I need you all to understand, Harley Quinn has had some of the worst, most offensive content ever produced for a DC comic book character. I’m experiencing some of that right now in my reviews for Harley Screws up the DCU. So, when a comic comes out, and it’s just sort of painfully average with nothing gross or despicable in it… it’s kind of a relief. I’m, of course, referring to this current issue. However, while I wasn’t offended by anything in this comic, I don’t feel I should give it a pass either.
Here Tini is telling a story of Harley understanding what it means to sacrifice something in the midst of trying to get a spell from Zatanna to help her fend against Lady Quark. It’s a very harmless tale, albeit told at an incredibly surface level. As the summary above indicates, Tini is making sure that her run is defined by a lot of weirdness and randomness for the sake of it. A reader’s mileage will definitely vary on that.
Is Sweeney Boo the Right Artist for Harley?
With the negativity surrounding Tini as a writer, I thought that the artwork would be the saving grace of this series. After reading many of the reviews from the last issue, however, it appears I was mistaken. A lot of people really don’t like Sweeney Boo’s art. I suppose when I praised the artwork before, I was praising the art style. I think the anime style of art can be fitting for these more light-hearted comics, and it can be very expressive for a character like Harley as well. However, I see what people mean with their criticisms. Upon a second look, Sweeney does struggle with conveying movement in the action sequences. Dark pink and blue colors are filtered over most scenes, destroying the potential variety.
Also, I can understand the criticisms regarding Harley’s design. Her overly long pigtails and front teeth sticking out make her look like a rabbit. I also don’t know why DC is still stuck on giving Harley that mismatched cotton candy hair.
DC’s Continuous Harley Quinn Problem
My real problems with the issue come from the continuous problems DC as a whole has had with depicting Harley Quinn. These past few months, I’ve really been enjoying the voice Mark Silvestri gives Harley in Batman and Joker: The Deadly Duo. He conveys so much about her character just by her dialogue. She’s got the Sopranos-style voice that she was meant to have from the beginning. She has her own vulnerabilities and vices, yet she can also be tough and dangerous. Her puns and jokes come off as witty rather than forced. Moreover, I’ve talked to several comic book fans who’ve shared how much they love that portrayal as opposed to mainstream comics.
Harley isn’t written like that here. She isn’t written in the “girl Deadpool” fashion of the Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Connor comics either. She also isn’t written like the Kaley Cuoco version as I had originally thought. As best I can describe, Tini’s version of Harley comes off as a caricature of a teen girl. There’s not much personality conveyed by her voice because there doesn’t seem to be much personality to her in the first place.
That’s really frustrating to me. It’s what I’ve been talking about in my reviews from the beginning. We can talk all day about how Harley should be written, but DC’s trend to just allow Harley to be written as a completely different character by each new team of creatives is just bad business. It means whatever fanbase is gained by one versions is going to be lost by the next.
DC’s poor editorial care for Harley reveals itself in other ways throughout this issue, however. Remember in my last review how I was glad that Harley had returned to villainy? Here, she claims that her antics were merely the result of her feeling lonely for Ivy. Then, when DC recently released their announcements for the Knight Terrors event, Harley appeared in the comics dedicated to the villains. DC themselves don’t seem to know who they want Harley to be affiliated with. They just allow her to be everything to everyone all at once, and it doesn’t work.
Harley and the Other Heroes
Despite DC wanting Harley to be associated with the other heroes, they really can’t function with her in her current form. That’s because the rest of the characters of DC are written as humans and Harley Quinn has been turned into Bugs Bunny. During this issue, Harley visits Zatanna, once again. Zatanna greets her by saying, “Harley, what a pleasant surprise,” as if they are old friends. I can’t even remember Zatanna and Harley interacting much in comics apart from an issue of Harley’s Little Black Book years ago. Is Harley just besties with every hero in DC, despite them knowing she may turn to crime (or even killing) on a whim?
Later, Batman shows up. To his credit, he suspects Harley might be up to something bad. But Harley brushes off the fact that she was on her way to murder Two-Face as a sacrifice in order to get Zatanna’s spell. Batman lets that happen as she drags him off to get burgers and listen to her latest source of anxiety. Nothing about Batman feels in character here: not his dialogue, not the way he lets himself be dragged along by Harley’s whims, and not how personable he is with her. Harley treats Batman as a mentor figure in this comic. They have never been written to have this dynamic or closeness between them before, however.
I look at the character who is supposed to be Harley Quinn in this scene and I just wonder how we got here. Just as Batman is unrecognizable in this scene, so is Harley in current day comics.
A Good Story Idea…
With all that said, it’s unfortunate because I do think that Tini has a good idea for a story here as Harley is dealing with mental illness. That’s something that I believe a lot of people can relate to, especially in this day and age. It just doesn’t work, however, since Harley isn’t written with a defined mental illness – she’s just “quirky.” She just doesn’t have much to her anymore or anything that really makes her compelling. That winds up bringing down the characters around her as well.
The back up, unfortunately, is quite unreadable. It’s a wacky story of Harley’s hyenas being able to talk. They begin to tell her things that make her doubt who she is. It’s so off-the-wall in how it’s portrayed that it is hard to follow. The artwork is also garish and not what I would want from a silly Harley Quinn back up story. I had hopes for these back ups, but so far they haven’t been turning out.
- Over-the-top wacky comics are your cup of tea
- You want to see Batman and Harley eat burgers together
This comic is not the worst thing I’ve ever read for Harley. However, it’s really a let-down for me because of the continuous problems DC editorial has had with how they depict and market the character. I saw someone the other day saying that it’s been too many years of Harley being used this way for it to change. To that I say that time doesn’t necessarily matter. DC can write Harley with depth, consistency, and originality again any time they want to. They just have to choose to do so.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.