This month Christopher Sebela takes Harley through her paces in part one of a new tale titled “One of My Turns”. This book is bridging the gap before new series writer Sam Humphries takes over on the 4th of July for a really bold new direction. That leaves Sebela basically treading water with the current status quo, unfortunately, trapped in a position of giving us what basically amounts to a static two-parter in which the best we can hope for is some fun gags and high adventure. Because real changes are coming to this book next month, and therefore June can’t really do much with Harley except keep her on ice until it’s time to basically relaunch.
So what does Sebela do with his moment in Harley’s sunshine? Sends her down a psychedelic spiral that feels simultaneously too weird to feel connected to, and yet too grounded given the heights of the flights this book has taken in the past.
Harley’s bugged by a nightmare bug, she meets “Frank” (for lack of a better name–Harley’s always naming people and things whether they want it or not), and they’re off to solve this distracting problem. That’s literally the plot of this–and unfortunately the depth of it as well. But I’m not to blame Sebela entirely for this one: the jokes are generally on point and there’s really nothing wrong with a straightforward comic book caper. But this is one of those books in which the art feels like it’s working against the writing at every turn.
Joker toxin? Fear gas? Bad tacos?
John Timm’s cover is the same great Harley we’ve grown accustomed to, but inside the wrappers, it’s Mirka Andolfo, and let’s just say the work doesn’t quite pop the way you might want it to in a Harley Quinn comic–or expect it, at this point. Perhaps we’ve been generally spoiled on this title for the entirely of its run, but Andolfo is hit and miss generally, and in this book especially it’s more miss than hit. Andolfo’s environments have always been thin: there’s a Manga influence in his work that means lots of action lines and empty backgrounds. Mostly, the action tracks well in spite of that, but in this book it really suffers; the continuity of movement from one panel to the next is confusing and distracting.
The “faux”-opening of Harley with the Justice League is a funny joke, but Harley busting out of the simulator is confusing at best. The environment is completely nondescript and there’s only a block-lettered sign on the wall that reads “Escape Room Coney Island”. While the reader plays catch up several panels later, I’m still thinking about how that full-page shot could have been so much clearer and so much more interesting than just a bland sign on a dull wall and a guy awkwardly sitting in a chair.
Later in the subway: is Harley suddenly crouching on the bench she was just sitting on one panel before? Or is she now on the ground (can’t really tell from the angle), and what are we looking at anyway? Train lights, I presume, but again, that only becomes clear after you stop and study the image–and no one wants to be pulled to a dead stop in the middle of a comic book to try to figure out what’s going on. Later on Harley yanks “Frank” out of the river, but we have no idea how she does it; it just magically happens from one panel to the next and we get some impact lines to indicate that Frank has hit the ground and Harley speaking a line that implies that she threw him, even though none of her body language suggests this and Frank’s not even in the preceding panel where Harley hauls herself up on the railing. It appears physically impossible for her to have accomplished this feat and just leaves the reader scratching their head.
The arm she’s holding out can’t be the one she threw him with
Finally, the characters just aren’t rendered that great. Harley’s facial structure seems to shift and change from page to page. Sometimes she looks like a Kewpie doll and sometimes her skull seems to stretch and her nose gets long. I can literally see colorist Gabe Eltaeb struggling to give her face more rounded definition. And Frank, well, not only is he not very interesting in terms of design, but the only thing really “hideous” about him on the reveal seems to be his eyes, which is the one feature he doesn’t cover with his hoodie and scarf.
Sebela’s story is serviceable, even if it does feel “safe”, but I can’t help feeling that in the hands of another artist this would have been a much more entertaining and enjoyable read.
- You’re intrigued by the possibility of Professor Pyg.
- Hijinx Harley is really all you want for some superfluous reading.
Christopher Sebela continues the recent trend of keeping the Queen of Quinn relatively untethered from her Coney Island gang in this new storyline that features a hallucinating Harley, a curious new ally, and he promise of some potentially intriguing villains. But it feels like mostly promise and very little payoff for the moment. This book feels strangely as low stakes as it’s ever gotten in this series: I’m honestly not even sure what it is we’re supposed to care about: Harley’s psychedelic problem, sad Frank, the final disposition of Harley’s beloved beaver? Even with the rote nature of the plot this book might have been a good time but it’s saddled with art that doesn’t serve it well, it just feels like a dispirited fill-in on our way to the next thing.