Harley Quinn #16 review

You know, I enjoyed the first issue of G. Willow Wilson’s Poison Ivy so much as a great return to Poison Ivy’s roots (no pun intended). It really disappoints me going from that to the current Harley Quinn run where the character is so poorly written and so far away from her origins that she’s unrecognizable. The last issue of Harley Quinn, I said, was the worst issue I had read so far in the entire run. However, I’ve sort of had my eye on Harley Quinn #16 for a while, since Stephanie Phillips proclaimed it to be the “most favorite issue she’s written yet.” That’s gotta mean something, right?

Well, it’s interesting, because Harley Quinn #16 barely focuses on Harley at all, and it is dedicated to Verdict (A.K.A Sam) explaining Verdict’s backstory.


So we’re meant to believe, based on the beginnings of this issue, that Verdict isn’t all bad despite her actions. She’s revealed to be an ex-cop who was once tasked with transporting Harley to Arkham Asylum after Harley was found to be too annoying in prison (I’m not joking, more on that later). Apparently, Joker pays off some of the other police officers to free Harley, and her violent escape causes Sam to be injured and her partner to be killed.



I don’t have a problem with Sam’s writing during this sequence. After struggling to complete the last issue, I was actually invested in this one, curious as to what would be revealed. But, unfortunately, Harley’s writing is still really terrible. First of all, I can’t believe how far down Harley’s dialogue keeps falling. I complained about it just being nonsensical, unfunny, random chatter in the last issue, and that continues here. We’re meant to believe that Harley was just SO annoying (that she wouldn’t stop singing and talking) that it caused the higher-ups to want her transferred to an insane asylum. I thought that there was going to be some sort of narrative purpose for this, like Harley would be revealed to be acting like this all on purpose to orchestrate a crazy escape, and show she’s smarter than people estimate her to be, but no. She really doesn’t have a thought in her head during any of this, and Joker is the one who pays off the cops to let her escape.

I’d like to point out also that I really don’t like the way Rossmo draws Harley in the Jester suit. It looks weird with Harley’s domino mask seeming to be like a rim around Harley’s eyes. The jester suit should never look ugly like that. 

On a side note, I don’t have a problem with Joker being the one to give Harley an escape. I think that their relationship works best when writers allow for it to have nuance rather than just be a one note “Joker just doesn’t give a thought to Harley, ever.” The problem though, is that that’s exactly how their relationship was made out to be in the last issue. How can you have one comic where Harley claims her relationship with Joker was just abuse and neglect 24/7 and then have the following comic claim Joker would go through the trouble of buying out corrupt police officers to set her free? The problem isn’t just the writing in this comic, it’s just the inconsistency of the story as a whole.

Anyway, there’s actually not a whole lot to talk about for the rest of the story. Sam/Verdict explains that she was spurred to go on her killing spree after discovering the corruption in the GCPD. She murdered a corrupt cop and went on to kill anyone she thought deserved it. She rails against the Gotham City system as so many others have done for decades with how it is for releasing the criminals of Arkham, and allowing someone like Harley Quinn to run amuck calling herself a hero.



On the one hand, Sam kind of has a point. We get to see Harley, or Stephanie Phillips depiction of Harley, back in her days of villainy in this story, and she’s not a whole lot different than she is in current day. She was and is still a looney toon who did things for fun and completely lacked self awareness and consideration of the people she was hurting. The only difference is Harley seems to have some understanding that she should be trying to be good now, but it’s in the sort of shallow way where she’s trying to be good because the adults told her she should be, but still doesn’t really have much connection to reality or the real gravity of her wrong doing.

But Sam, on the other hand, really isn’t a character I can root for either. She doesn’t come across as evil, but she’s too much of a murderer for me to be on her side. So the result is I’m a bit apathetic over this whole situation. This comic isn’t terrible. It kept me invested enough to see the background of the story filled out and bring the arc up to its final issue. But it’s sort of a merry-go-round of everything we’ve seen so far. Harley tries to be a hero. Someone doubts Harley or gets Harley to doubt herself. Harley proves them wrong and continues being a hero. On and on.

I know I’ve kind of ripped apart this issue, but I was more engaged with it than the last chapter, at least. However, I’ve got to be honest about poor execution if I see it. There’s not a whole lot I think a person would get out of this run at this point, that they wouldn’t have already gotten from the first 4 issues of the series.

I realize I haven’t talked much about the artwork at all in this issue. That’s because I feel I’ve exhausted everything that could be be said about Rossmo’s art in relation to Harley in previous reviews. Some of the early pages in the book look like quickly drawn adult cartoons where the characters don’t have joints on their knees and their legs kind of bend in an arc. It reminds me of adult comic strips where things are made to look lazy and ugly on purpose. If you want to read more of my thoughts on why Riley Rossmo is a terrible fit for a Harley comic, check out my review for the first 12 issues here. The good news is, issue #17 is Rossmo’s last issue in this book (woo hoo!) I hope he finds a more suitable book for his artwork somewhere (Plastic Man, perhaps?).


Recommended if…

  • For whatever reason, you HAVE connected with Stephanie Phillips version of Harley.
  • You’re reading this story for Kevin, and he’s still the most likable character in this run.
  • You’ve been reading this comic and want to get answers for the Verdict storyline.
  • Riley Rossmo’s art is your style, and this is his second to last issue.


Overall

I didn’t hate this issue like I did the last one, but a lot of problems still persist in this book, and in the general writing of Harley Quinn at DC Comics. I swear, I’m not saying any of this to attack Stephanie Phillips. I also swear I’m not some Harley Quinn hater who secretly posed as a fan to get this review gig. I just have to call it as I see it, and if you’re looking for a quality book to follow, I’m afraid this isn’t the one right now.

Score: 4.5/10


Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News a free copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.