Harley Quinn #48 review

Harley Quinn #48 kicks off a new two-parter titled, Clown for hire, and it’s a wild ride. Not only because Harley is Harleying around, but also because I’m just not entirely sure what to make of this comic. There are elements that I enjoy, there are a couple jokes that had me laugh out loud, but things are also taken to the extreme, reaching levels of absurdity that I don’t find funny, disturbing or even annoying; instead, to me it feels like it’s weird for the sake of weirdness. So, let’s have a look at those things and see what’s up.

This arc has a simple premise: to save her Coney Island home from getting demolished, because she didn’t pay the bills, Harley decides to take jobs to make as much money as she can to save her place. She ends up being contracted by some kind of pirate organization, and sets out to kill Lord Death Man. But, as the name might imply, Lord Death Man isn’t that easy to kill.

To start with, I like Petite Tina’s scenes—although she doesn’t have much to add to the actual plot per say. At first, she acts tough while trying to defend Harley’s home, scaring the crap out of the opposition in the process, and she’s called a monster because of that. Later in the comic, Harley asks Tina to head into town and get some pet food. However, when Tina looks out the window and sees the city, she gets rather anxious because it’s an alien environment to her that she doesn’t understand. While she’s trying to be nice and friendly, everyone around her is terrified of her and once more she’s called a monster. It escalates quickly, with cops opening fire on her, and ultimately she just hides in a trash container. I appreciate that the creative team is giving the character some panel time to develop her a little bit more within the context of everyday America. Although I’m not completely invested in the character yet, if the creative team can keep this up and manage to make her arc interesting, then that means they’ll add to the Harley Quinn lore that started with Palmiotti and Conner’s run. It can be tricky to introduce a new character to an already established setting, especially when there’s a well-developed supporting cast in-place already, so I’m rooting for the creative team to develop Tina into a character that’s fun to read about.

However, as entertaining as the first half of the comic is, I think it descends into randomness during the second half. For example, in order to assassinate Lord Death Man, Harley has to track him down. Somehow she finds his apartment, but we never learn how she finds his apartment. She just does. Furthermore, before Harley invades the apartment, she’s sitting on a roof dressed up in a cat burglar suit. When she actually attacks the apartment, she’s suddenly wearing some kind of elaborate pizza delivery guy disguise, without any explanation as to how she is able bring all of that with her. When she takes off the disguise and reveals who she really is, she’s wearing one of Tina’s armor pieces over her cat burglar suit (again, does all of that really fit into her small backpack?). Moreover, apparently she was able to find a picture of Lord Death Man’s naked dad in a really weird pose, just to mess with Lord Death Man before trying to take him out. While that is kind of a funny moment which made me laugh, it doesn’t make any sense if you think about it. How is Harley able to bring that pizza guy disguise with her? How is she able to carry around bowling balls which she throws at Lord Death Man’s goons (especially considering she’s leaping across rooftops—you’d think those balls would be kind of heavy, right?). And how does she know who Lord Death Man’s father is, where he is, and how did she get that picture?

Look, I get it. This is all meant to be funny. Maybe we’re not meant to overthink any of this, and it’s all just played for laughs and that’s it. But, for me, that’s not good enough. Like I said in my intro, it’s just weird, and from a technical writing standpoint, these things can be considered plot holes, because the core plot advancement now hinges on a string of random events that are unexplained and seemingly meaningless. If that is what the core plot is based on, then that’s a case of bad juju in my book.

There is one final point that I want to address, because this is where I think the creative team is taking things way too far. However, seeing as this concerns the final pages of this issue I will put this in spoiler tags. What’s important to bear in mind, though, is that I think what happens here is rather ridiculous because it’s even more random than the things I’ve talked about above. I feel like it’s something you, as a reader, should know before you buy, but at least I want to give you the option of avoiding these spoilers.

After removing Lord Death Man’s bleeding heart…okay, hold on a second. Yes, you read that right. Harley has cut out Lord Death Man’s heart and is holding it triumphantly in front of her laptop’s web cam to show it to her pirate employer as proof that she’s killed her target. Now, I know Harley isn’t a stranger to excessive violence and gore. For example, we’ve seen plenty of guts in Palmiotti and Conner’s run. So, I suppose that I can accept the fact that she’s holding that heart in her hands, even though I think it’s distasteful and unnecessary because it’s far more extreme, in my opinion, than any of the gore we’ve seen in the comic previously. But, to make this even sillier, her pirate contractor tells her that she needs more proof and that holding a heart in front of a web cam won’t do. While at first I thought the pirate meant that the heart could have belonged to anyone and not necessarily Lord Death Man (which is something that I would agree with), I think what she actually means is that simply holding up Lord Death Man’s heart isn’t enough proof that he’s actually dead. In order to provide more solid proof, Harley then puts the heart in a blender, adds some garnish, holds up a mug of blood in front of the web cam again and proclaims, “Voilà! An extremely Bloody Mary.” And apparently that is enough proof for the pirate that Lord Death Man is really dead. And I don’t like this one bit. It makes no sense whatsoever, I don’t find this funny, and it really seems to me that it’s just weirdness for weirdness’s sake. But wait! It doesn’t stop here. Lord Death Man actually emerges from the shadows—because apparently he’s able to track Harley back to her apartment—and he takes the glass of blood from Harley’s hands and drinks it all. I’m not too familiar with the character, but I do know that the original incarnation of Lord Death Man was a guy who could pull off a certain kind of yoga so well that he could make it seem like he was a corpse. Now, I don’t mind revamping characters, and I also don’t mind that the creative team has given him the power to resurrect himself, but within the context of this issue it’s just silly. I’m sorry, but this is my opinion and it’s not going to change.

Artwork this time around is handled by Alisson Borges (pencils) and Gabe Eltaeb (colors). The pair draws a fun-looking book, and especially Borges has my attention because the opening panel that he draws has a lot of detail to it. We see the city skyline, the moon, the clouds, stars. We also see smaller buildings in the distance in between the skyscrapers. And in the foreground there’s a dock, and there are warehouses, and inside the warehouses are crates. There are stairs leading from one platform to another below. There are more crates in the background. It’s a good establishing shot because it instantly sets the entire opening scene by providing us with a bird’s eye view of the location where everything is going to go down. I also enjoy the way that Borges draws each character. The book has a very animated, energetic, cartoony vibe, which matches the mostly comedic tone very well. His action sequences are also very dynamic, with a lot of movement in the background and foreground. I enjoy especially the way that Borges draws characters’ faces: they convey the emotions that the characters are feeling very well, and especially Harley looks great, what with her psychotically happy smile even at the most gruesome moments.

Add Eltaeb’s colors to the pencils, and not only is a sense of aesthetic consistency maintained between the previous issue’s artist and this one’s, but the colors also help to make Borges’s pencils come to life more. There are many bright colors in this book, which once again fits the comedic tone well. All in all, this is a solid art team that I would not mind to see working on future installments of the Harley Quinn series.

Recommended if…

  • You don’t mind nonsensical stories whose core plots revolve around plot holes
  • You like the character Petite Tina and want to see more character development for her

Overall: The first half of the comic promises a fun, energetic adventure with great art, but for me the book falls apart during the second half. The core story is problematic because of many plot holes, and the attempts at humor overshadow logic to such an extent that at a certain point logic is completely thrown out of the window. At that point, it seems to me that it’s all about weirdness for weirdness’s sake, which is never a good thing. I recommend you spend your well-earned money on other books instead, or at least take a wait-and-see approach, because for all we know the next issue might save this arc. At least, here’s to hoping that that is the case.

Score: 4.5/10