Gotham City Sirens
Hope everyone isn’t tired of Batman because here at Graphic Reviews, it’s all Gotham! While I don’t generally like going to heavy in on any one topic since there’s so many to choose from, the release of one of my favorite Batman comics (The Killing Joke), followed next week by the release of Suicide Squad which will be the first time I’ve ever gotten to see my favorite female character on the silver screen, has led to me being somewhat Batman obsessed this month. In preparation for the upcoming Suicide Squad movie, I will be discussing two different Harley Quinn-related series. This week, it’s the villainess dominated Gotham City Sirens and next week it will (of course) be a discussion of several of the Suicide Squad series. Harley Quinn has had a somewhat strange evolution as a character. Initially created as a sidekick/girlfriend of the villain The Joker for the Batman Animated Series, Harley has fast become a fan favorite and can be seen by the droves at any convention. Outside of her extremely unhealthy relationship with the Clown Prince of Crime, Harley has often been linked with another villainess, Poison Ivy. In Gotham City Sirens, Harley and Ivy join up with another villainess (although she’s largely more on the anti-heroine side of things), Catwoman. The series is about this strange team-up and how their struggle to maintain lives under the radar effects and is affected by the city of Gotham. The 26 issue series published by DC ran from 2009 to 2011, was written by Paul Dini, Tony Bedard and Peter Calloway and was illustrated by Guillem March, Andres Guinaldo and Jeremy Haun.
Gotham City Sirens is set after the events of Heart of Hush and Final Crisis, although it isn’t strictly necessary to have read them before you pick up this one (I had read Heart of Hush but not Final Crisis). This means that Catwoman is still recovering after her run-in with Hush and given her weakened state, when she runs into both Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn, she makes them an offer. The three had previously worked together to get vengeance on Hush and there was plenty of money leftover for them to band together and build their own little hideout. Thus a partnership of sorts is born. Catwoman pays a rather unique real estate agent named The Broker to renovate an old animal shelter into a fairly extravagant new hideout. Rather than returning to crime however, the three women are trying to lay low and avoid the attention of the new Batman, the old Batman, and the various Robins still present in Gotham. The series deals largely with the women’s attempt to stay on the right side of the law despite their own impulses and their struggle to share space and get along with each other. Add in the chaos of every day in Gotham and a rather amusing twist with the Riddler as a reformed private detective, and you have the often wonderful and amusing Gotham City Sirens.
However, I’m not sure that I’d recommend Gotham City Sirens to anyone. It starts slooooow. If I hadn’t been reading this for review, I might have been tempted to give up on it after the first few issues because it’s remarkably silly. Harley is a bit over the top with her silliness and flightiness and the fighting between Poison Ivy and Catwoman occasionally feels tiresome. Not to mention that the first villain they run into is just ridiculous. Bonesmasher? Really? Where it really starts to turn around however is the (re)introduction of The Riddler. A few issues in, Riddler and Batman team up in an amusingly bizarre manner to catch a serial killer. There’s this interesting dynamic where Riddler is trying to convince Batman (and probably himself) that he’s truly turned it around and reformed himself into someone who uses his talent for puzzles and mystery to the advantage of others as a private eye. This is a new Batman who is unsure if he can really trust the Riddler and it makes the team-up rather interesting. Then the Riddler gets enlisted to help the women solve a murder that has literally landed in their laps and could cause seriously unwanted attention. The dynamic between Riddler and the sometimes-villainesses is interesting in that all are trying to turn their lives around and yet can’t help certain attitudes and tactics. It makes for a challenging situation and a fascinating one.
It wasn’t until the second book that I really started to get intrigued by the series however. The various authors use a number of different stories to explore the foibles of the three main characters in ways that were both impressive and very interesting. The stories play with having Poison Ivy’s casual use and then tossing away of people against her, Catwoman’s past as both an orphan and a thief come back to haunt her and best of all, Harley finally decides to do something about Joker (she and Mr. J are understandably no longer together). As someone who’s been a fan of Harley Quinn since seeing her in the animated series and only become more so via the Arkham games and various animated movies and comics, the Harley Quinn revenge plot was awesome. Watching Harley is a bit like watching Jessica Jones: they make terrible decision after terrible decision and you can’t help wanting to shake them but they keep going and you just have to admire their resilience and sheer, unrelenting stubbornness and foolishness. What I really liked about the Harley story was that it dug underneath the silly jokes and flighty demeanor to get to the calculating, intelligent psychologist that she is underneath. I liked that you finally get to see some of her past as a psychologist at Arkham and understand that she’s not stupid, she just has been caught up in the whirlwind that is Joker and is flat-out addicted to the adrenaline that being near him provides. The end brings all of the threads together and reveals some interesting tidbits about what brought the women together. To be honest, I was a little disappointed with the ending. It felt a bit contrived and silly, not to mention strange behavior for certain individuals who will go unnamed to avoid spoilers. Given the great interactions between the three women and the ways in which the series delved into their personalities and histories, it’s too bad that the ending couldn’t completely deliver.
Gotham City Sirens is a series that plays with characters that any Batman figure at least knows, if not loves. Catwoman, Poison Ivy and particularly Harley Quinn are all characters that are near and dear to my heart. While its appeal may have been slow at first, it’s a series that I really grew to enjoy. It provides a better look at these three characters than I think any DC comic or show ever has and in a way which made them the spotlight rather than just occasional side characters. Despite the ending being more meh than I would have preferred, it’s definitely a series that I’d recommend picking up if you want a fun, female-centered story in the DC universe!