Harley Quinn #52 review

This issue of Harley Quinn concludes the two-part Triumph arc. For those who came in late, here’s a quick recap. Back in Harley Quinn #50, Harley broke DC Continuity, and because of this the Golden Age superhero Captain Triumph was transported from the 1940s to present day. Now it’s up to Harley to help Triumph find a way back home. While I wasn’t too excited about the previous episode, I’m finding a lot more positive points in this issue. So, without further ado, let’s have a look.

First of all, this issue is a quick read because most of it consists of action sequences, and the narrative structure is put together well. In fact, in my opinion this issue is much better than the previous, and with a bit of tweaking, I think this arc could easily have been condensed to a one-shot. I’ll explain.

This comic opens with Captain Triumph’s origin story. We see how the character got his powers and how he embarked on his superhero mission. On first reading this I thought it was a little bit strange that we didn’t get to see the character’s origin in #51, but on reaching the conclusion of this arc it all makes sense to me. I won’t spoil what happens exactly, but I can say that the theme that this issue starts with comes full circle in the end. In other words, having the origin story at the start of this issue is a good decision, as it sets up the conclusion nicely. The downside to this is, however, that this very issue feels like a well-rounded, satisfying read to me, which almost makes the previous episode somewhat obsolete. Key scenes from the previous issue could have been included here with slight adjustments, and we would’ve had a full story in just twenty pages. The reason I’m saying this, is because in my opinion it’s a bit of a missed opportunity. It just hammers home to me how unnecessary some scenes were in the previous issue, which bogs down the arc as a whole.

What’s more, I think Harley is well-written within the context of this story. I know that last time I ranted a little bit about how I think certain aspects of her characterization don’t add up when you take into account her violent, murderous past with the Joker (for example, Harley’s mom treats her like an angel, and there’s almost never any conflict between Harley and her friends). And while, in this issue, there are still moments like that, I think that the way she is written here makes a lot more sense. For example, first we see Harley fighting Triumph, and it’s hard to tell if she’s just being playful or actually out to hurt him, which illustrates just how crazy and unpredictable she is. Then, after the fight, Harley meets with Jonni DC (the continuity cop who has been monitoring Harley’s activities since she destroyed continuity in #50). Harley actually argues that they should just get rid of Captain Triumph so he’s not their problem anymore. I think this suggestion fits Harley much better than if she were to immediately try to help Triumph out of the kindness of her heart, because, to me, Harley’s troubled past should make it hard for her to change into a superhero. Her psychology must be too complicated and problematic for such a transition to occur swiftly and smoothly. And this is where Jonni DC plays an important part. It is Jonni who explains to Harley the importance of helping Triumph get back to his own time. The art depicts how reluctant Harley is to help Triumph out, but despite that Jonni manages to convince her. I think this is a good scene that contributes to Harley’s character development, and with more small scenes like this sprinkled in as the series continues, I think Harley could potentially become more like a superhero. And that’s just the thing: I’m definitely not on board when it comes to turning Harley into a hero right off the bat. But if the creative team carefully works on character development, this could potentially make for an interesting story.

Artwork this time is crafted by Sami Basri (pencils/inks) and Alex Sinclair (colors). On first glance, the art really is not my cup of tea, but the more I look at it and analyze what’s going on, the more I appreciate it. For one thing, the art is very dynamic. There’s always movement in the panels, even during the quiet moments. Body language is well-rendered; it shows us what a character is thinking or how they are feeling. And Basri consistently draws a Harley that has an aura of innocence as well as mischief around her, which, at times, makes it impossible to read her true intentions. I think this is how Harley should be: she’s a trickster entity, highly unpredictable and constantly scheming, even while trying to do the right thing (or, rather, what she thinks of as the right thing). But what I really want to highlight in this issue, is how well illustrated the main fight scene is.

I will not break down the entire scene, but I’ll zero in on a few instances that I think really showcase how talented Basri is when it comes to drawing sequential art, and this is very important to me. If a comic doesn’t feature sequential art, in my opinion it fails as a comic. In fact, the whole reason why I love comics is because of the sequential aspect—this is what sets the medium apart from others. So, I’ll start halfway through the fight scene, on page 8, because this is my favorite part.

In panel 1 we see a closeup on Triumph—we know he’s lifting a dump truck because that’s what we saw on the previous page, and Harley was inside the dump truck. In panel 2 we zoom out, and see how Triumph smashes the dump truck to the ground, and meanwhile Harley has leaped out of the vehicle and holding onto a ledge of the nearby building. In panel 3, we see her climbing up, which is a logical progression from panel 2. This panel’s main function is, I think, to set up panels 4 and 5. Panel 4 shows that Harley has managed to climb to the top of the building, and panel 5 is almost the same, except that now we can see Triumph’s boots in front of Harley, meaning that Triumph has already managed to leap onto the building to catch up with Harley. A nice detail in panel 5 is that Harley is looking up in shock as she realizes what’s happening. Panel 6 is a closeup on Harley’s face, where we see her awkwardly trying to maintain a friendly mask, but there’s fear in her eyes. In panel 7, Triumph has grabbed Harley’s wrist and is now lifting her in the air, so she’s hanging over the edge of the building. She’s panicking as she doesn’t want to fall to her death and her fate is literally in Triumph’s hands. But what does Harley do? In the final panel on this page, she decides to execute a “Catwoman kick,” right to Triumph’s neck…

To sum up, the way each panel sets up the next, the expressions on Harley’s face as she realizes what’s about to go down, the unexpected twists and turns, and the chaotic action makes for fun, energetic, sequential visuals. Whether you like the art style or not, clearly the artists know what they are doing. I also think that Basri’s art is a great fit for this series, because I think it manages to strike a nice balance between innocence and mischief.

Recommended if…

  • You are into well-crafted, sequential comic book art
  • You like dynamic action scenes
  • You want to learn more about Captain Triumph’s origin

Overall: Harley Quinn #52 is not a comic without its problems, but all things considered, I really did enjoy this issue for its fun artwork and steady pace. While I wish DC would just stop with all the continuity and fourth wall breaking, I appreciate that Jonni DC contributed to Harley’s character development in this issue. So, if you have ten minutes of spare time and just want to relax with some crazy, creative visuals, grab this book. You probably don’t even need to have read #51 to enjoy this installment for what it is. Just don’t expect a story that will change your life, and you’re good to go.

Score: 7/10