One of the reasons I like DC so much is because they have a rich roster of interesting female characters. From the top-tier heroes to the villains to the supporting characters from various books, there are so many varied characters with so much rich and engaging history. It makes sense we would get at least a couple of books featuring a handful of these female characters. But I don’t think anyone was expecting the announcement that Paul Dini is launching an ongoing title focusing on Catwoman, Poison Ivy, & Harley Quinn that will be called “Gotham City Sirens”.
It’s hard to pinpoint why exactly DC decided to go ahead with this book. They are admittedly the most popular female villains from the Batman mythos, but they are widely known as villains (Catwoman being a bit of an exception). Perhaps the idea was to have them as anti-heroes and be an edgier version of the Birds of Prey team, a different Gotham-based team made up mainly of female characters. Whatever the reason, this book would end up becoming a fan favorite, with plenty of love being shared for the team. And since I was in the mood to revisit the book, I thought I should share my thoughts.
I feel like we should start with the art. Overall, it is pretty damn good. Love the colors and designs, some good layouts. But there is one thing we should address - the sexy fan service. Now, I’m not against this kind of fan service. I think the reason they have Sirens in their name is to play with the idea they use their looks and seductive techniques to achieve what they want. I would be surprised if this book didn’t try to put in some sexy shots. But even I was a bit surprised by how much they tried to put in.
First of all, there are a lot of butt shots where we didn’t really need to have them
We have a couple of shots featuring Zatanna where she is restrained by vines and in some…compromising positions
There is this one shot where a woman in fishnet clothing and a short skirt is held hostage. I won’t begrudge her for wearing fishnets, I…like the aesthetic of the material. But why is her skirt suddenly blowing upwards? There is no wind, she is inside a building!
But I think the biggest offender is that Harley pulls out some moves that are meant to be acrobatic in nature but…let’s just say I think I know what kind of material the artist was using as references when drawing
Let me be clear. I’m NOT against the idea of having some sexy fan service in a book like this. But some of this is getting ridiculous because of how obvious it is. All I’m asking here is some restraint and logic being used on how much you are putting these shots in and how they work with the scene. I should also clarify that all of the shots I just used are from the first half of the book (the first 13 issues). The second half gets rid of these kinds of shots almost entirely. I guess I should be thankful this isn’t being shown throughout the entire book, but it is quietly jarring.
Thankfully, being sexy isn’t something this book is relying on to get people to read. This book clearly has a sense of humor that can be appreciated.
Now that we are switching over to the actual writing and characters, it should be mentioned that while I did just call GCS the edgier version of Birds of Prey, that isn’t exactly true. While they aren’t going out to do villainous acts, they also aren’t going out of their way to be heroes. They are just trying to better themselves and find themselves pulled into plans and schemes and they are trying to figure a way out of the situation with minimal collateral damage…okay, with Harley involved maybe a bit more than minimal collateral damage. Now, lets dive deeper by taking a look at individual character arcs starting with the feline that created the team.
The book kicks off with Selina still healing from when Hush literally tore her heart out and with her dealing with the “death” of Bruce Wayne. Physically and emotionally, she is in a vulnerable place. So the idea of her willingly partnering up with others actually has merit to it. There is even logic to her choosing Ivy and Harley specifically (we’ll dig more into that later). But those two past events aren’t the only things that Selina deals with. We have a couple of times where she is confronted by her sister Maggie, now possessed by some sort of angelic being that convinces her that Selina is possessed by a cat demon and goes out to try and kill Selina. These confrontations shed some light on Selina’s childhood and the difficult relationship she has with Maggie and work to really humanize her. I know Catwoman had a solo book shortly before GCS where similar humanization was probably used, but I do think there is something unique about having her deal with her sister in this state while also dealing with her own inner demons from recent traumatic events.
Speaking of which, I want to revisit her dealing with her history with Batman. To say she has a complicated relationship with Bruce is an understatement. But this book makes it clear that no matter what, they will always be drawn to each other and care for each other. During an event where she is trapped in some sort of dream illusion where she teams up with her memory of Bruce, you can tell that she doesn’t want him to leave again.
