Deadpool Screws the – er, I mean Harley Screws Up the DCU is a strange book to be released right now. For one thing, it’s very similar in tone and style to the main Harley Quinn ongoing series, which is selling abysmally. For another thing, the very plot of the book is incredibly similar to the final arc that Stephanie Phillips wrote for Harley’s solo. Both stories concern Harley Quinn and a multiverse adventure with an older, more disheveled version of herself.
Will writer Frank Tieri make this series justify its existence? Let take a look.
A Good Premise?
On a positive note, Frank Tieri does a decent job setting up the premise of the book. Harley returns to Coney Island to meet her old friends. She discovers a time machine, and upon turning it on, she “messes up” the DC universe by creating a world where none of the heroes had ever come to be. It’s now up to her to go through time and fix every superhero origin to get the world back to normal. It sounds like a fun premise, but there’s a major aspect to this comic that I think ruins it. We will talk about that a bit later.
I enjoyed that Harley is portrayed as a bit of a menace to society (because she is). I enjoyed the simplicity and pacing of the comic in setting up its premise.
The art style was not my personal favorite, but it services the comic well. It’s meant to be simple and cute. Certain other elements like the thick eyelashes drawn on the characters and the fact that Harley is drawn as busty and bottom-heavy give the comic a kind of “adult Looney Tunes” feel. It’s what this comic wants to be, whether you’re into that or not.
The main thing this comic is concerned with is the humor and quirkiness of it all. Well, what can I say about that? If you think Starro being referred to as “Mera’s contraceptive” is funny, then this is the comic for you. I’d consider that joke at least one of the more attention-grabbing ones. Most of the book relies on references and jabs at New Jersey.
It’s obvious that this book is attempting a complete return to the work of Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Connor on Harley Quinn. With that, it’s carrying over all the many problems with that series. There are plenty of times I can judge humor that’s not for me as still being funny to other people. Guardians of the Galaxy also has humor that isn’t for me, but it’s a legitimate humor style that I wouldn’t criticize the movies for, objectively. It’s simply for other people. But the humor that the Palmiotti’s introduced for Harley Quinn?
The beginning of this book opens up with a reference on how Harley is going to have to poop. It’s immediately followed by a two-page joke about how one of Harley’s “friends” is “grabbing her *ss” without her consent. I remember this joke being told a lot during the Palmiotti/Connor run, and I don’t get the humor behind it. Is it funny because it’s groping? There’s always been this weird mix of childishness and raunchiness to these books. It’s like you’re reading a comic meant for a little kid with adult humor and sexuality in it. I’ve always found that incredibly off-putting.
The Elephant in the Room
Ok, I know what everyone is thinking about this comic. “Harley Screws Up the DCU” is clearly a rip-off of the old Marvel series “Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe,” released about a decade ago. A lot of people, for years, have accused DC of turning Harley Quinn into a female Deadpool. If you think that, well, you are right.
In an excerpt written by Jimmy Palmiotti in Harley Quinn’s 30th Anniversary trade, he described the inception of his run on the character: Dan Didio had been hearing from comic shop owners that Deadpool had been selling really well. One suggested DC use Harley Quinn to compete with that popularity.
“Dan Didio had been talking to retailers… when one of the retailers mentioned that Deadpool was doing great for Marvel, so why wasn’t DC doing a Harley book?” – Harley Quinn: 30 Years of the Maiden of Mischief Deluxe Edition.
So… there you have it. DC saw a fad, and they changed Harley Quinn to capitalize on it. But I’m here wondering, isn’t that fad over now?
Harley Quinn as DC’s Deadpool
Harley’s New 52 run sold incredibly well, but it was also probably the most vocally hated thing that DC had ever done with the character. That is understandable: Harley had been a very popular character, just not popular as a solo character like DC had hoped. She never had that much in common with Deadpool. Turning Harley into Deadpool changed her entirely. However, as I’ve explained in this review, I don’t think the type of humor the new Harley presented has ever actually been good.
I think it was merely high-selling because that “lol so random” style of humor was popular at the time. The fascination with Harley Quinn as “the sexy but crazy girl” was also at an all time high. Knowing comic book fans as I do, I also wouldn’t be surprised if some of those sales came from fans who hated the book, but couldn’t stop buying their favorite character.
Where Are those Sales Now?
The important thing I’m getting at here is, whatever sales success that series had, it did not last. Harley’s mainstream comics have not sold well in many years. When I listen to what people are saying about why they don’t like Harley anymore, it always regards how loud, vapid, and at times, disgusting she’s become in comics.
I also think DC has been mistaken to think that this style for Harley Quinn is ever going to become mainstream. Birds of Prey was a movie that tried to introduce the “Deadpool” direction into films. It did not connect with audiences at all. I myself remember getting into comics during the 2010s and being confused at why Harley acted completely different in comics compared to everywhere else.
A fad is a fad. I think turning Harley Quinn into a female Deadpool did more long term harm to her than good. So here I am, looking at yet another series that’s trying to capitalize on the “Harley Quinn is Deadpool fad” of the mid 2010s, and I’m thinking that DC really needs to move on from it.
- Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Connor are your favorite Harley Quinn writers.
- Deadpool is your favorite Marvel character.
This story has a good premise. It’s a series that I would hope would be fun. However, it appears that this comic is just going to resort to bottom-of-the-barrel toilet and sex jokes to fill out its pages. In my opinion, this is the exact opposite of what the Harley Quinn character needs right now. However, I’m going to have to take this series for what it is going forward.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News a free copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.