Harley Quinn #58 – Sam Humphries, Writer; John Timms, Artist; Alex Sinclair, Colorist
Ray – 9/10
Corrina: Christmas With Depth
Ray: Ever since Sam Humphries jumped on Harley Quinn, this title has been going big. From Apokalips to Lord Death Man to the collapse of DC continuity itself, there’s been a legit superhero threat every issue. For this Christmas special in Harley Quinn #55, though, Humphries dials it back while managing to confront Harley with one of the hardest foes she’s ever faced. Harley’s always had a contentious relationship with her family, although Humphries’ work with Harley’s mother has been excellent and improved that relationship a lot. Now, Harley’s mother has decreed that the entire family will spend Christmas together, and Harley’s less than thrilled. Sure enough, as soon as the family shows up things soon descend into chaos. Harley’s dad is trying too hard to add levity, Harley’s oldest brother has become a death metal fan, another brother is sending drones all over the house, and her youngest brother is a rambunctious tween. Chaos ensues, and soon all of Harley’s holiday prep goes down in hilarious fashion.
But then, after a typical Harley temper explosion, the family drops a bomb about exactly why Harley’s mom wanted them all together that took me completely by surprise. It’s a major dose of mood whiplash that will strike right at the heart of anyone who’s dealt with this particular health crisis, and as soon as it’s revealed the issue takes a very serious and realistic tone. Do the two halves of the issue exactly work together? I’m not sure, but it really doesn’t matter. The first half is hilarious, and the second half is heartfelt and emotional without being overly hopeful or overly grim. While Palmiotti and Conner did amazing work in elevating Harley to a franchise character, I have to say it’s Humphries who really has me invested in her world in a way no other creator has managed. This isn’t just a great Harley Quinn run, it’s a great character run and the added depth Humphries has given her will help make her a major player in the larger DCU.
Corrina: Slapstick humor has never been my favorite style of humor so while I can see that the first part of this issue should be funny, it didn’t feel funny to me. But then the story drops the bomb about Harley’s mother facing a fight against lung cancer, and it instantly adds depth and weight to those comedic scenes.
That, in a nutshell, is why this run works. Not only do we see Harley do zany, weird, and even terrifying things, but those are not done in isolation: We see the driving motivations behind them and often they’re touching, sweet or, like this issue, sad. I’m sure anyone who has dealt with the sometimes difficult medical establishment on the behalf of a beloved friend or relative has had fantasies like the one Harley has this issue at some point in the treatment plan.
Palmiotti and Conner’s run often did this type of juxtaposition as well but, with creative team changes, that was lost along the way. (And, not coincidentally, the lack of this depth is why Old Lady Harley works not at all.)
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.