Harley’s quest for answers continues this month as she faces off against Jonathan Wittleson, the shady head honcho behind the housing developments Harley and Booster Gold have been investigating. Is he behind Alicia’s murder? Was Alicia murdered? And what on Earth is going on with Harley and Booster Gold? Stay tuned to find out.
This weekend I met up virtually with some of the guys on the Batman-News team to chat. Among other things, we spent some time talking about how fast many comics these days are to read. You’ve probably noticed it too, a lot of comics coming out lately can be read in just a few minutes, filled with more action than text. Which can make plots feel like they’re going nowhere, and make readers feel like they’ve not only wasted their time, but their money as well.
I mention this because it made me realize just how much Humphries manages to pack into each issue of Harley Quinn. There are so many scenes, so much information, and it’s all balanced very well. And because of how consistently this is done, it means we don’t need a ton of pages to understand Becca’s renewed grief with Harley’s news, or believe that Booster Gold would in fact coach a group of football players after school. Each issue builds layers from the other, and tells a story so rich and full of life I feel like I could dive right into this world.
It’s this kind of storytelling I want to see across all of DC’s titles. Tightly plotted, well planned, and beautifully written. If you have been following my reviews of this title at all, you know that I declared early on my distaste for Harley Quinn as a character. But that’s the thing about good writing, it can convince even those most against something to give it a chance. Then before they know it, they’ve fallen in love with a title they never imagined even liking, let alone enjoying. That’s what this series has done for me. It’s returned some of the joy and excitement I had diving into comics for the first time, it’s rekindled hope that others will be just as good, and it’s reminded me what kind of standard I should hold other titles to. It’s great storytelling, and I’m going to be so sad to see Humphries step off this title at issue #75. I do know that whatever he does to wrap all this up will be just as strong as the rest of his run.
Alright, alright, I’m jumping off my soap box and into talking about the story itself. Humphries takes both readers and Harley on a roller coaster this issue as Harley learns of a suicide note written by Alicia. The news hits her hard, as it would anyone so convinced of the opposite. After that it’s one rejection after another that drops Harley back into the same depression she’s been trying to pull herself up and out of. There’s some laughs in this issue, but we’ve reached the point in this arc where Harley’s emotional struggle is the main focus of the issue.
As much as I enjoy the wilder aspects of reading Harley Quinn, I’ve found that it’s issues like this, where the action settles down and Harley has to sit with her thoughts and feelings, that I really enjoy. Harley’s a complicated character, and her own struggle with everything going on really hits home. She, like so many others, tries to put off the pain of finding out Alicia committed suicide by trying to distract herself. She get’s drunk, chases after Booster, and eventually finds herself wandering Hollywood in search of answers.
Harley eventually goes to Charity XO, the voice that’s been narrating this whole arc. I love that we finally get to see Charity. She’s an interesting character, and one I didn’t actually expect to see in person in this arc. It turns out she has the powers to read the stars regarding someone’s fate and gives Harley a reading of her own while she’s there. I have a feeling it will be fun to go back and look at this reading again in a couple issues to see how it predicts things play out, but the really good part of this scene is the conversation they have afterwords. It’s another moment of self reflection for Harley, as well as a chance for her to have someone there to listen to what’s been frustrating her.
The scene of Charity giving Harley a reading is also stunning. Basri uses the background and image itself to create panel breaks in the full page given to the reading. Atop we have Charity as she’s channeling her powers, split are the signs she’s reading, and below is Harley, as in awe as I was reading and viewing the page.
Harley’s reading, and the conversation after are good, but they don’t fix everything. And that’s something else I enjoyed about this issue, what could be easy plot devices to cheer Harley up or ‘solve’ her problems isn’t used that way. Harley might have been inspired by her visit with Charity, but she still has to face reality, and her own inner turmoil hasn’t been fully eased. In fact, when she moves into her next fight it’s with the determination to let herself go out in a blaze of glory– circling back to earlier in the arc where Booster Gold asked her if she had a death wish. There’s not a lot of time to really explore that thought, and I kind of wish it did a little more, it’s a serious topic to bring up, and in the context of this arc I feel like a lot could be said about it. There is also a surprise at the end that turns it all around, which kind of undermines the seriousness of what’s going on– it’s not a bad turn. I’m just not sure it came at the right time, but it’s always possible Humphries will pick up these pieces in the next issue and explore them further.
Speaking of that surprise turn, in the last couple pages we learn two very important things: one, Alicia was actually murdered and two, Granny Goodness was the one who’s been behind the scenes orchestrating this whole thing. I would be remiss if I didn’t at least comment on this turn of events. I know that there was technology from Apokolips introduced already, but I have got to say I did not see this coming. And what a fantastic way to wrap up this run, with the return of Granny Goodness! It’s a great callback to the start of Humphries run, and everything Harley was dealing with back then. All she wanted to do was escape her problems, and here she is, faced with worse problems and Granny Goodness once more. I’m so pumped to see what happens next!
Speaking of that surprise turn, in the last couple pages we learn two very important things: one, Alicia was actually murdered and two, Granny Goodness was the one who’s been behind the scenes orchestrating this whole thing. I would be remiss if I didn’t at least comment on this turn of events.
I know that there was technology from Apokolips introduced already, but I have got to say I did not see this coming. And what a fantastic way to wrap up this run, with the return of Granny Goodness! It’s a great callback to the start of Humphries run, and everything Harley was dealing with back then. All she wanted to do was escape her problems, and here she is, faced with worse problems and Granny Goodness once more. I’m so pumped to see what happens next!
Before I wrap things up I want to touch on the art again. Specifically Hi-Fi’s colors. They’re magical here, and the theme of blues and purples is spread gorgeously through the issue. My favorite page, by far, is a shot of Harley moving through a crowd. Basri set things up with Harley moving in direct opposition to most of the people, but they’re not so tightly packed you can’t also feel just how lonely she is. Hi-Fi’s colors add to this, the walk of fame is bathed in the purple light of a night alive with tourists, photo ops, and people enjoying themselves. While Harley herself is cast in black and white. It’s striking and alsot the first time I think I’ve ever seen her totally washed out like this it this run. The whole mood really embodies the place she’s in right now. She’s exhausted, wrung out, and almost a ghost to this world as everything she’s been fighting for seems to crash down around her. It’s a gorgeous scene and a page I’d love to have hanging up on my wall.
All in all, you can definitely feel this arc moving towards a conclusion, as the truth is finally out about what happened to Alicia and who’s behind it all. Harley’s been on quite the journey, not just in California, but for a long time now, and I can’t wait to see where she lands at the end of all this.
- Stories taking a moment to focus on more serious emotions resonate with you
- From the art to the colors this book is gorgeous
- You like well told, tightly plotted, stories
This issue focuses once again on the emotional journey Harley’s taking and moves away from the repetitive action of the last couple books. It’s this return to the heart of this series that really makes it work for me. It feels like it’s earned the right to lean into the more serious, and it does it well here. Humphries has built a story about grief and dealing with loss in the most human of ways, and shows that sometimes it can all feel overwhelming. But, as with the surprise ending here, there is hope and truth and strength waiting on the other side, and I have a feeling Harley will earn her own triumphant victory as the next couple issues play out.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.