It’s another month and another Harley Quinn issue. Does this one prove that Tini Howard actually has what it takes to reinvigorate this character in comics again? Well, not exactly.
Years of Forgettable Content
I want to reiterate, this issue is far from the worst I’ve seen for Harley. However, recently I was working on a Youtube video that required me to sift through the kinds of stories that have been told about Harley for the past decade or so. I was reminded just how many completely disposable Harley Quinn stories there have been. Harley running for mayor, Harley starting a YouTube channel, Harley dealing with her mother’s cancer, Harley romancing Booster Gold – these are all Harley stories released in the mainstream since Rebirth came out, and they have all been completely forgotten.
I will say I think most writers were writing Harley with a far more obnoxious voice than Tini Howard does. When you’ve had so many years of poor quality content that people might have just been settling for, it makes sense that those fans would eventually get apathetic towards the character.
The Same Story As Harley Screws Up the DCU
There are still some things that hinder me from giving Tini’s run a passing grade, however. The main one is this: Tini is writing the exact same story as Frank Tieri is in Harley Screws Up the DCU. In both stories we have Harley doing something by accident that winds up crippling the heroes of the universe. That act ends up destroying said universe, and then she has to go and fix it. In this issue, Harley realizes the fish she pulled out of thin air actually belonged to Captain Carrot. By stealing it, she caused the near-destruction of his world. Now she has to return it to him to make things right.
This is so uncannily like Harley Screws Up the DCU – the mini series currently releasing parallel to this main run. I’m almost convinced a meeting took place at DC Comics, passing out the same idea to both Tini Howard and Frank Tieri to tell in their own ways. The fact that this is the third multiverse story Harley has gotten consecutively when she was never a character associated with the multiverse before makes it even more baffling.
Why is Harley Quinn a Teacher?
The other facet to this story is Harley’s new role as a teacher. It is an interesting concept, but unfortunately I’m really not seeing how it is contributing to the plot so far. I like the idea of Harley trying to clean up her act by using her education as a doctor again. The problem is that Tini insists on making Harley so incredible dumb and childish. In one panel we see Harley try to make a call and when she can’t get through she says, “Person? Operator?” It is as if she’s so foolish and childish that she can’t even make phone calls properly. Then one of her students comes in to ask her a question. Harley mentions how busy she is grading papers. How can I believe Harley can advise her students or grade papers when she’s portrayed as having the intelligence of Bullwinkle the Moose?
Now all of this might be able to be excused if we just wrote off Harley Quinn books as series aimed solely at kids. Maybe kids would enjoy the simplicity and nonsensical nature of these comics? The artwork is also incredibly bright and vibrant, yet simplistic. While I’ve read that some adults hate the artwork for that reason, surely kids might be drawn to it? The problem with that is that Tini Howard can’t help herself when it comes to peppering kinky sexual references throughout her script. These Harley books continue to suffer with the question of “who is this for?”
Nicole Maines and Mindy Lee deliver up a medieval-themed Harley Quinn story in the back-up. I have long been a fan of Mindy Lee’s drawings of Harley. She not only gives Harley the right amount of dimension and expression without being too over-the-top, but she also gives her a very balanced color palette that’s much more subdued than the intense colors of Sweet Boo’s art in the main story. This artwork also serves as yet another example of why Harley looks so much better solely with the red and black color scheme. We should do away with the blue and pink pastels crashing in.
I did not care for the story, however. This is may be the third time I’ve seen a writer attempt a plot based on “wouldn’t it be funny if Harley spoke in really exaggerated medieval talk using her already overdone and annoying voice?” Writers already struggle with giving Harley dialogue that is fun rather than obnoxious these days. Adding medieval dialogue to that really isn’t funny.
- You want to see Mindy Lee’s incredible art in the back-up.
- You think the sexual references in this book will go over your kid’s heads, and they’ll enjoy the issue regardless.
Tini Howard just isn’t the answer for DC’s Harley Quinn problem. She and Frank Tieri are just repeating the same multiverse storyline that doesn’t really fit with Harley’s character in the first place. DC needs to swing stronger in a different direction with the character now. Unfortunately, DC feels so apathetic towards their characters in general right now that I’m not sure when that will happen.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a free copy of this comic for the purposes of this review.