Harley Quinn #56 – Mark Russell, Writer; Mirka Andolfo, Artist; Arif Prianto, Colorist
Ray – 7.5/10
Corrina: It’s About Ethics In Pet Shop…Journalism!
Ray: Sam Humphries takes a one-issue break from Harley Quinn to allow Mark Russell to tell a story that has a lot of relevance to today’s issues in the comic book industry. It’s been impossible to avoid the presence of Gamergate and Comicgate in the comic news media over the last year, due to just how loud they are, although the good news is that the vast majority of the industry has stood with the people they’re targeting. They’re often cartoonishly evil with their antics, which makes them ripe for targeting for someone like Russell, who is one of the most prominent satirists in comics at the moment. The problem is, the real thing can be so cartoonish that it’s hard to imagine how to make the comic version more so – and that’s a problem Harley Quinn #56 never really gets over. The story, slight as it is, starts with Harley dealing with severe allergies due to a tenant who has dozens of trained cats that he used in his burglaries. He’s over the legal cat limit, so she offers to find his other cats good homes.
That’s where the trouble begins. She gives one to her favorite hot dog guy, and comes back to find him being beaten by a group of alpha bros. It turns out that the pet shop industry in Coney Island is run by “traditionalists” who have cornered the market and won’t let anyone else sell pets. They also insist that the pet industry was much better when only men were allowed to sell pets, and they have Very Strong Opinions about which pets are acceptable for men to own. Harley picks a big fight with them, and soon they’re brawling through the streets of Coney Island. By the end of the issue, this devolves into a bunch of zombie-like trolls yelling slogans from the Comicgate playbook. There’s some fun visual gags, and I liked how the book makes clear that a lot of these goons are dudes trying to overcompensate for their own insecurities. They’re pitiable cartoons, not the warriors they see themselves as. But while this issue definitely means well, it still lacks the style and depth of Humphries’ run. Can you really parody something that’s already a sad joke?
Corrina: Comicsgate and Gamergate are not sad jokes to the people who’ve received death threats, been doxxed, and driven off social media due to excessive harassment. Ask Chuck Wendig, who lost a gig writing Marvel Comics because of them.
Indeed, I would point to Comicsgate as part and parcel of the Incel movement and the geek version of the alt-right. They’re horrible but they’re not, unfortunately, laughable–they’re a problem that nearly all creators who are not straight-white-men have to deal with, even at just the annoyance level.
So a story that spouts their catch-phrases and has Harley Quinn beating them down? I’m pleased with that beyond measure because bringing these people out into the light and showing them as they are is necessary.
I’m also pleased that Russell unmasks these villains, showing them to be everyday people who’ve decided to think it catch-phrases rather than thinking at all. This is commentary beyond Comicsgate and targeted at the current political situation.
I predict panels from this issue will shortly become a meme in responses to Comicgate posts.
To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.