Now, there is a plot that Talia puts in motion where she tries to manipulate Zatanna to wipe out Selina’s memories of Bruce. One comment Zatanna made while thinking it over struck a nerve with me.
That to me is too similar to the reasoning why DC had Selina back out of her marriage to Bruce during Tom King’s run. The idea of being in love preventing someone from achieving their full potential or preventing them from doing their duties is just such forced writing. How many shows are in existence where the protagonist’s love for their friends and families has pushed them to beat the ultimate evil or threat? Luckily, Zatanna soon realizes that Talia is manipulating her and turns on her. She would later reach out to Selina to see if she does want to willingly give up those memories. Thankfully, despite Selina admitting to being tempted, she realized she couldn’t do it. No matter how many moments she thinks back on when being with Bruce hurt, her history with him has molded her into who she is.
Now, let’s switch our focus to our next character, Harley Quinn.
It feels like Harley kind of has more focus than the other characters. I’m not sure why I feel that way though. You could argue that she and Ivy are probably tied for how much development they get in this book. Maybe it’s because our first real story is a Harley-focused one and then our last story of the book is kicked off by a Harley-focused adventure. Regardless, she acts how you would expect her to. Chaotic and sometimes violent, but occasionally tries to keep things friendly. Honestly, Quinn in this book isn’t too different from how she acted in her first solo title earlier in the 2000s, or even that much different from her later solo books. But there is one part I want to focus on. Towards the end of the book’s run, Harley breaks into Arkham to kill the Joker, only to reunite with Joker (cue M. Bison from the Street Fighter movie yelling “Of Course!”). Ivy soon breaks into Arkham to try and snap Harley out of her more villainous personality. But then Harley decides to…well, see for yourself.
She knocks Ivy off her game long enough to push her down a hole. When this scene was brought up in another thread, user @Chain_Twix mentioned how reading this broke their heart. Looking back on it now, I think I have a clearer idea why. Think about it - Harley is identifying feelings of attraction a woman has for her and manipulates them in order to achieve her own selfish goals. If that sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because that’s Harley’s origin. Someone identifies feelings of attraction that Harley has for them and manipulates her so that they can achieve their own selfish needs. Dark and messed up when you think about it! Maybe I’m reading too much into this scene, but considering this entire book is about them dealing with past trauma of how others have manipulated them, it’s hard to not think about it. While I’m not a fan of the New 52 overall, I’m glad this scene has been wiped out from canon. It’s hard to think that this still serves as the origin for one of my favorite romances from DC. Anyway, following this event, Ivy and Harley decide to team up again to try and kill Catwoman for betraying them to GCPD and Batman. But then they manage to part on slightly friendlier terms once Selina decides to give them a brief headstart to escape from Batman in the final issue. Again, this points to how Selina has evolved enough to where she does have friends and allies she wants to be loyal to. While Harley remains mostly in character in other solo books we see her in and even though Flashpoint wiped out that previously mentioned scene, it does eventually give us a relationship between her and Ivy that has since become so popular and well-loved.
Speaking of Red, time to switch our focus to the final member of GCS.
Out of all 3 members of this group, Ivy was probably the one most comic book readers still primarily see as a villain. But to be fair, there have been seeds planted that foreshadow a more complex personality for her. In the “No Man’s Land” epic, she grants sanctuary and takes care of orphaned children who come to Robinson Park and even takes care of Harley when the rocket the Joker strapped her to crashes into the area (that event serves as Harley’s formal introduction into the DC Comics universe). After Gotham City rejoins the US, Ivy goes against the GCPD who want to take the children away from her. But when one of the orphaned children gets infected by one of Ivy’s toxins, she actually willingly turns herself over. All of this shows that she isn’t the cold-hearted “kill all humans” plant monster many view her as. This serves as proof of one of my strongest beliefs that Ivy is a fascinating, complex character that has been underutilized for so long. And we get touches of that in GCS.
Harley’s first solo book already established a friendship between her and Ivy. While there has been tension between Ivy and Selina in this book, it is also evident that she cares for Selina. While she is part of the group and does sometimes restrain her more homicidal tendencies, that is because she decides to do that herself. After all, she does mention this back when an alien plant-based life form tries to manipulate her into helping wipe out the human race:
Obviously it shows she won’t allow herself to be so easily used again. As for the comment about real love…while Ivy never confronts Harley about her claiming that Ivy is in love with Quinn, we do have hints that show that she probably already recognizes that herself.
