As this title winds down to be essentially replaced by a new Catwoman solo series come September, we get to witness the Sirens (another “unofficial” name, for the trio/uneasy alliance between Batman "villains" Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman) spinning apart. A plot throughout this series has been the other two trying to break Harley of her seriously disturbed codependent relationship with her “Puddin',” the Joker. She's seriously fallen off the wagon in this issue, which even though it's a “Part One” comes directly on the heels of the previous issue which showed her using her psychoanalytical skills and intelligence – remember, Harleen Quinn is Doctor Quinzell, criminal psychiatrist; she's nutty as a fruitcake, but by no means stupid - to penetrate Arkham Asylum and spark a riot to free “Mr. J.” Catwoman had previously had enough of this nonsense, causing a rift between herself and Ivy when she refused to accompany the latter in an effort to save Harley from herself, and at the beginning of this issue is engaged in her own caper when Batman Dick Grayson approaches her to give her a heads up that he's about to put the escalating situation at Arkham down – hard – and “Anyone I find in there … I'm going to make sure they stay there.” Catwoman's inner monologue: “You want me to save Harley from one of her 'I'm in love with Mr. J' episodes, and stop Ivy from ripping Arkham apart.” She initially refuses, but Selina Kyle is consistently played as basically a good person albeit a thief, essentially an anti-hero, and guilt gets the better of her. They did, after all, help her to get back on her feet at the beginning of this series. By the end, she's shown up, to find not Dick, but Bruce, leading to a funny exchange: “You knew I was coming?” “Who do you think you're talking to?” “I was expecting Dick.” “Anything involving the Joker, I take care of personally.” “That right? Or did you show up because you knew I was coming?” But there's an undercurrent in her exchanges with both Batmen (that just looks weird). She knows of something Dick did before he won the cowl....
Anyway, meanwhile, as Arkham explodes in chaos around them, Harley and Joker are reunited and set about having one of their “Game Nights” - which involve a great bit of sick, twisted humor and torture – only to be interrupted first by former director now inmate Jeremiah Arkham taking up his guise as Black Mask and working to put down Joker before Batman can show up and ruin all his own carefully-laid plans, then by Poison Ivy, who gives Harley an ultimatum - “I saved you from him – and from yourself – too many times. I'm sick of it. So what's it gonna be? Him? Or me?”
I have really enjoyed this series, from its beginning under Paul Dini, through the present writer Peter Calloway's tenure. It's generally been a fairly lighthearted romp. It's been a bit darker for the past couple of issues as Harley has basically decompensated before our eyes. But still a well-told story. I do miss the art of Guillem March on interiors (he provided the cover), but Guinaldo and Ruggiero are passable. I'll be sort of sorry to see it go, but always did like the Catwoman solo series that preceded this title, and hopefully she will continue to be the bad-girl anti-hero ally of Batman.
“The Secret History of Monument Point, Chapter One: Weird Worlds”
This is a followup to Marc Guggenheim's first story arc which culminated in the big anniversary issue #50. There are two story threads going. The cover puts the attention on the resolution of a loose end from what's gone before – that team-member Lightning, the daughter of Black Lightning, is dead. Well, actually only mostly dead. Team mystic Dr. Fate somehow preserved her soul in another dimension long enough for Dr. Midnite to repair her body, and now it's time to bring them back together. It's a pretty standard story where a small team heads off into that dimension but ultimately their job seems to be to convince Lightning's soul that it has the will to make the journey back on its own. Meanwhile, the original “Golden Age” Flash Jay Garrick is getting a dose of political reality now that he's consented to be the mayor of some city we'd never heard of a half-dozen issues ago but that is purportedly very important in the DCU, Monument Point, mainly taking charge by “not being a politician” (which is all mildly amusing, but ho-hum), then is taken by his aide to be shown “The Secret History of Monument Point.” This is one of those times when the annoying habit they sometimes have of putting off the issue title and credits to the very end I guess was necessary, because there just wasn't much about any such “Secret History” until that cliffhanger ending. It certainly didn't feel so much like a “Chapter One” as a “Prologue.”
Frankly, I've been left increasingly unsatisfied by the Justice Society's flagship title over the past few issues. I didn't like Scott Kolins' art on the previous story arc, and Tom Derenick's is not much of an improvement. Both of them are way too “gritty” and dark for this team. Story-wise, Guggenheim's first arc “Supertown” which introduced Monument Point didn't succeed in demonstrating its alleged importance to me, and didn't leave me hungering to know more about its “Secret History” as I guess I was supposed to. I miss Geoff Johns on this title! Or even Bill Willingham (Guggenheim's predecessor), who did a pretty good job. Well, as I commented re the last issue of JSA All-Stars, as unsatisfying as these titles have been lately, come the post-Flashpoint era I might be looking back to now as “the good old days.” Because I really do like these characters. I say again – I hope DC does have some worthy plan for its elder ranks of heroes.