Harley, Harley, Harley. I’ve enjoyed this book for the good time it has been up to this point, but I’ve also wondered where it’s been going. I’m still not sure we have the answer, but Harley Quinn #5 does bring some of the run’s initial plot points to a sort of completion. But are the conclusions—such as they are—satisfying? Read on!
One of the things I liked about this book was that it gave us a much more innocent Harley Quinn—both her appearance and the subject material have been much more kid-friendly, and I think that’s a great way to go with a character who has been sexualized and “growed up” pretty aggressively since her debut on Batman: The Animated Series.
The innocence is largely still intact, but it’s fading. After an introduction that will surely confuse newer readers, Harley asks Hugo Strange if a particular obsession is a “sexual thing,” and she backreferences the comment later. It’s a small moment, but before this issue, I’d have probably handed this book to my 8 year-old without a thought. Now, though—psychosexual mania is not a topic of conversation we plan on broaching until he’s at least 8 and a half.
Joking aside, I think it’s emblematic of editors that don’t understand the identity of their own books, and a wider lack of understanding on the part of DC and Warner Bros. Here you have a character that is brightly-colored, energetic, and independent—a perfect sell for kids—but with the exception of DC Superhero Girls, you’d be lucky to find something featuring Harley that is what many parents consider appropriate for their children.
About that confusing introduction
Judging by the lack of community activity on our previous reviews for this series, this is not a book that most dyed-in-the-wool Batfans are buying. I think that’s just fine—Harley has become her own thing, and DC should make her distinct enough to protect her independence.
But Phillips makes what I think is a pretty serious error in this issue, relying too heavily on a reader’s prior knowledge of Hugo Strange. Just start with the cover—even your more casual Batfans will be scratching their heads at Strange in the suit—let alone a new reader who came for Harley only. They’ll be scratching even harder when they read the first few pages. I’m betting Harley’s psychoanalysis doesn’t really hit the way it should, because most folks reading this book didn’t know anything about Hugo before they started reading the series.
But what about the rest of us?
For me though, it was still a good time. I like seeing Harley have fun, help her friends, and hit people with her bat. Rossmo is still killing it, and it’s exactly what it was from issue 1: a really good time. The humor hits, the heart works, and I wouldn’t mind reading about Harley and her weird group of compatriots for many issues more.
- You think Harley Quinn should be (mostly) innocent fun
- You like seeing Hugo Strange humiliated (this is all of us)
- Rossmo. Still. He’s enough.
Five issues in, and I’m still here. My fear, however, is that DC doesn’t understand the potential audience for this book, and that it will ultimately be one more comic cruising for a short run and a reboot. I guess I’ll keep enjoying it while it lasts.