In the latest issue of Joker / Harley: Criminal Sanity, Harley has a violent confrontation with the Joker that leads her down a dark new path.

WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Joker / Harley: Criminal Sanity # 8 by Kami Garcia, Mike Mayhew, and Mico Suayan, on sale now.

Harley Quinn’s relationship with the Joker is one that was never meant to last. Debuting in Batman: The Animated SeriesHarley Quinn has since become one of the most iconic characters in all of comics. While her quirky outfits and fiery personality have made her easily recognizable, it’s Harley’s tumultuous relationship with the Joker that has helped define her over the years. At the culmination of Joker / Harley: Criminal Sanity, Harley makes a decision that will change her entire life forever.

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In an alternate timeline of events, Harley is one of the Joker’s many victims. Coming home from work one night, Harley finds the gruesome remains of her friend Edie in her bathtub. A wire hanger is lodged in its mouth, twisting it into a hideous smile. Starting that night, Harley turned to criminal profiling and forensic analysis in hopes of catching the Joker and making him pay for his crimes.

Years later a game of cat and mouse begins between the Joker and the combined forces of Harley and the GCPD. Horrific murders are being committed all over Gotham and the killer is impeccable in his methodologies and execution of his murders. Its victims are mutilated and distorted to resemble classic works of art.

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As more and more bodies are found, Harley begins to understand the killer in greater detail. His claims about the killer turn out to be too much for him when he makes an unexpected visit to Harley’s apartment. It is at this meeting that Harley learns that the killer she has been hunting has been the Joker the entire time, in this timeline a handsome young man. The Joker leaves Harley, making a deal with her: she lets him keep killing and he allows her to keep profiling her profile.

In a strange twist of fate, the Joker turns himself in to the GCPD to talk to Harley about his latest murder. Harley is faced with a choice: tell the GCPD that he is, in fact, the killer they’ve been hunting, or lie and let him go. Harley chooses the latter as she believes it is up to her and only her to stop him permanently. However, his decision turns out to be disastrous, as the Joker commits even more murders before Harley can finally stop him on the streets.

Related: Harley Quinn Is Finally Fixing The Joker’s Legacy, And She’s Not Alone

It is in this climactic moment that Harley is once again faced with a choice: kill the Joker and stop him once and for all or hand him over to the GCPD. Harley decides to let the GCPD take the Joker. As she reflects on everything that has happened between her and the Joker, she realizes what she must become to truly stop villains like him. She compares psychopaths like the Joker to tigers, apex predators. To hunt down and kill such predators, she knows she must become a predator too. She acknowledges that what Batman does is on the right track, but its results are not permanent enough to keep the city truly safe.

It’s an interesting development for Harley’s character to become a deadly vigilante. For a character who has historically delighted in killing innocent people, Harley’s decision to protect the innocent is a sea change of pace. In this timeline, Harley would join the ranks of Wild Dog, Peacemaker, and Magog as a vigilante with no moral restraints against killing villains. The development of this character is also interesting as Harley attempted to shoot and kill her former suitor at the end of “Joker War” in the main DC continuity. While Harley is unlikely to adopt the persona of someone similar to Marvel’s Punisher, she seems to have become less tolerant of her former love – even more so in this surprising new reality.

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