Harley Quinn #21 review

Today’s issue of Luke Fox begins with…oh wait, excuse me, let me restart. Ok, Today’s issue of Harley Quinn begins with Luke Fox running from the monster of his own creation. He has a lot of self-reflection on what has led him to this moment. It leads him to find an old, hidden lab of his where he rediscovers a super suit of his own creation. He basically goes through a character arc of realizing that good-old-fashioned “superhero-ing” is not only what the world needs, but what he himself needs.


Meanwhile, there’s a lot of running, action pieces, and fighting as Luke’s team escapes space, lands on earth, and has to fight their way to join up with him. Oh yeah, and I guess Harley Quinn is kind of in this book too.

Jokes aside, Harley’s role in this issue is better when compared to the past eleven issues of her solo for one simple reason: she actually does something! She’s the one who haphazardly finds the transporter to bring the team back to earth. She also winds up giving Luke Fox a sort of pep talk near the end of the chapter. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good pep talk. In fact, after reading it twice, it’s an absolutely terrible one.


Basically, Harley goes into psychiatrist mode and tries to help Luke Fox flesh out his guilt and his questions about his character. But Luke ends up doing most of the talking himself. Harley babbles about how “our personalities are more than just our collective hobbies.” I’m not sure how that relates to anything. It seems like forced filler. Luke comes to his own conclusions about what kind of man he wants to be and Harley tells him he can be that, telling him she’s read things that say he is very smart and good. With that, of course Luke can continue to be very smart and good. This is more of Stephanie Phillip’s way of trying to give Harley some nuance, and unfortunately it continues to fail because Harley’s not actually saying anything of substance, and Luke is the one who figures himself out on his own. Is this why Luke hired Harley? So she could emotionally validate him at his time of need, even though it seems he can do that on his own?

I must say, portraying Harley as this totally devoid, annoying sprite (that’s the best description I can give her at this point, because she really has no definition anymore) and then giving her deeper moments where nothing substantial is actually being said is not the way you create a character with nuance. But instead of just calling out that flaw, I’m going to give an example of how you do bring out depth in an otherwise silly, crazy character. I don’t consider the Karl Kesel Harley Quinn run to be great, but it did have some good moments. One moment that always stood out to me was in issue #1. The short version of what happens is, Harley is talking to one of Joker’s henchmen. The henchman questions Harley for her loyalty to Joker and why she doesn’t get out of this bad situation. Harley puts on her happy-go-lucky “Harley Quinn” voice and brushes the henchman’s questions off with banter until he leaves. Then Harley sheds a tear when she’s alone.

I know these are totally separate contexts, but in the latter scene, we see how Harley’s playful, carefree exterior and lack of self-awareness are just a front she puts on. She does feel legitimate pain for the place she is in her life, but it’s implied that there’s deeper, equally painful reasons for why she stays. This is how you take a character who seems shallow and you reveal there’s more to them. It doesn’t come from making her give equally shallow speeches. I must say, Harley’s speech to Luke feels like the writer remembering Harley should be given something to do in a book with her name on it, rather than coming from an organic place.

Before we close though, I must say something about the artwork. At a glance, there’s nothing really wrong with it. The shapes and character proportions seem fine. The coloring seems competent and natural to the settings. But on closer inspection, it seems that some character expressions and gestures don’t fit. Like Harley poking Luke’s nose when she tells him that alien is still out there (he’s not her boyfriend or her son, they have no real relationship). Or Luke giving a look like he has sinister intentions when he’s really at his hero climax.

I’m chalking this up to the fact that this book was clearly rushed. It still feels like a cereal box comic to me. Well, maybe it’s a bit worse than that.


Recommended if…

  • You’ve always wanted Luke Fox to get his own book but thought that would never happen again?
  • Actually, I really wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone, really.

Overall

Phew! Reviewing this book has been quite an undertaking. It’s like I have to give myself a harsh examination to remember what happened in each issue. This entire arc is really about Luke Fox, even though his story feels underdeveloped. It continues to show a lack of interest and understanding for its titular protagonist, even with some half-baked attempts to finally allow Harley to influence the story.

Score: 3.5/10


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