It should be no surprise to even casual fans that Batman’s impending wedding is the focus of a lot of what’s happening in his corner of the DC universe. Along with Brian Michael Bendis’ new work at the publisher, the Bat-Cat wedding has been one of the most hyped events in a long time. Romance has long been missing from titles that star Batman and his family, much to the consternation of a lot of readers, and it’s fairly remarkable that this summer’s Batman blockbuster event is so explicitly focused on love.
That doesn’t mean that there’s no space for fighting, of course; it wouldn’t be a cape and cowl comic, and especially not a Batman one, without some punching and danger. Batman: Prelude To The Wedding has delivered on a lot of that punching as various members of Bruce Wayne’s circle face off against foes that the Joker has recruited into his efforts to get an invite to the big day. In a wise move, the miniseries doesn’t interrupt any other currently running titles, nor do readers have to pick it up before Batman #50, where the wedding finally takes place. That said, it’s well worth checking out. The final issue of the five-part series appropriately focuses on the Joker himself, setting him up against Harley Quinn in what is ultimately a funny and gratifying read.
Writer Tim Seeley helmed all five issues of the miniseries, and it slots in neatly with Tom King’s main Batman title. It feels a little bit like a reunion, as the two worked together on Grayson in the past, and the transition from Seeley’s work to King’s and back is smooth. Prelude To The Wedding is ultimately about the people surrounding Bruce and Selina and how their relationships have shifted but loyalties remain constant. What makes Prelude To The Wedding: Harley Quinn Vs. The Joker #1 stand out from the pack is that it gives the titular psychiatrist a chance to confront the man who’s treated her so badly for so long, and ask questions about the nature of their relationship in the new context of seeing the Bat and the Cat find love.
Seeley does a great job of making it clear just how unhealthy Harley and Joker’s relationship is, which is something a lot of writers don’t always manage. There’s proof of abuse both obvious and subtle, but ultimately Harley has a rare opportunity to defend herself and the very idea of love. It’s reminiscent of the internet-famous pages in Injustice Gods Among Us Year 2 where Harley discloses that she has a daughter. Giving Harley a chance to swing from camp and laughter to something more emotionally charged gives the issue extra heft and makes it impossible for the Joker to overshadow her, another feat that many creative teams just can’t nail.
The art in this issue is also some of the strongest in the miniseries. Sami Basri drew Harley in a previous issue of Batgirl, and she’s got a fun style that hits comedic beats and the overblown expressions both of these characters often have. Bold, bright colors from Jessica Kholinne and Dave Sharpe evoke a Saturday morning cartoon vibe that serves the issue well. Basri also did the art for Harley Quinn #48, which comes out in August, and she’ll hopefully become a regular fixture on books like this one. There’s a lot of skill in being able to pull off a funny book with this level of detail and action, but combining it with Seeley’s graceful managing of two familiar but often inconsistently written characters elevates the issue even higher. It’s the ideal note on which to end Prelude To The Wedding, familiar but fresh and full of puns, visual gags, and themed death traps that may turn readers off pudding for good.