I’m not usually a fan of these various DC holiday anthologies. They often times feel like quick, low-effort work, and don’t seem to attract many readers. However, every once in a while, you might find a gem or two inside. Will there be some gems here? Will DC’s Harley Quinn Romances prove to be a solid book for a recommendation after all? Let’s take a look!
Stranger Than Fiction by Alexis Quasarano with art by Max Sarin
I swear, I’m not secretly paying people at DC Comics to write Harley and Ivy stories this badly. The plot of this story is that Poison Ivy is attending an event that’s very important to her. However, she keeps getting interrupted by Harley who demands that Ivy drop everything immediately to read the fan fiction Harley has written, imagining if she and Ivy had met in high school. That’s it. That’s the plot.
We get some fantastic art by Max Sarin that’s wonderfully cartoonish and expressive, but everything else in the comic is filled with all the cringey dialogue and horniness you’d expect from a piece of Tumblr fan fiction. I found the way Harley was simultaneously infantilized and sexualized as a character to be especially off-putting. Childish or not, who writes fan fiction about their own relationship?!
Here’s to Jack, Here’s to Molly by Zipporah Smith with art by Will Robson
Batman’s out on night-watch this Valentines’ Day, and it reminds him of how alone he is. A mission to save a couple in Gotham reminds him of the reason he fights for Gotham, no matter his own pain, however. That’s all there really is to the plot, but I was pleasantly surprised by this story. I’m glad someone found a way to write a touching story about why there’s meaning to what Batman does, when this special could’ve easily been another story of Batman pining over Selina Kyle. The artwork by Robson is consistent and solid, too.
The only thing that held this story back was the dialogue. Smith tried to inject some intentionally on-the-nose dialogue between the couple Batman saves that’s supposed to be funny, but it read more cringey to me and disrupted the overall tone of the story.
All-American Boy by Amanda Deibert with art by Adriana Melo
I’ve long been a fan of Adriana Melo’s artwork, and she does a great job with this comic. There’s a lot that happens here, both with the drama and the action, and the panels are laid out in creative ways to try to make it all fit, but still be cohesive. I have fixed feelings on the story, however.
It’s all about Power Girl getting into a relationship with Jimmy Olsen. We get to see the beginning, middle, and ending of their relationship all play out in a very compressed way. This pairing idea is fresh and complicated, and I feel it would have been better explored across an entire arc rather than squeezed into a small comic in an anthology. Perhaps there would never be an opportunity for that though?
Grace by Frank Allen with art by John McCrea
As a change of pace from the more brightly colored and positively written stories in this collection, this one is scrappily drawn, moodily colored, and tragic. Pretty fitting for a story set in the world of Constantine.
What we get is a story where Deadman leaves Constantine to go on a blind date. It sounds like a boring premise, but it morphs into a very sad story of “what could have been.” My only criticism is that this story does rely on the reader having prior knowledge of the characters and their relationships. As someone who hasn’t read too much from either Constantine or Deadman, I was a little lost.
Dating App Disaster by Rapheal Daccon and Carolina Munoz with art by Ig Guara
Ig Guara presents some incredibly pretty artwork for this story with attractive characters and colorful backgrounds. However, I really did not care for the plot. It’s the “Galentines Day” themed story in the group, but it mostly focuses on Fire and Ice exploring a superhero dating app. There is tons and tons of dialogue to read through to explain the app and the process of using it, as well as some of the potential dates. Despite the innocent message that love can come in many different forms (including friendship), I thought this comic was an overall chore to get through.
Across the Multiverse by Greg Lockard with art by Giullo Macaione
Once again, we are presented with some overall gorgeous colors and artwork for this Midnighter and Apollo tale. My only complaint would be that sometimes the character designs were a little inconsistent. (Apollo appeared with full cheeks in the beginning and sucked out cheeks by the end). Aside from the artwork, there isn’t much actual story or stakes in this entry. It’s mainly an explanation of Midnighter and Apollo’s unbreakable bond and undying love, which could be good for readers who are unfamiliar with either character. Apollo is out to rescue Midnighter, but the story is so focused in the pairs’ confidence in each other, there’s no fear that things won’t work out.
I must say, I think DC struggles in terms of writing LGBT couples. It seems each story needs to become a celebration of said couple rather than a story in its own right.
Once Upon a Romance Novel by Jessica Berbey with art by Priscilla Petraites
Kite-man stars in a story all about him being lonely on Valentines’ Day. He picks up a harlequin romance novel to make himself feel better and begins to have fantasies about being the buff male love interest from the book. This entry really reminded me of a Johnny Bravo cartoon, and like Johnny Bravo, Kite-man really straddles the line between funny and sympathetic and obnoxious. The artwork is very well-detailed and three dimensional, however. The twist at the end did get me to laugh as well.
I can’t say I really get the recent interest in Kite-man, though.
Splendor in the Foam by Ivan Cohen with art by Fico Ossio
I found this entry to be very badly done both in terms of story and artwork. The plot is that Harley Quinn crashes a Galentines Day party for female heroes and starts randomly asking the girls if they’ve ever had a romantic encounter with Aquaman (they all apparently have). Each woman then shares her story, and we have an entire session of DC women mooning over how hot and incredible Aquaman is. As they argue over when each story could have happened, Harley openly asks questions referencing the DC multiverse. “Did this happen Pre-Crisis or Post-Crisis?” Yet all the girls behave as if they know what she is talking about. It was some very random and odd fourth-wall breaking.
The artwork was generally pretty garbled-looking, and many of the pages were overstuffed with panels and imagery, making it hard to follow. This is the story that the cover is based on, but it’s unfortunately one of the worst of the collection.
- You want quick romantic reads with DC couples.
- Midnighter, Apollo, Kite-man, Fire, and Ice are characters you think need more love.
This anthology is a mixed bag. I was glad I read some of the stories, others were passable, and a couple were just terrible. I wouldn’t say drop everything and go out and buy this book, but you probably won’t be mad if you read it either. Just skip the first and last stories.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.