WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Harley Quinn #35 by Frank Tieri and Inaki Miranda, in stores now.
Harley Quinn #34 was the final issue from the long-running creative team of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, who have worked on the title since the early days of the New 52. Under their watch, Harley Quinn was something unique, a series of zany adventures that seemed to take place in its own little bubble, barely interacting with the DC Universe.
With issue #35, by the new creative team of Frank Tieri and Inaki Miranda, the series is keeping the elements that made it what it is today, but with the added layer of being tied more tightly to the broader DCU. What's more, the series might even be part of the crucial buildup towards the events of Doomsday Clock.
Tieri and Miranda ate little time introducing the Man-Bat to Harley's Coney Island-based world. The character's sudden appearance leads Harley and her crew to Arkham Asylum where we witness the return of Dr. Kirk Langstrom, the original Man-Bat. However, he's currently locked up in his cell, his wits barely about him. Simply put, there is no way Langstrom is the one who attacked Coney Island.
However, in his serum-deprived stupor, Kirk mumbles something about there being another Langstrom: his wife, Francine Langstrom, aka She-Bat. Francine is actually the culprit here, and she has a new serum that she is using to turn others into giant bat creatures, namely Big Tony and Harley.
While the Langstroms's involvement here may simply be a case of Tieri and Miranda wanting to play with Batman's leather-winged nemeses, we have to wonder if the story might actually have a part to play in the lead-up to Doomsday Clock. As readers of Geoff Johns and Gary Frank's Watchmen-heavy series know, the event's storyline is unfolding a year ahead of the current DCU's timeline. What's more, in the backmatter of the limited series's second issue, we were introduced to the concept of the Supermen Theory, a conspiracy theory that started plaguing the various metahumans of the DC Universe before the start of Doomsday Clock.
Essentially, the Supermen Theory posits that the heavy concentration of metahumans in the United States is no mere accident, and that most of these super-powered beings were actually created by the US government. Presented by Johns and Frank in the form of a news article, we learn that the theory took credence thanks to leaked documents, first involving Metamorpho, then, Kirk Langstrom. Apparently, at some point in the coming year, the scientist will declare that his work was sponsored by the US Department of Metahuman Affairs.
Is it possible that we're witnessing the start of the events that will lead to the inception of the Superman Theory in Harley Quinn? Francine using a serum to unleash bats on Coney Island would be enough to garner worldwide attention, even by the DC Universe's standards. The creation of new metahuman-bats could be enough for others to start investigating Langstrong's long history of experiments, a piece of the puzzle we're looking for before everything starts to snowball. Langstrom could be forced to admit how his career as Man-Bat started, and his current, depraved state of mind in Harley Quinn could lead to some unpleasant truths, or confused half-truths, coming to light.
We will have to wait and see if Harley Quinn #36 adds fuel to this fire, but right now, it feels as though the timing of Kirk Langstrom's return is no mere coincidence.