This series is in an unenviable position. I’ve talked about this before, but there is only so much Tee Franklin is able to do with a story set between seasons of a show with ongoing plotlines. She can’t progress anything going on in the show because that all needs to happen on TV, and she can’t start any meaningful plots of her own, because they can’t do anything that would upset the status quo. Ideally the way to handle this sort of thing would be to have a series of one-off adventures (history fun fact: that used to be what all comics were). What’s presented here is instead a drawn out plot where too often nothing of consequence happens.
If there’s one throughline that remains consistent, it’s Harley and Ivy’s relationship. It makes sense; it’s also probably the most consistent topic as the show as well. The way that manifests for Harley Quinn: The Animated Series: Legion of Bats! is usually starting each issue with a few pages of the two expressing their love for one another, verbally and physically. Over time this can feel repetitive, if nice, for those who like saccharine romance. This issue does, however, set itself apart by incorporating the obligatory love scene into the plot. Because Ivy is trying to hide the fact that she’s been meeting up with her ex, the morning romance becomes a way for her distract Harley from snooping into her activities. It adds an element of scandal to what is normally wholesome fluff.
The presence of Ivy’s ex seems to be one of the main plots of this miniseries, and I’m of a mixed mind about it. It manages to make their relationship into something interesting to read about, but possibly at the expense of characterization. I’ve talked before about how Ivy in these comics behaves differently than she does in the show, namely how she’s far more emotional. That gets taken to the extreme whenever Bella Garten is around. She almost behaves like a schoolgirl with a crush. It’s not absurdly unbelievable behavior for Ivy, but it can be discordant with the calm, reserved woman that we’ve seen over three seasons.
While the relationship drama is to be expected at this point, the subplot with Clayface and King Shark was a very welcome surprise. They’ve been very underutilized since the end of season 2, and this was a chance to get to see their wonderful dynamic again. The writing perfectly captures Clayface’s over-the-top personality and mannerisms. He chews the scenery of every page he’s in, which is a delight to watch. King shark plays is role as the straight man well too, contributing to a dynamic that makes all of their moments just fun. Honestly my only complaint with them is how little we get, and that they are mostly relegated to an unimportant side mission that ends up not meaning much.
Now, I need to talk about the art, because it’s possibly what stood out to me the most in this issue. Specifically, just how jarring it is. Shae Beagle draws the first seven pages, while Jon Mikel draws the back thirteen. The transition from one style to the next happens without any segue or reason. It’s smack dab in the middle of a conversation and completely takes you out of the story.
Beagle’s art is as lively and bubbly as ever, tying in to the frantic tone set by Franklin’s writing. It’s different from the show’s art style, but in such a way that better utilizes the comic medium than if it were 1:1. Mikel, however, is a major step down. I commented on the problems with his art in the last issue, but all of that is made all the more apparent when it’s put side by side with Beagle like this. The characters’ anatomy feels haphazard and the linework is sloppy. There are even times when speaking characters don’t even have faces drawn on them. It honestly reminds me of the kind of clipart you see in PowerPoint presentations.
One instance where Mikel’s art style hurts a lot is in the flow of action scenes. I mentioned in the last issue how the fight was difficult to follow. It turns out that that wasn’t a fluke, as the problem persists here as well. The characters make a big deal of fighting and following Lady Marabunta, but I the reader could barely follow along. Despite the fact that she walks around in a giant mechanical ant suit, it’s never made clear when she appears or leaves a scene. It’s all made worse by the fact that there is an imposter switch at one point, meaning that knowing exactly where people are is important, but it’s all just messy. The bank heist that comes next is much easier to follow, in part due to its simplicity. It’s also always nice seeing Damian and Dick banter, even if Franklin is no Grant Morrison.
I don’t have much to say about this since the comic just introduces Cass and then immediately ends the scene, but it definitely piques my interest, especially if it means we might see her in the show.
- You’ve been enjoying the love scenes between Harley and Ivy
- Not a lot needs to happen for you to like a story
- You’re ok with any and all art styles
Harley Quinn: The Animated Series: Legion of Bats! #4 continues to struggle to nail down what the story is actually about. It’s awkwardly caught in the middle between seasons of a show it can’t interact with. As a result the narrative is drawn out and inconsequential, despite some fun character interactions found within. The art is split between two wildly different artists’ styles, with the lion’s share going to the lesser of the two. It’s a mixed bag to say the least.
DISCLAIMER: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.