Harley Quinn #17 review | Batman News

Harley Quinn #17 review | Batman News


Today, we reach the final chapter of the “Verdict” storyline in Harley QuinnAs well as the last Riley Rossmo, this issue will feature his art. While today’s issue might not be the worst one I’ve read in this series, it’s certainly a strange comic, and one that makes my overall opinion of the story arc worse. 

It starts off with a dream sequence of Harley fighting Verdict in a boxing match, which after reading the full issue, I don’t really understand the point of it. These dream sequences can be used to develop characters, for foreshadowing and for comedy or as filler. I believe this dream sequence is the latter. It really doesn’t say anything about Harley and Verdict, apart from they have a conflict and Harley’s obviously not happy about getting shot. What’s strange about this entire arc is that, despite it revolving around the fact that Verdict has a beef with Harley, Harley still doesn’t have much connection with her or the conflict at all. After Batwoman saved her, she stopped worrying about her identity being cleared by the police. Kevin, not Harley, had a personal connection with Verdict and discovered her identity. Kevin was the one who had to go through all of her heartache after her identity was revealed. It’s also Kevin who… well that would be getting ahead of myself.

Back to Harley, after her nightmare, she resumes acting like a crazy toddler who doesn’t have all that much concern over the situation that is occurring. She has a constant bright smile on her face while Kevin explains his devastation over finding out Verdict’s true identity, and over the fact that he trusted her and put Harley in danger. But Harley doesn’t seem concerned at all, no. She’s all smiles and goes into a very odd monologue about how “you just can’t stop trusting people.” I mean, I don’t think Kevin was going to completely stop trusting people over this, he’s upset he put Harley in danger and that someone he thought he loved betrayed him. Harley’s reaction does not feel like the natural reaction anyone would have over their best friend’s girlfriend trying to murder them. It’s gotten to the point where, to me, Harley doesn’t feel like an actual character anymore, not in the way she’s acting in this scene, and not for the rest of the comic.

Our protagonists then find out that Verdict has threatened to blow up the city council building because she’s angry about the innocent people that have been killed by the corrupt system of Gotham, so her solution is to go and kill some innocent people. I kind of  liked Verdict to a very small degree in the last issue because I thought it interesting that she didn’t seem like an actual evil villain. She was a regular person who couldn’t seem to realize she had lost her way and become too extreme. But all that’s out the window for this issue, Verdict is nothing more than a maniacal cartoon character, complete with an insane, villainous speech that makes her sound like a parody of a comic book villain.

Speaking of dialogue, Batwoman and Harley go on their way to stop Verdict, and we get a multiple page spread of Harley gabbing on and on and on to Batwoman with random, forgettable dialogue that’s really about nothing. And this won’t be the first time the story focuses on Harley going on a long meandering rant about nothing either. This kind of dialogue seems to be a staple of Stephanie Phillip’s Harley Quinn now, but I really don’t understand why. It’s not funny. In fact, it’s a chore to get through.  By the time I was finished with the comic, I realized it’s probably being put in there for filler for the character. Just look at it all.

I was browsing Youtube the other day and saw some old clips. Gotham Girls Listen to Arleen Asrkin play Harley on web-cartoon. It brought back the joy of her cheerful, vulnerable, and yet optimistic portrayal of Harley, which made her both funny and sympathetic. I don’t get any of that from the current dialogue in this book. It’s like a three-year-old screaming in your ears, not because they have anything to say, but because they want attention. DC, Harley should be one of the most loved characters. Put a little more care in how she’s presented. 

To return to the main story, however, all these strange character steps, filler scene and filler dialog are meant to lead to Harley attacking Verdict. The fight is brief, and it quickly results in Verdict getting the upper hand, that is, until…

Spoiler

Verdict is distracted when Kevin makes a speech and catches her off guard to deactivate her bomb. Kevin wins Verdict but Harley gets the last punch because she is the main character of this book. 

