Gotham City Sirens: Division – Graphic Novel Review
TITLE: Gotham City Sirens: Division
AUTHOR: Peter Calloway
PENCILLER: Andres Guinaldo, Ramon Bachs. Cover by Guillem March.
COLLECTS: Gotham City Sirens #20-26
PUBLISHER: DC Comics
RELEASED: March 7, 2012
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
Reading all 26 issues of Gotham City Sirens is kind of like dating a woman who’s really hot, but who you eventually realize has a lot of personality issues. Eventually you find yourself wondering whether the whole relationship was even worth it at all.
The final volume of this series sees Harley Quinn bound and determined to kill The Joker. She breaks into Arkham Asylum, causing a massive riot. Caught in the mix are Black Mask, Clayface, our Sirens, and even Batman/Bruce Wayne himself (“Anything involving The Joker I take care of personally.”) Amidst the chaos, Harley, Catwoman and Poison Ivy will be placed at odds. Allegiances are tested, and friendships may be broken beyond repair.
I have two major issues with this book, both of which I touched on briefly in my review of the previous book: The way The Joker is drawn and the way Harley is written.
I think the problem with Guinaldo’s Joker is that it’s trying to mix the look of Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight with what Grant Morrison did with the character during his run on Batman. In all fairness, after Morrison’s run DC never came up with a definitive look for The Joker to match the events of those stories. As such, creators working on different books didn’t necessarily know how to portray him. As a result, we usually got something along the lines of the traditional Joker with a bullet-shaped scar in the middle of his forehead. The Joker we get in Division looks, quite frankly, like a pasty-faced geezer with some smeared lipstick on his cheeks. Though Guinaldo does supply us with a pretty good manic Joker face every so often, this take on the character isn’t nearly as maniacally menacing as it should be. For yours truly this became a big annoyance as the story went on.
And then there’s Harley. This story takes her to a pretty grim, dark place, especially in the beginning. She’s got a lot of rage directed at The Joker, and as a result we get a lot of inner monologue that seems out of character to me…
- “There’s a place. A place in my head. A place on the other side of happy-go-lucky. The one part of me that isn’t looking for the joke. In that dark place–lurks rage…when the laughter breaks down–and humor can’t quiet its hunger–the rage gets out. And then it runs the show.”
I reject this portrayal of the Harley Quinn character not because of the principle, but the execution. We’ve seen Harley Quinn get angry before. It’s to be expected from a crazy lady who loves a clown and commits crimes, all the while dressed like a Commedia dell’arte character. But in Division, Harley becomes a cold, calculated strategist and murderer. We get inside her head and follow her thought process as she systematically breaks into Arkham. To me, this portrayal robs the character of some of its charm. We’re not supposed to be able to follow Harley’s mindset when she does these things. She’s insane. Is she, deep down, a good person who could potentially be saved? Yes. But her infatuation with The Joker has also placed her on a different plane of reality than the rest of us. The reason she can be so goofy, so sick and twisted, with such drastic emotional twists and mood swings, is that she’s not playing with the same deck the rest of us are. To me, this book defies that notion by simply making Harley an overly emotional, hopelessly attached girlfriend in a clown suit. This book makes her look sane. Trust me folks, this chick ain’t sane…
The book does have its moments, though. We spend a little time with Aaron Cash, the asylum’s head of security whom we met in the Arkham Asylum video game. We’re with him when he learns about The Joker’s role in the death of his infant son, which is simply haunting. The Arkham Asylum riot is given the right amount of weight by Calloway. He doesn’t play it off like an every day occurrence the way some writers do. There’s a nice aura of panic about it.
Gotham City Sirens started out on such a high note. Unfortunately the memory of how good the series was during that first seven months or so never stopped haunting it. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one hoping for this series to be something of an action/comedy, akin to what we sometimes saw in Batman: The Animated Series and Gotham Girls. No such luck. In the end, Gotham City Sirens was just like every other Batman book on the stands. And what’s the point of putting this oddball trio together if you’re not going to have some fun with it?
At one point in this book, Catwoman says to Ivy: “Did the three of us make sense as a team? Ever?”
The answer is no. And that was where all the fun in this series should have come from.
Front page image from comicartcommunity.com. Interior mages from scans-daily.dreamwidth.org.