It’s official, this is the final issue of Harley Quinn! To celebrate, it has a little of everything, fantastic artists, more pages, and even a tie in to the Joker War! The issue is broken into two separate parts, the actual finale to Harley Quinn and The Joker War tie in. Since the two stories have nothing to do with each other I’m going to cover the main story first, then briefly talk about the tie in. So, let’s dive right in!
This issue is very much a celebration of Harley. The story centers around roast of her in honor of her birthday. During it the book shifts to tell a variety of different stories based on adventures and titles Harley has been in over the years. Each adventure is wacky in it’s own way, and filled with Humphries own brand of hilarious commentary.
The roast is hosted by Harley’s stuffed beaver Bernie and features five different speakers. Each story takes place in a distinct ‘era’ of Harley and chooses a part of her personality to critique. Additionally, each of these sections has a different artist on them, to really set the story apart. Between roast sessions there are also a number of flashbacks and scenes that follow the main story as we last left it with Harley living with Becca in Los Angeles that show just why Harley hates her birthday and give some insight into her mental state leading up to the roast. There’s a lot going on, and honestly it can feel a little overwhelming on a first read, but what is Harley if not big, loud and crazy?
The first part of the roast itself takes a look at Harley’s desire to be a hero and is told by Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman and features a story about a time when “Super Harley” disastrously helped the Justice League. The art in this section is really cute and the thing I enjoy most about this short story. Nicola Scott does the pencils and really captures the feeling of early Justice League adventures and stories. Harley’s costume here is a nod to that of her early appearances and also plays into the humor in this section, especially the pom poms on her hat. I found this story to be a nice lead into what to expect from the rest of them.
The next story is told by Poison Ivy and pokes fun at her time under the pen of Aamanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. It pulls in most of the characters featured in that run and Amanda and Jimmy themselves for cameos. Everyone shows up in a way that feels like a reunion, full of chaos with no one really helping Harley as she tries desperately to sell some badly named Butt Nuggets to pay her rent. If I had to call out a theme for this one, it’s how Harley’s anger seems to get her into trouble more often than not. Emanuela Lupacchino and Ray McCarthy are on art here and handle the large array of characters really well. I particularly like the way Ivy is depicted, Lupacchino’s style suits her really well.
Amanda Waller tells the next story, which pokes fun at Harley’s time on the Suicide Squad and sends her on an adventure where he general “Harley-ness” ends up somehow both messing up the mission and promoting Waller further. Ramon Villalobos does the art for it and does a great job of capturing the chaos Harley carries with her, and showcasing her as she battles her way through a building of people.
Her mom takes the stage next to tell a story about Harley as a young girl when she lost a beloved pet. Ngozi Ukazu does the art for this, and her more kid-like cartoony style really fits a story about Harley when she was a child. The story focuses back on feelings of loss and mourning and how it’s important not to fall so deep into despair you let that define who you are.
It’s by this point the roast also starts to feel more serious instead of zany, and we realize that the roast is just a list of all the things Harley doesn’t like about herself, like her anger and impulsiveness. Basri is on art for this section –as well as the flashbacks– and does a great job showcasing her emotions as she takes the mic and finally starts to come face to face with all the aspects of her personality this roast has brought to light.
Harley narrates the final story in the roast, it’s set in the Batman the Animated Series universe. Here she ends up facing off against a monster version of herself, driven to insanity by being unable to face the fear and anger she holds inside, and really represents her coming to terms with who she is. Joe Quinones’ art really captures the feeling of the animated series in each of the panels. I really enjoy his expressions, especially in the moments we see Harley determined. First, to figure out who is impersonating her, and second in how to deal with the threat.
There are a few things about this story that I have to take issue with. The first is that some of the stories can feel a little nonsensical if you’re not familiar with characters or events, and even though each part builds on itself, it can also feel a little alienating as a reader. Thankfully, each of these scenes are short and if someone isn’t a fan they move on quickly. The narrative also falls into a more chaotic style than it’s had for a while now, and like I mentioned earlier that can feel jarring. It feels like a tonal shift backwards in time, and personally I liked it when the story felt a little more balanced between serious and zany.
In the end, I think that Humphries is really successful with taking Harley through one last bout of character growth. Through this wacky roast she gets the chance to decide how she really feels about herself. In doing that, she’s able to move forward into the future. To me, it’s the perfect way to end this story, with the idea of Harley able to move forward in a healthier, happier manner than she started.
Joker War Tie In
The Joker War tie in takes up the last 8 pages of the story and has nothing to do with the rest of the book. It picks up right after Harley’s fight with Punchline ends in Batman issue #93. In fact, the first page is almost shot for shot like the end of their fight.
The story follows Harley as she tries to pick herself back up again after her loss against Punchline. It’s a brief story but well done in it’s execution and mini-character arc Humphries gives her. Through it, she’s faced with the choice between giving up and dying or pushing past her own self doubt to keep living.
Because Harley’s lost quite a bit of blood, she spends most of her adventure hallucinating and the story becomes a blend of real life and memory. The way the art shows this is very cool, and honestly the foundation for the whole story. Rossmo’s lines and Ivan Plascencia’s colors create a landscape that’s twisted and wild and really the epitome of what one might experience if they were trying to push through severe blood loss and hallucinations. If I could, I’d drop in the whole story just to show off all the creative ways Rossmo set’s panels. There’s ones where water creating boundaries, a memory in the shape of a heart being another, and there’s one page that feels like a solid scene, just split by some wavy white lines. It’s all very cool, and honestly if you need a reason to read this short story the art is it.
It’s this mismatch of realities that really makes reading this interesting. Each step in Harley’s adventure ends up blending some part of Harley’s past with the events in the present and the lessons from the past push her to react to her present, and also to rise up against thoughts of no longer being good enough or being upstaged by Punchline.
The hallucinatory nature of it also helps smooth out doubts I’d have about Harley being able to do everything she does while bleeding out. If the story had been told in a straightforward manner I might have questioned more of it, but as it stands the only thing that really bothers me is how Harley stitches her wound. She ends up closing it off with the string from a guitar, and even considering how wacky and wild this story is I just can’t see that being something that would work and not end up making her injury worse.
Generally, I think this story works for what it’s purpose is, which is to answer what happened to Harley after her fight with Punchline. It’s creative in its execution of the story, and a solid short story.
- It’s a solid ending to Harley’s emotional journey
- You like funny books that roast your favorite characters
- Commentary on comics is up your alley
- You wanted to know what happened to Harley after her fight with Punchline
Harley Quinn #75 wraps up Sam Humphries run in a way that really celebrates everything that came before it. It finishes Harley’s journey by allowing her to come to terms with herself and her future while also being wrapped up in a fun and funny package. It’s additional Joker War tie in story only adds to it by giving us another look at Harley and what she’s been up to outside this title. As someone who loved this run I can honestly say that while I’m sad to see it go, I think this was an excellent send off for Harley.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.