something they can handle and accept. It doesn't mean they're not aware it's unhealthy; it just means they've made a decision for themselves and I do think Harley did this because as far as she was concerned, being with the Joker made it worth it.
Anyway. The first part is a little serious but hopefully the second has you giggling. No offence to anyone who thinks Morrison is the bee's knees. In all honesty, he's one of the only mainstream writers who seem to understand this relationship, so I can forgive him a lot for that. I was just having affectionate fun.
Finally – I absolutely intend no homophobic sentiment with the over-emphasis on Joker's effeminate behaviour. I am myself a queer woman who socialises almost exlusively amonst queers. I just think Morrison is stereotyping alternative or non-heteronormative behaviour as being effeminate and is a little stuck in the eighties with his belief that men wearing high heels and painting their nails is OMG THE HEIGHT OF WEIRDNESS OMG! When really, everyone's doing it these days. As Nathan Lane said of Mel Brooks in regards The Producers: "I don't think he's ever met a gay man in his life".