Last month I quibbled that Harley and Power Girl were not working together, and that Peej was doing all the heavy lifting, so I was especially pleased to see more balance in this month’s issue, “Purity”. It’s going to take more than Power Girl’s brawn to subdue the brainwashed Vartox and return him to his previous Lothario self–it’s going to take some mediation therapy. Well, thank the stars there’s a psychiatrist in the house, and she’s brought a purring caticorn to help!
This is a Harley Quinn comic, after all, so I would be disappointed if it were anything less than bombast. Fortunately the writing triumvirate of Jimmy Palmiotti, Amanda Conner, and Justin Gray continue to pull all the stops in this silly space saga.
Lifting someone by their ear has gotta hurt
The Big Bang
Power Girl’s exasperated pounding of Vartox is amusing enough, but I love that the writers put his turnaround in Harley’s hands. There’s no subtlety here: she basically talks him down out of the mind-control by reminding him of his love for Kara (er…Betty).
She also talks about the pain of toxic relationships (with which she obviously has a lot of personal experience). The logic of her argument is a bit muzzy: she’s simultaneously trying to convince him not to behave like the Joker while encouraging him to hero-up and walk away from a bad thing (in a self-referential pep talk that feels a little too, well, self-referential, frankly). The bad thing she wants him to walk away from, of course, is Odeox’s spell, but the mixed mutterings about the relationship muddies the message.
Also: we get it, Harley escaped a horrorshow of a romance. While I really and sincerely appreciate trying to pin the tail on that particular donkey, I also feel like no matter how many times she says it here (and I feel like she’s been saying it a lot lately), it can never fully undo the havoc Paul Dini and Bruce Timm wrecked when they created Harley Quinn as a moll in the first place.
All that aside, in the world of this story, her tale of personal torment works to break the spell and turns Vartox from an enslaved doomsayer to an amorous charm-beast. Hilarity, of course, ensues.
The twist on that ‘stache is priceless! No comment on the shrooms.
The action only briefly lets up for this exchange. And now that Oreth Odeox has entered the fray with his NRA squad (also a bit on the nose), I suspect it’s going to be non-stop from here to the finale.
Stephane Roux and Elliot Fernandez share art duties on this book again (with Paul Mounts and Alex Sinclair covering colors). Mounts and Sinclair match their palettes perfectly, though I feel like Mounts’ use of a fade for the flashbacks was a little washed out. Especially because the rest of the book is so bold. Also, I feel like Fernandez particularly shines this time around.
Minor Black Holes
Just the usual blips: things that cross my consciousness usually on second-reading:
- Odeox deplores immodesty and yet he was the one who put Vartox in slinky slave gear. The joke is still funny, but the logic is slightly lacking.
- Unless, of course, you consider that Odeox also peeks at naked Vartox even as he decries his nudity. Palmiotti, Conner, and Gray are definitely playing with the double standard/glass house mentality and it works, but I do feel like the book heavily leans against particular ideologies and that starts to become political, which I think this book doesn’t need.
- While the art is strong throughout, Roux’s work feels rough in some places; his faces especially suffer from indistinctness and distortion in their expressions. He also loses a lot of detail in the wide panels. That said, he does a really nice job with Oreth Odeox and the whole final encounter.
- I wish the final cliffhanger had been on-page instead of off. I like that the ominous Harvester of Sorrow gets named, but I think a bit more of a tease-reveal would have strengthened the conclusion for this issue.
Plotwise this is a bridge. A very entertaining one, but still just a bridge. We really need to see the stakes get raised in the next issue. With two more issues to the conclusion, I’m sure that won’t be a problem for this team!
- You like your superhero stories full of bang-up action and plots that turn on a dime.
- The space-sage parody never gets old for you.
- Nuns with Guns if how you roll.
Although issue no. 4 feels like a bit of a stepping stone between beats, this addition to the team-up mini is nonetheless entertaining as all-get-out. Most importantly, it brings Harley and Peej face-to-face with their real nemesis: Oreth Odeox. The coming and going of Vartox’s ex-loves feels a little random, but might be setting up for more payoff as we head toward the finale of this super-silly-side-series.