I’m not gonna lie, I had a hard time starting this review. The reason? In short, this book isn’t good enough to make me recommend it to anyone, but it’s really not bad enough for me to be upset with it. Well, that last part goes for everything except one very important element that I’ll discuss soon enough.
First off though, we get more of an explanation of what this story arc is all about. Harley and crew get into trouble up in space, trying to carry out Luke Fox’s plan. Down on earth, Lucius Fox confronts his son over this mission he has set up and how Luke’s been covertly using company funds for it. We get a poetic moment where Lucius warns Luke for his actions and tells him that he is not invincible, using an “Emperor’s New Clothes” analogy.
By now, I’ve become well-acquainted with Stephanie Phillip’s writing style. It’s shallow, and shallow, and shallow, but then she’ll make a hard attempt at actual character depth. The problem is, I’m not sure that Phillips truly understands how to do deeper storytelling. I think Lucius’s “Emperor’s New Clothes” speech is unnecessarily poetic, and barely ties into what is going on in the story. It feels like it’s written by someone who’s read deeper writing in comics and is trying to achieve that themself, but truly doesn’t understand how. This has been a recurring pattern from Phillip’s Harley Quinn: these attempts to sound deep when there’s no real substance behind what’s being said.
As I said before, however, most of Phillips writing for Harley Quinn is shallow, and that’s most of what you get here. The plot proceeds, steadily, as Harley, Verdict, and the rest evade a missile launched at them by the government. There’s bickering between the crew and Harley, one of the members sacrifices themself, they end up on the moon, etc. It’s all pretty passable stuff, and it’s carried by some very passable art.
I’m still relieved the art isn’t being handled by Riley Rossmo, but I’m conflicted about the presentation of the current artist, Georges Duarte. He’s chosen a very simple art style and layout as a follow up. I don’t have any complaints about the proportions of the art. It’s very consistent. Duarte also continues to use a minimal amount of panels for each page, which makes the action easy to follow, and the entire comic a quick read. On the one hand, that’s refreshing after how confusing Riley Rossmo’s work was. But on the other hand, I find myself still wanting more from the artwork. I look back at the work of Terry Dodson, Chad Hardin, Sam Basari, Amanda Connor, Joe Quinones, and more, and they have a distinct style and personality to their drawings for the Harley Quinn book… Even the cover art for today’s issue by Jonboy Meyers gives this sharp edged, detailed, and determined look to Harley, making her feel like she’s in an action comic. Duarte’s art is so simple it serves the purpose of telling the story, but I don’t think it elevates the book as far as it could go. (Fantastic art can carry a lackluster story halfway further!)
In all honestly, when I take the simple artwork and the lackluster writing together, this comic series really feels like something I’d find in a cereal box. The writing and artwork aren’t great enough for a nearly five dollar comic at a comic shop. It’s also not bad enough to be offensive either. Except for one thing: Harley Quinn.
I mean, holy crap.
Harley’s writing is totally, absolutely insufferable for this entire comic. She’s the sole person creating conflict amongst the crew with her non-stop annoying chatter, her sudden penchant for garlic food, her insensitive attitude, her pop culture references, etc. I thought the jokes about Harley having bad breath and stuffing Italian food up her nether regions to save for later (which started last issue) made her gross and a jerk. Her pop culture references sound like Stephanie Phillips talking through Harley to reference how much this arc reminds her of other sci-fi movies. Harley takes nothing seriously and adds absolutely nothing to the mission apart from annoying people, so why ever did Luke Fox bring her abroad? She starts an inner-monologue, pretending she’s Captain Kirk, while everyone continues to treat the mission with the gravitas it deserves. It makes Harley seem all the more unlikable.
But the worst moment from the entire comic occurs when one of the team members, “Dreadbolt,” sacrifices himself for everyone else and his corpse ends up on the window of the ship. Harley’s reaction? Doing a long monologue telling jokes about the matter. I mean, this most definitely is something Harley would have done during her villainous years. Making jokes about death and murder is Joker and Harley’s whole schtick as villains. But this is the 19th issue of a comic series created with the intention to turn Harley into a somewhat trustworthy hero. Stephanie Phillips’ Harley is nothing more than a giant, insensitive, selfish creep. To think there was a push to declare Harley Quinn to be a feminist icon and a role model to young girls a few years ago!
- Comics that come in cereal box’s are your favorite.
- You want to see Luke Fox get more of a spotlight.
- You hate Harley Quinn, and this comic will validate you on that.
Task Force XX is a subpar series thus far. It seems like a definite case of quantity over quality in terms of DC capitalizing off of Dark Crisis and Harley Quinn’s 30th Anniversary. However, for a character getting ready to celebrate 3 decades of existing, I’m not seeing the love for Harley in this writing. She has no purpose on this mission so far. Her writing is insufferable and completely devoid of anything I ever liked about the character. If I was first introduced to Harley with her being written like this, I’d have never become a fan in the first place.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.