Even though the New 52 wiped out the events of this book, the feelings that Ivy develops over the course of GCS will serve as the foundation of her conflicting feelings. She once mentioned earlier on that she is a part of both The Green and the human world. She can’t spend time in either one too long or she loses everything that makes her an independent being. Much like how Alec Holland’s memories and Abigail Arcane help to ground the Swamp Thing’s actions, Harley serves as Ivy’s anchor that prevents her from unleashing true Hell and extinction on the planet. Everything regarding the connection between these two characters has origins in this title.
Now - I should go over some of the more general comments I have regarding the writing for GCS. I mentioned earlier that this was launched as Paul Dini book, and it did start off with him as the main writer who would pen 9 issues. But that’s less than half the book’s run. In fact, Peter Calloway would pen 11 issues, the most any writer has written for the title. There are a couple of writers who did single issues, Tony Bedard would write 4 issues between Dini’s final issue and Calloway’s first issue. And while I do overall really like Dini as a writer and his work on this title, I actually kind of like Calloway’s writing a bit more. He took what was established by Dini and helped elevate it. Just assisted in helping the story and characters naturally progress to the next level.
There are a couple of weird moments I want to bring up. During the first half of the book’s run, there are a couple of issues where the Riddler completely takes over. The first it happens is in issue 3 where after denying help to the GCS, we then follow him on his own adventure. For those unaware, during this time the Riddler had turned over a new leaf and was working as a private investigator. We even see him work with a reluctant Dick Grayson as Batman on a case. It’s admittedly weird but think of this Riddler as sort of DC’s answer to Sherlock Holmes (which I realize sounds stranger since Batman is called the world’s greatest detective, but whatever). A few issues later, Riddler once again takes most of the focus. This time though, he is actually helping the GCS figure out a murder that happened at their hideout so it makes more sense this time around. But that first time that happened still sticks out as an odd decision.
Another issue comes up during the final storyline that kicks off with Harley breaking into Arkham. Selina all of a sudden ditches helping out Ivy and Harley to check out what is going on in another part of Gotham. She then gets involved with some sort of storyline that is happening in multiple Batman books involving a new Azrael, Maggie & another religious-themed criminal with no clear explanation as to why this is happening in the pages of GCS. Also, I guess Dick Grayson has been kidnapped and is being tortured? This does open the way for Bruce Wayne as Batman to come back, and team up with Selina to head into Arkham, so I do appreciate that. But it is still jarring how that is shoved into this GCS storyline. It does make me wonder what the original plan was for this storyline and how much Flashpoint/New 52 influenced what needs to be changed.
After 26 issues and two years, the book came to an end. The final issue came out the same month the New 52 began. I’ve gone over why this isn’t a perfect book based on the writing and art. But honestly…the good stuff obviously outweighs the bad, which really isn’t that bad at all. I still love this book and I’m genuinely surprised they never tried to give this title another shot. Looking at where these characters are now, I think a new GCS book could work. Harley & Ivy are back in Gotham as girlfriends, Selina is in Gotham and trying to figure out a way to control crime. I can see Harley being in support of Selina’s plan and wanting to help out and maybe even study her methods. Ivy would probably want to use it as a launchpad to recreate all of Gotham into a new environment in every meaning of the word. They would be a newly resurrected anti-hero group that suddenly takes control of Gotham. Those are just my thoughts. Tell me your thoughts on this beloved series. What did you like/dislike? Would you want to see a new version of this title? Meanwhile, I’ll spam the rest of this already-long post with a few more covers and scenes that I like.
I think this really speaks to the duality of Selina’s personality.
While on the topic of duality, I just love this layout
I really dig this page and the narration from Ivy
Same thing here but with Harley
Uh, I’m not sure how much enjoyment Black Mask is actually getting from that kiss. But hey, I’m not judging anyone that’s into this kind of thing!
This cover I really like this, especially with how it positions Talia as the one behind everything
A more simple cover. I like the minimalistic approach and the cool logo
And now I’ll wrap things up by showcasing a few more covers