THIS WEEK: Harley Quinn makes it to the BIG THREE OH in Harley Quinn: 30th Anniversary Special.
Note: the review below contains spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdicts.
Harley Quinn: 30th Anniversary Special
Writers: Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Rafael Scayone, Stjepan Sejic, Stephanie Phillips, Kami Garcia, Paul Dini, Sam Humphries, Rob Williams, Cecil Castellucci, Mindy Lee, and Terry Dodson
Artists: Chad Hardin, Rafael Albuequerque, Stjepan Sejic, Riley Rossmo, Mico Suayan, Jason Badower, Guillem March, Erica Henderson, John Timms, Dan Hipp, Terry Dodson, and Rachel Dodson
Colorists: AlexSinclair, Marcelo Maiolo, Ivan Plascencia, Annette Kwon, and Tomeu Morey
Letterers: Dave Sharpe, Josh Reed, Pat Brosseau, Deron Bennett, Tom Napolitano, Saida Temofonte, and Clayton Cowles
Cover: Amanda Conner and Alex Sinclair
It’s almost hard to believe that it’s already been thirty years since the debut of Harley Quinn on. Batman: The Animated Series. Little did Bruce Timm and Paul Dini know that they were creating a character that would become as synonymous with the DC Universe as the villain she was introduced as a sidekick for. A breakout success on the cartoon led to her becoming one of the few characters in comics to successfully transition from other media into the pages of the monthly comics. Since then she’s grown as a character, leaving the Joker behind and finding love with Poison Ivy, as fraught as their relationship sometimes is. She’s also continued her success outside of comics, with appearances in several cartoons, three movies (and a fourth coming soon), video games, and animated films. She’s the breakout star of 1990s DC Comics, putting everyone else introduced in that era to shame with her success.
So why is it that, I, a perennial 1990s DC Comics junkie and evangelist, don’t really like Harley Quinn? Well I think the primary reason is that I’m just not a fan of fourth-wall-breaking characters most of the time. I think its a fine mechanic now and then, but with some characters, like Harley and her Marvel counterpart Deadpool, it’s a crutch that got relied on too long to try to make their books funny.
No, my favorite takes on Harley are ones that are a little more grounded in her being an engaged member fo the universe she’s in, rather than a knowing participant in a fiction. That’s why I was pleased to see my two favorite takes on Harley over the years make it into this celebration issue.
The first is Stjepan Sejic’s much more risque version of the character than usually sees print. I adored Sejic’s fan art of Harley and Ivy years ago, and was thrilled when he was given the chance to do a Black Label take on the character in his style and with his themes fo submission and bondage. It’s clear that he has a passion for erotic comics (check out Sunstone) and the fact that DC allowed him to bring that excitement into a book that celebrates thirty years of a character is admirable. This is very much the most adult of the entries in this volume, and very much delves into kink, so it’s not going to be for everyone, but I loved every minute of it. Sejic’s art is always soft and beautiful, really playing up feminine graces, while it was beautifully complimented by Pat Brosseau’s lettering, particularly the wavy lines of his word balloons, and the absolutely hilarious “Into it” and “Submissive” arrows towards the end of the story.
The other surprise inclusion for me was the Harley from Kami Garcia, Mico Suayan, and Jason Badower’s Criminal Sanity series. That series is my favorite thing Black Label has published so far, but I truly didn’t expect to see those versions of the characters ever again. What we were treated to here was a flashback, to the very beginning of that series, and one of the first cases Harleen consulted with the GCPD for. It also threw a wrench in my theories about the woman she was seeking vengeance for, as it’s made clear that despite visual similarities, that was not in fact the Criminal Sanity world’s version of Ivy.
Along with the two fantastic returns to those Black Label versions of the character, the Harley Quinn: 30th Anniversary Special has bits for traditional Harley fans too. Almost every major writer of the character has a bit in it, with the notable exception of Karl Kesel who helmed her first solo series. But whether its the goofy fourth-wall-breaking Harley, Suicide Squad Harley, grounded Harley, or the current wacky anti-hero version that you love, there’s a bit of everything in this issue.
- Dark Crisis: Young Justice continues to look at the history of the team and how that interacts with the characters we know and love today, for better or for worse. I’m sad that the reveal in this issue was spoiled by solicits because it’s a fun idea that I wouldn’t have seen coming had they not put it there.
- Batman/Superman: World’s Finest continues to just be an amazingly fun ride. Mark Waid is clearly having the time of his life in his return to DC Comics, and I couldn’t be happier for him. Coupled with amazing Dan Mora artwork in every issue, this book is a ca n’t-miss book each and every month.
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