This month we take a break from Harley’s journey through grief to enjoy a one shot that focuses on Hambezzler, an ex-fast food mascot recently released from prison for you guessed it: embezzlement.
Mark Russell takes over writing duties temporarily this week. In doing so, he’s chosen to write a story set before Harley left Coney Island to deal with the grief of losing her mom. While it might feel a little jarring to jump out of the story we’ve been following for a while now, Russell crafts an entertaining break from the norm. He writes an enjoyable Harley and never misses a chance to poke fun at this issue’s themed target: McDonalds –or as it’s called here, McGobbles. Russell packs in a little of everything here, from jokes directly centered on the old mascots to general jokes about fast food, and quite a few aimed at corporate greed.
Sami Basri does an amazing job this issue designing a collection of haggard, grizzled, and old versions of those McDonald’s mascots you used to know and love. For someone like me, who grew up seeing characters like the Hamburglar, Grimace, and of course Ronald McDonald decorate the sides of Happy Meals it was delightful to see them imagined in this way. There’s also all kinds of delightful little details peppered into the story like the villain’s hideout being a burger replica of the Hall of Doom and various altered names of fast food and sodas. The art ties everything together in this issue by really making the absurdity of these ex-mascots come to life on the page, in the humorous, serious, and heartfelt moments.
The main drive of the plot is on Hambezzler trying to prove himself innocent to his old coworkers and discover who really embezzled money from McGobbles. We’re introduced to him as he’s being released from prison after thirty years spent there for embezzling his company’s retirement funds. All he wants to do is get back on his feet, and is sent to Harley for help with that. From there things quickly spiral from him simply helping with her taxes, to the rest of the ex-mascots showing up for revenge.
While there’s quite a bit of action in this book, the fact that the story focuses on new characters with their own histories and motivations means there’s a lot of exposition to get through. Russell does a good job of sharing everyone’s backstories in a way that feels natural and evenly paced with the use of television reports, and spreading out information between scenes. He also ties certain story beats together in some satisfying and vindictive ways, like in the repetitive use of Country Dew. Even so, it’s a lot of backstory for characters we might not see after this issue, and if you’re here just for Harley content it pushes her role back a little. Depending on how much you enjoy the new guys, this might be a good or a bad thing. I for one found myself invested in this mystery and their quest, and I’d love to see this wacky crew show up again later.
With all the focus on other characters, you might be wondering what role Harley plays in all this, and why she’s even putting up with a crazy bunch of ex-mascots. Her initial drive is centered around getting Hambezzler to do her taxes for her, but there are quite a few moments where we see her compassion driving her to help out. Even early on, before she’s heard everyone’s stories, she tells Tina she’s giving him a second chance, because who other than a convicted criminal need one? While this line can be played off for laughs, it’s a great little moment that harkens back to the fact that Harley’s been down the same road as Hambezzler, and in need of someone to give her a second chance. Later on, she relates to Clown McCrown’s own story of having someone he trusted literally dip him in a vat of acid. Her response is quiet, the background is black, and her expression is one that tells you she’s been through the same thing. It’s a great moment reminding readers of what she’s been through, and that further puts her on the side of these guys.
The chance for Harley to grow or show her humanity like this is something I love about this series. It’s wacky and goofy and always makes me laugh, but it also so often finds the heart in a situation. Russell could have easily had Harley helping Hambezzler only so he could do her taxes for her this issue, but he took the time to give her a reason for helping him and his friends. This is the kind of Harley I like, because she has compassion and feels so deeply, even if she doesn’t always show it in the best ways. I couldn’t really tell you what drove her to be a psychologist, but I can say that few people go through that much schooling and don’t genuinely want to help others, and I think this series has given her the opportunity to both begin to heal from her own issues, and to find that part of herself again. I really loved seeing it shine in her giving a second chance to the Hambezzler, and helping all his friends find justice this issue.
- One and done stories are your speed
- You too never miss an opportunity to make fun of fast food
- You want a solid, heartfelt, story with an extra large side of antics
As a one shot I found this issue to be a lot of fun. Russell did a great job crafting a collection of both wacky and loveable new characters, who I wouldn’t mind showing back up later. It also has some moments of depth, and gives Harley a chance to be more than an exasperated landlady in need of her taxes done. This issue is a lighthearted read that you’ll chuckle at, and enjoy going back to for all the little jokes you missed or details you didn’t quite catch the first read through.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.