A reformed Batman villain is not only facing a homicidal version of her worse fear, but also a chilling reminder of what she could eventually become.
The following contains spoilers for Harley Quinn #24, now on sale from DC Comics.
Harley Quinn’s evolution over the last thirty years has been fascinating, with the character shifting from fan-favorite minor villain to superstar anti-hero in a relatively short time. But Harley is about to get a very scary reminder 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) formally introduces the titular anti-hero to the Harley Who Laughs. A villainous and vicious variant of her (seemingly from an alternate timeline) who highlights just how terrifying a truly dark version of Harley can be.
Harley Quinn is Heading Down a Dark Path
Harley Quinn has found herself in a uniquely tricky position lately. The former villain spent years as a threat to the world at large, even when she was outside the Joker’s orbit. But as time wore on, Harley has increasingly revealed herself to be a more heroic figure than even she ever expected. She’s proven to be the main shred of humanity keeping Poison Ivy from going fully villainous, she’s actively fought to save the world from the likes of Granny Goodness, and has even worked alongside the Bat-Family during the events of storylines like “Joker War” and “Shadows of the Bat.” She’s even been more or less accepted as a member of the Bat-Family – albeit a loosely connected one.
But Harley’s recent brush with death — which required dipping her into the Lazarus Pit to alleviate — has pushed her down a darker path that could risk undoing all the progress she’s made. Kidnapping the vicious Mr. Zsasz and interrogating him, Harley utilizes some of her darker impulses and skills to glean information about the mysterious person who tried to kill her. Searching the city, she ends up drawing their attention and confronts the new enemy. She is shocked to discover it’s technically herself — or at least a variant of her from an alternate timeline, as 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 worrisome prospect, given the impact those characters have had since the introduction of the Batman Who Laughs. Hailing from the Dark Multiverse reality of Earth-22, the Batman Who Laughs was a version of Bruce Wayne who’d been corrupted by the Joker’s final scheme, transforming him into a twisted fusion of the two characters. The Batman Who Laughs played a major role throughout many events — working alongside Lex Luthor and corrupting numerous heroes before becoming the primary threat of Dark Nights: Death Metal. While the Batman Who Laughs was killed at the end of that event, it appears that the Harley Quinn of that timeline survived — and has made her way to the core-DC Universe.
In many ways, this version of Harley is likely the core-DC Universe incarnation’s worst fears realized. It’s a Harley who is fully corrupted by the influence of those around her. Instead of rising above the corruption and pain put upon her by the likes of the Joker, the Harley Who Laughs seems to be one who embraced the Joker’s legacy completely and fully. Instead of the confident characterization and costume the modern Harley embraces, the Harley Who Laughs seems to be wearing the tatters of the costume she wore when she was far more villainous. The Harley Who Laughs might be the ultimate example of how dangerous Harley Quinn could become — and a reminder to the anti-hero of how much progress she’s made towards being a better person.