So, what’s my problem with all of this? Well, I’m looking back on the whole Verdict storyline, and I’m just baffled by it. Why did the police lock Harley up for Verdict’s crimes with no trial or further investigation? Batwoman freed Harley from prison and she behaved like a child in a toy store, losing most of her investment.  Why didn’t she ever develop a personal connection with Verdict when this entire storyline was supposed to be Verdict vs. Harley? Why does Harley react with a big smile on her face when she finds out Verdict, who tried to murder her, is Kevin’s girlfriend? Verdict’s storyline began as the most predictable mystery in comics, to then be revealed as a potentially more nuanced character, to then being a total parody of a Saturday morning cartoon villain. This story can be collected in a trade. How could I recommend it?

The end is what makes this story the most bizarre. After Harley is pardoned by the police (and goes on her second long babbling fest about espresso machines, or something) she goes on a long speech about how far she’s come. I predicted this, since every arc in this series has ended with Harley essentially saying “no matter what anyone says, I’m a hero now,” which she does here. What has Harley learned and what makes her proud in this story arc is what? As I’ve already outlined, a big problem throughout the entire plot is Harley’s lack of investment in everything that was happening, and how the story seemed to want to focus on other characters instead. Harley wasn’t the character who formed a personal connection with Verdict, and she wasn’t the one who defeated her either. But Harley talks now as if she’s finally made a triumph in becoming the good person she hasn’t been in a very long time, and I’m not seeing that arc anywhere in this story.

In the end, Harley claims she’s happy for the friends that believe in her, and that most of all, she’s going to keep clowning around and is PROUD to be Harley Quinn.


This is what I use to send my head spinning, more than any other thing in the comic.

Ever since Harley’s first origin, the idea behind her “Harley Quinn” persona has been that it’s something she adopted to impress the Joker and make herself more like him. This idea has remained a standard for many decades. Since DC has wanted to reform Harley, they’ve always tried to have their cake and eat it too by having Harley hate Joker, try to be a hero, but still be in that silly, clown themed persona. This scene is the first time comics have addressed this issue. However, it draws attention to the fact Harley is now a walking oxymoron. How can she spontaneously talk about how far she’s come in her reform, AND proclaim that she is proud that she is Harley Quinn? All the way back to Joker War, Harley has faced problems and attacks BECAUSE people are seeing her as Harley Quinn and as a “clown,” and continuing to demonize her and associate her with the Joker because of it. How does it make any sense for her to still be Harley Quinn, and to be proud of that, when she’s trying to reform and get people to trust her? Stuff like this insults the intelligence of a reader, and is very blatant proof that the “Harley Quinn the superhero” direction never made any sense.

The artwork is the last thing I want to discuss for this comic. As I said, this issue is important because it is the very last time Riley Rossmo will be doing the artwork on Harley’s solo title. All I can say about that is: it should’ve happened sooner. Rossmo made Harley look smaller, rounder, and more irritating than her writing by drawing her with a banana-smile. I particularly winced at the panel near the beginning where Harley puts on a big, smug, smile during the dream sequence, when you know there’s absolutely nothing of substance in her head. I’m looking forward to the next issue with a new artist, where hopefully that will help the storytelling along, and it’ll be nice to see Harley and Kevin look like actual people.

After only one issue, I realized that the pink-and-blue, dip dyed hair is back. We’ve had this look for 6 years now, and it really clashes with Harley’s red and black outfit, so from now on I’ll be reminding DC to “let go of the pink and blue hair.”

Recommended if…

  • You’ll buy anything with “Harley Quinn” on the title. It is the only reason why you should purchase this comic.

Overall

Look, I’m a reviewer. My job is not to judge entertainment but to help people decide if it’s worth their time. This just isn’t. The story and characters are not coherent or make sense. Although the storytelling attempts to be deep through monologues and other instances, it is really very shallow. We’re nearing Harley’s 30th anniversary celebration, and I’m reminded that the character exists because fans reacted so positively to her concept and personality from just one guest appearance in Batman: the Animated Series. And well, if Harley was written in that show the way she is being written now, the character wouldn’t exist at this point.

Score: 2/10


Disclaimer: Batman News received a copy from DC Comics to review the comic.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.