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 going from fan-favorite minor villain to superstar anti-hero in a relatively short time. But Harley is about to get a very terrifying reminder of the kind of person he was, and could easily become again if he’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. An evil and vicious variant of her (apparently from an alternate timeline) that 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 singularly difficult position of late. The former villain spent years as a threat to the world at large, even when she was outside of the Joker’s orbit. But as time has passed, Harley has increasingly revealed himself as a more heroic figure than she ever expected. She has proven to be the main part of humanity that prevents Poison Ivy from going full villain, has actively fought to save the world from the likes of Granny Goodness and has even worked alongside the Bat-Family during the events of stories like “Joker War”. “. and “Shadows of the Bat.” She has even been more or less accepted as a member of the Bat-Family, albeit with little connection.
But Harley’s recent brush with death, which required dunking her in the Lazarus Pit for relief, has pushed her down a darker path that could ruin all the progress she’s made. Kidnapping the vicious Mr. Zsasz and interrogating him, Harley uses some of her darker impulses and abilities to gain information on the mysterious person who tried to kill her. Searching the city, she ends up getting her attention and confronts the new enemy. She is shocked to discover that it is technically herself, or at least a variant of her from an alternate timeline, as the culprit for her seems to be the Harley Who Laughs.
Laughing Harley is a wake-up call
The “Who Laughs” moniker is always a concerning 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 had been corrupted by the Joker’s ultimate plan, transforming him into a twisted fusion of the two characters. The Batman Who Laughs played a significant role in many events, working alongside Lex Luthor and corrupting numerous heroes before becoming the main threat to 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 fought her way into the core of the DC Universe.
In many ways, this version of Harley is probably the realization of the worst fears of the central incarnation of the DC Universe. She is a Harley totally corrupted by the influence of those around her. Rather than move past the corruption and pain that the likes of the Joker place on her, the Harley Who Laughs seems to be someone who embraced the Joker’s legacy fully and completely. Instead of the confident characterization and costume that modern Harley adopts, the Harley Who Laughs seems to be wearing the shredded costume she wore when she was much more villainous. The Harley Who Laughs might be the ultimate example of just how dangerous Harley Quinn can be, and a reminder to the anti-hero of just how far she’s come in becoming a better person.