I’m filling in for Brian this week and ready to step back into my old stomping grounds of Harley Quinn to give this series a close look. I really enjoyed Humphries run on the title, but how do I feel about what Stephanie Phillips is doing? Well, let’s take a look together.
Last we left off Harley had ducked into the sewers while on the run from Hugo Strange and his goons. There, she came face to face with none other than Solomon Grundy. This issue picks up shortly after that, with Grundy and Harley in the middle of a battle of wits and wiles aka playing chess. Harley, in conversation with Grundy, makes the decision that she’s got to go after her friends and save them from Strange. From there, Harley’s part in this issue is mostly about her figuring out just how she’s going to do that and ‘be herself’ in doing so. Because, she’s Harley Quinn, she can totally do this. And of course she does this by getting into the mindset of Batman to dart across the city and scare off orderlies unpacking a shipment for Strange.
I like a lot about this series. I’ve enjoyed how Phillips has made use of Harley’s history with psychology and her degree in immediately having her try to help others. I love how she has Harley insisting she does have the degree, and then actually using it. I also like how she doesn’t shy away from having Harley reference back to Joker, he was such a big part of her life for so long it’d be impossible for Harley to move on without taking some of what he did and said into consideration. We get some of that in this issue but really Harley’s part is more camp than anything here.
Yes, she makes a serious decision on if she’s going to continue trying this heroic route, and what she’s going to do about Strange, but it feels like Phillips has taken a little bit of a step back from the hard look she’s taken at Harley in the past three issues, and I’m a little disappointed to see that. If you read any of my past reviews for Harley Quinn you’ll know I’m a big fan of narratives that take a close look at her character and balance the more serious and humorous elements of her stories better. I don’t think Phillips is going to stay away from that element, but I think she could have honed in a little more on Harley’s apprehension or concerns here instead of focusing so much on having her make fun of Batman and the city.
The more serious elements of this issue come into play when it moves away from Harley and over to Kevin. Trapped at S.A.F.E and hounded by Dr. Strange Kevin’s not having a great time. This section does a couple things that I really enjoyed. It highlights Kevin’s own trust in Harley, and what makes Strange more of a threat than just the muscle and money he’s throwing at everything. He’s also a doctor with experience in psychology and we see that played up here as he’s working with Kevin. We also get to see a little more of what his plan is regarding the clowns and the green drug he’s been giving them.
By far my favorite thing about this book is the art. Riley Rossmo’s art is just wonderful, and in my opinion a perfect fit for Harley as a character. Paired with Ivan Plascencia’s colors and you’ve just got a stunning book. It’s fun, quirky, bright, and just a wonder to look at and read. If I was ever going to buy a book just for the art, this is certainly one I’d consider. Thankfully, both the story and art have me hooked.
Rossmo does some really fun things this issue with paneling and ways to lead readers through the pages. I could pick something off almost every page that’s unique and wonderful, from the elevator numbers lining the side of the page during one scene, to another where Harley’s falling and has to use a grapple line to catch herself. The book is a real treat to look at, and so vibrant with energy and movement just through how Rossmo build’s his pages.
The one moment I want to highlight is a gorgeous double page spread where Kevin’s tripping out on the drug he’s been given where the art feels like it’s swirling, but on a closer look there’s both arrows drawn into the background and little numbered cards that lead you through it in a subtle but really clever way. It clearly helps readers through the art, and also plays with form in a way that I find really fun.
The story wraps up on a high note, with Harley’s infiltration of S.A.F.E. and leaves us in a place where we know there’s sure to be action next month. I’m excited to see the rest of her rescue play out, even if I was hoping we’d get there a little faster this month. Still, this series has me well and truly hooked and interested in the journey it’s taking Harley on.
- Listen, Rossmo’s art is reason enough to pick this up
- Harley’s a delight too, you don’t want to miss her masquerading as Batman in a heart cape
- You’ve been enjoying this series and want more
For all the energy and action the art brings to the story, I still feel like it kind of meanders a bit. Like the second book in a trilogy, the story eventually makes it to an exciting moment at the end, but I feel like the time spent in this issue could have been used a little better, either to give more insight into Harley, or in building up the story with Kevin and Strange. Still, the ending does promise some excitement next issue, and I for one am eager to see how it plays out.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.