It’s the conclusion of the two-part arc “Minor Disasters!” and we pick up where we left off last time. Minor Disaster, the villain of this arc, can cause, well, minor disasters with her disaster dial (and that’s a lot of “disaster” in the same sentence, but sometimes there’s just no escape). She has made Harley “accidentally” upload a video in which Harley is showing some raw, real emotion. The idea is that Harley’s followers will stop watching her videos because of that. What’s more, Minor Disaster’s ulterior motive is to get her dad’s attention, who has been neglecting her as he operates as super-villain Major Disaster. So, with that quick recap out of the way, let’s have a look at the issue itself, shall we?
I’m just going to say it up-front. I have a lot of problems with this arc, and while there are some moments that I genuinely enjoyed, I’m afraid that these moments are few and far between. For starters, the tone is inconsistent, as if the book isn’t entirely sure what it wants to be. Sometimes it tries to be funny but unfortunately the jokes don’t work for me because they are either too on-the-nose or just so superficial that I honestly don’t see why it’s supposed to be funny. Other times it tries to be emotional, but with a severe lack of character development (which I’ll get to in a second) I find it hard to empathize with the characters and therefore the emotional parts just turn out to be annoying instead. Additionally, the issue starts with the social media themes but halfway through it flips to some kind of disaster/survival story with some superheroics mixed in, and it really feels like it’s trying to be two different stories at the same time. While I’ll never claim that comics can’t successfully balance two different types of stories simultaneously (because such a claim would be ridiculous), I will say that Harley Quinn #54 specifically lacks a smooth transition between these stories. We abruptly jump from the one to the other and as a result the pacing feels very rushed.
Furthermore, the way that the social media conflict is resolved is very predictable. Rather than hating Harley Quinn, her audience actually loves her even more for allowing herself to be vulnerable on the internet. The high predictability takes away any of the suspense for me. I had foreseen this outcome before even opening up the issue. That said, I don’t think the message is a bad one. I, myself, value authenticity over adopting a certain persona and trying to look cool. In my opinion, it’s often authenticity that an audience responds to, especially because it takes a kind of courage to open yourself up to the public. However, I think the way this message is delivered in the comic is so forced and in-your-face that it fails to be cathartic. It’s like DC is shouting at the readers: “Everyone, look! Harley is awesome! So you should find her awesome too!” But seeing as Harley doesn’t actively contribute to solving the conflict in the first half or the second half, I’m not convinced—based on what I see in this issue—that Harley is indeed this awesome heroine that I should be rooting for.
Moreover, Minor Disaster is a character that isn’t done any justice. She remains very much a flat character who is so focused on getting her father’s affections that this is pretty much the only thing that the character is doing. This makes her one-dimensional and, by extension, I am unable to empathize with her either. Her father’s characterization isn’t handled any better: he only briefly appears and just acts like a jerk and disappears again. These two characters lack any complexities or redeeming qualities and that makes me sad. At least Minor Disaster deserves more character development, given that she is the main villain in this story. And yes, she does decide in the end to ditch her father and make her own legacy, but the build-up to this moment is handled so poorly that it just fails to deliver. It feels to me like it’s just thrown in there at the end because she needs at least some kind of character development to validate her presence in the story.
The one character that I do actually enjoy reading about, surprisingly, is Petite Tina. If there is any character in this issue that deserves the recognition, hero-status and praise that she actually gets at the end, it’s her. When Minor Disaster uses her disaster dial to create a huge whirlpool that’s sucking in Coney Island, it is Tina who tries her best to prevent this from happening and save innocent lives. In the process, she inspires other people to help her. Tina, therefore, is the real hero in the book and the character that I’m rooting for. Unfortunately, this goes at the expense of every other character featured in this issue.
The artwork, by Lucas Werneck (pencils/inks) and Gabe Eltaeb (colors), is very similar to the work they provided in the previous issue. Then I thought that the inks were somewhat thick, so the colors didn’t seem to blend so well with the inks. This time the inks are a lot smoother and thinner, except in some places where I still have the same complaint. However, I do think that the art brings an upbeat energy that the book really needs. Even during the more emotional moments, the panels look dynamic in the sense that there’s always some motion in the background (even if it’s just hair or floating leaves) and the changing angles make scenes come alive and look interesting. The art also remains very consistent throughout in the way that characters are rendered, backgrounds are drawn and colors are created. Lastly, especially during the second half the visuals look pretty cool and give me a better idea of the art team’s range. For example, the whirlpool is large and threatening and Petite Tina’s superheroics are captured well: we see her really putting everything that she has into saving people, and the large crowd feeling inspired to help her makes for a nice shot. All in all, the art team is doing a good job of rendering the events in the story, even if the style isn’t really to my taste.
- You are into disaster stories
- You’re a fan of Petite Tina
- You don’t care if characters lack complexities and/or redeeming qualities
Overall: I haven’t enjoyed this arc because in my opinion Harley and Minor Disaster don’t get the character development that they deserve. In the case of Harley, she doesn’t actively contribute to resolving the conflict which robs her of some of her agency. In the case of Minor Disaster, she remains a flat character without complexities and/or redeeming qualities. Add to this that the pacing is rushed, the resolution is too convenient and the humor too on-the-nose, and I’m afraid that all I can say is that “Minor Disasters” is a very fitting title for this arc. At least Petite Tina is a fun character that gets things done, but it’s not enough to save the story. Therefore I’m sad to say that I do not recommend this issue.