Warning: contains spoilers for Future State: Gotham #4!
While Harley Quinn‘s hyenas Bud and Lou are an iconic part of her character, Punchline just made it clear she has no respect for her rival’s brand by revealing two monstrous pets of her own. In Future State: Gotham #4, on sale now in print and digital, Harley confronts Punchline in a near-future Gotham, and as Harley goes in for the kill, Punchline introduces the ace up her sleeve: two vicious, human/hyena hybrids, ready to kill Harley.
Much like Harley herself, her hyenas debuted in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, titled ‘The Man Who Killed Batman.’ When Harley made the jump to comics, Bud and Lou followed suit and debuted in 2001’s Harley Quinn #4. The hyenas were once residents of the Gotham Zoo who were liberated by the Joker and Harley. From the start, the hyenas were closer to Harley than the Joker, and when she finally broke free from the Joker, the hyenas came with here, accompanying her on many adventures. Bud and Lou were infected with rabies by the Joker during the ‘Death of the Family’ story but returned to life later. Now, Harley Quinn must confront twisted versions of her beloved hyenas in Future State: Gotham #4, written by Dennis Culver, with art by Nikola Cizmesija and letters by Troy Peteri.
Future State: Gotham switches gears for this story, shifting the focus away from Red Hood to Harley Quinn, who is hunting Punchline. Earlier, Punchline and a number of villains escaped from Arkham Asylum, and Harley is out to collect the bounty on Punchline’s head. Harley finds Punchline, who has created the “Man-Laff Serum,” a riff on the Man-Bat Serum, only using hyena DNA instead of bat, as well as traces of the Joker Toxin plus some flourishes introduced by Punchline. Punchline injects two members of her goon squad with the serum, turning them into giant, raging, human-hyena hybrids. Harley quips that they are “cute” as she fights them off.
Bud and Lou mean the world to Harley Quinn, and Punchline knows this. Punchline is looking for a way to strike at Harley, and this was the perfect way to do so. Punchline learned a thing or two about using psychology on an opponent from the Joker, and she puts it to good use here. Not only does the Man-Laff Serum give Punchline a way to get at Harley, but it also provides her with far deadlier henchmen. Thankfully, Harley Quinn is able to fight off them off, especially with an assist from Hunter Panic.
While Punchline may have her own agenda in DC Comics, she’s also a twist on Harley – someone who isn’t just in the Joker’s thrall, but has her own evil agenda. Siccing a warped version of the pets Harley loves on her enemies is yet another way in which Punchline perverts all that’s good about Harley Quinn, forcing her to prove her sincerity as a hero by facing her with a funhouse mirror reflection of the vicious killer she used to be.