Enchantress has returned from the depths of hell and she has magically transformed Gotham into a medieval kingdom! The people living in Gotham have turned into medieval counterparts of themselves as well. Everything is upside-down. Harley Quinn and Queen Selina are about the burn at the stake! Can this be undone? And, more importantly, is this a book that you should read? Let’s have a look. SPOILER ALERT!
Hot dayum, this book is all over the place! While I generally appreciate Schmidt’s artwork a lot, it’s very chaotic in this issue. I have a feeling that that’s on purpose, but with such bright colors, numerous panels in off-beat shapes and positions on the pages, objects flying from panel to panel, larger-than-life action, over-the-top special effects and a ginormous dragon to top it all off…oof. It’s too much for my brain to process. Honestly, Schmidt is a great artist: his characters are rendered consistently, the proportions are near-perfect and it seems like he draws with a lot of vibrant energy. But sometimes artists keep filling their pages with beautiful art to a point that it just becomes a case of sensory overload. I don’t know where to start looking, and I’m having trouble following the story through the art. There is too much going on. It’s only when the story slows down toward the end, after Gotham has been turned back to normal, that I feel like I can breathe again, because the panels are a lot cleaner and more down-to-earth.
Now, I don’t want to bash Schmidt’s art, because when you take the time to examine it, even in this issue, it’s quite good. Schmidt even employs alternative art styles to illustrate two interlude passages, and it’s especially the second interlude that I’m really gravitating toward. It shows Catwoman and Batman’s romance, and how it falls apart, which, of course, is a tie-in to King’s Batman saga. The art in this interlude is fun and quirky, but I especially love the dark colors—orange, red, purple, yellow and black. It creates a moody atmosphere while still maintaining a kind of innocence, and it’s the combination of these opposing vibes that I find particularly interesting. I wonder what an entire comic in this style would look like.
As for the writing, I’m not too impressed by it, either. Humphries once more writes a great Harley Quinn voice, and seeing her always defy everyone and the world around her is great fun. However, the story does suffer from some narrative problems. For example, Killer Croc shows up, rather out of the blue, in the form of a dragon, and when Enchantress sees him, her response is to simply vanish. If she’s capable of casting a spell on all of Gotham, turning it into a medieval version, then isn’t she capable of casting a spell on Croc and turning him into something else, too? Enchantress references the love affair that Croc and June Moone had in the pages of Suicide Squad, and while I appreciate that Humphries maintains continuity in this way, it just doesn’t seem like this is how Enchantress, who is this powerful evil witch, would respond in that situation. Surely she’s able to defend herself? But instead she immediately vanishes, and that’s that, folks. The main villain in this arc simply ups and leaves. Frankly, this seems like lazy writing to me, as if the creative team wasn’t sure how Harley should defeat Enchantress, and so this is what they came up with.
The problems don’t end there, though. Harley shatters the magical hourglass, which is the source of the magic that keeps everyone else enslaved to Enchantress. Princess Joanna, who we saw in the previous issue and who was captured by Enchantress, turns out to be in fact Jonni DC, the continuity cop. (For those who came in late, we first met Jonni in issue #50, when Harley broke DC continuity.) Now that the spell is broken, Jonni can be herself and she has access to her full set of powers again. She lifts the curse from Gotham and turns everything back to normal, just like that. Jonni also explains very casually that those who died are now also alive again. Because of all these simple solutions to problems and conflict, it’s like there’s nothing at stake here. Jonni DC even makes it so that nobody except Harley, Selina, Tina and herself remember the events of the previous issue and this one, which, frankly, seems like a bit of a cop-out to me.
Honestly, it really does feel like the creative had a blast making this comic, and there are certainly fun moments throughout the issue. But with such an easy conclusion, I kind of feel cheated. Think about it: all of Gotham was transformed! That includes all the citizens, the cops—literally everyone. But there is no aftermath. No lasting effects. Like a dream, medieval Gotham vanishes and fades from everyone’s minds like nothing happened.
This comic’s saving grace is the final scene, in which Harley visits her sick mother in hospital. It’s the final reveal about Harley’s mom’s condition that turns the entire story upside-down and introduces some real, powerful, emotional, human conflict that Harley can’t avoid, and as such it makes for a great cliffhanger. What makes this final scene work so well is that it delivers a blow out of nowhere, like a surprise attack, especially after such a colorful issue.
- You are into Dungeons & Dragons.
- You are a fan of Otto Schmidt!
- You’re curious about that final scene and how it will affect the Harley Quinn series going forward.
Overall: This isn’t a great issue. The conflict is resolved so rapidly and effortlessly that it’s like it never even existed. I also think that the entire concept of transforming Gotham into a medieval city with a lot of Dungeons & Dragons and RPG elements is underused. The creative team could have explored this medieval Gotham further. They could’ve shown how it changes everyday citizens’ lives. They could have made the final battle more dangerous. They could have raised the stakes significantly. But they did the exact opposite. At least the final scene in the hospital really hits home, especially if you’ve gone through similar experiences in your life. Hopefully that final scene sets up some proper character development for Harley, but other than that…unfortunately I can’t recommend this issue in good conscience.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with an advance copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.