In all honesty, I feel like Harley Quinn #15 is the worst issue I’ve read in the series so far. I’m not saying that to be hyperbolic. This is just an issue where all of my problems with the series are pushed to the front and worsened. Meanwhile, the things that I’ve liked about the series seem to be missing. This issue is, primarily, supposed to be the big team-up between Batwoman and Harley that Stephanie Phillips has been teasing for some time now, but it’s executed terribly.
First of all, a team-up book should be an actual team-up between two major character. However, for whatever reason, with Batwoman’s presence, Harley takes a backseat in her own story. We watch Batwoman lead the way throughout most of the book, while Harley acts like a scatter-brained idiot in the background. When Batwoman is discussing who the culprit behind the murders might be, Harley rolls around in the background, stuffing her face with food. Your innocence and freedom are at stake here, Harley, what are you doing? Why did Harley feel like an active protagonist throughout all of her book up to this point, and now she’s riding behind Batwoman’s cape?
It gets worse when Batwoman goes to find Harley’s case file, leaving Harley behind. She bumps into a police officer and they get into a tussle. Harley shows up in a witch outfit (for some reason) and claims she’s here because “she got bored.” Batwoman and the officer get into a physical fight and Harley, once again, just stands there and makes comments. The fight calms down and Batwoman and the officer talk. Meanwhile, Harley fools around in the background and then, randomly, putting on a unicorn suit.
Again, the first problem with this is that Harley has become a supporting character in her own book. When Superman shows up in a Batman comic, would you expect Superman to become the main character of the book while Batman just kind of rides along in the background? No. But the other problem here is it makes Harley out to be extremely unlikable and annoying that she can’t treat a situation where she is the one in trouble with any degree of seriousness, and instead, keeps getting distracted. This isn’t even how she’s been portrayed in previous issues of this series. I guess I can applaud Rossmo for making sure he always details what happens in the background, but unfortunately WHAT he details Harley doing doing doesn’t do her character any favors.
If you are wondering how Batwoman is portrayed in the book, she’s fine. She’s just your standard serious superhero on a mission, but she comes off more likable than Harley because she’s focused, shows a considerate heart towards Harley, and isn’t the victim of bad jokes (more on that below). I also really like the scene of her dropping down into the police archives. She’s got some red shapes flying off the end of her cape, and it makes it look like flames. It’s a pretty touch. You see? I can find some things I like about Rossmo’s art.
But back to Harley, another big problem with her here, is how her humor is handled. There’s a random running gag in this comic about Harley wanting a monkey. Like, at random points in the story, she’ll just bring up how she wishes she had a monkey, and “if only she had a monkey.” I’m sorry, is this supposed to be funny? Just because it’s random? I don’t get it. In the very beginning of the book, as well, Harley has a long monologue trying to fool a cashier that she is not Harley Quinn, and instead a photographer, with an elaborate, absurd story behind that. This comedy also did not land for me. I feel that the key to comedy is delivery. I think if Harley hand a better “voice” in this series, a lot of the comedy would land better. This sort-of-normal voice that also tries to be cartoonish at times is not strong enough to carry out dialogue that just isn’t funny by itself. Making Harley list a huge amount of food she wants to buy, or randomly bring up monkeys seems like forced attempts of humor. They just make Harley feel insufferable in the book. I would really recommend writers try to give Harley some *clever* comedy, with set up and pay off, rather than comedy that relies on randomness.
After about two-thirds of the book, Harley finally switches back to a main character role again, and starts to really do something. She finds Verdict, and a big brawl ensues between the two, with Batwoman and the police officer joining in. It’s a really poorly drawn battle on Rossmo’s part. In the big spread, I don’t know what’s happening. Is Verdict kicking a can, while pushing Harley, while avoiding a punch from Batwoman? It just looks like a confusing mess.
I think Stephanie Phillips tries to compensate for the cluster of the fight scene, by giving Harley another deep, inner monologue throughout. This monologue is about masks. First of all, it’s a really weird tonal shift for Harley’s character, after she’s been portrayed as dumb as a rock throughout the entire book up until now. Now she’s giving us some deep introspective around “society,” and “masks” and her past? This doesn’t make it feel like there’s more behind the madness of Harley, at this point, it just makes the character feel inconsistent. I also don’t really see how it connects to the story – is it just to lead into the face that Verdict hides behind a mask? It doesn’t seem all that necessary. Some other points about the monologue that annoyed me.
- A reference to how Ivy would want Harley to wear a mask for “sexy” reasons. I just don’t find these recurring gags about how Harley and Ivy have fetishes for each other funny.
- Harley claiming Joker used to do things like tell her “she looked bad in blue” and make fun of her in front of his henchmen. Despite Joker being abusive to Harley, this isn’t really a common trait to their relationship. It’s actually just a stereotype for abusive boyfriend behavior in real life, and I think it’s lazy when writers reduce Joker/Harley to just stereotypes, forgetting their more unique characterization.
- Harley claims she puts on a mask to hide her pain, then put it away to show the world a new, hidden side to her. What does this mean? Harley’s still acting in the same crazy clown persona she had with Joker.
- You’ve always loved Harley because she’s random and annoying.
- Repeating “monkey” is funny to you.
- Batwoman is your favorite character.
This entire book was just frustrating for me to read. All the elements I like about Stephanie Phillips’ Harley seem to be missing. The comedy doesn’t work, and the one time we are treated to any character depth for Harley, we are given a monologue that doesn’t make sense. On top of that, the overall arc is as predictable as it comes. Come on, DC. I know you can do better for Harley.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News a free cope of this comic for the purpose of this review.