Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Harley Quinn #2 Review


Written By: Stephanie Phillips
Art By: Riley Rossmo
Colors By Ivan Plascencia
Letters By: Devon Bennett
Cover Art By: Riley Rossmo
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: April 27, 2021

Harley Quinn #2 explores a little psychiatrist envy as a 9-foot Hugo Strange is inexplicably put in charge of Gotham's Secure and Fearless Engagement program (S.A.F.E.) by Mayor Nakano to rehabilitate wayward clowns. Almost instantly, the program gets abused by Gotham's citizens ("my neighbor is a clown... take my word for it.") and Hugo Strange, himself. When an anonymous tipster informs Strange Harley Quinn is in town, Harley and smiling-chin-Kevin find themselves on the run.

Was It Good?

Issue #1 was a diamond in the rough. From Rossmo's funhouse anatomy style to the hyper-zany Harley personality, there was at least a seed of a good story in there if you can make it past the surface flaws.

In this second issue, the seed hasn't sprouted. It's gone moldy and sunk deeper into the dirt.

Somebody somewhere sent out a memo to DC and Marvel writers telling them to infuse more energy into their characters. "Stop being so dreary and dour," the memo probably states.


If you like Rossmo's art, this is more of what you like. If you hate Rossmo's art, you'll still hate it.

Let's get into it.

What's It About?

One-eyed Mayor Nakano holds a press conference to announce the formation of the SAFE program to help rehabilitate current and former clowns. The newly-appointed head of SAFE is a grotesquely large and tall Hugo Strange (I'm not kidding. He's around 9-ft tall in this comic.)What prompted anyone in the Gotham government to think Strange would be the right person for the job is a mystery lacking in any sense or judgment, but here we are.

Harley Quinn sees the news on a TV in a coffee shop and pitches a royal fit, which of course, gets her thrown out. She's upset because she's the psychologist Gotham needs to fix the clowns and set things right.

Disappointed at getting kicked out of the coffee shop without her coffee, she runs into smiling-chin-Kevin on the street. Smiling-chin-Kevin has an assortment of coffee choices that he got Harley so she wouldn't miss her daily caffeine fix. Here, you see that smiling-chin-Kevin is a kind soul who achieved clown status more from loneliness and coercion rather than a tainted heart.

Harley tastes the first coffee she's handed and promptly smashes it on the ground. "WHAT KIND OF PSYCHO DRINKS COFFEE WITHOUT SUGAR!" she screams in smiling-chin-Kevin's face. If it wasn't clear by now, Phillips pushes the zany version of Harley squarely into obnoxious, bratty child territory. The intent is unclear. The result is a thoroughly unlikeable and tiresome character.

Smiling-chin-Kevin calms lil' Harley down by handing her a caramel latte, and they go for a walk. Suddenly, smiling-chin-Kevin has a flashback moment when he sees a burned-out storefront. It's the same storefront he torched during the Joker War, and he feels deep regret over his action, especially because he believes somebody was inside the building when he set the fire.

From a therapy viewpoint, carrying the guilt of committing a crime that inadvertently turned into a much bigger crime can be a very heavy burden. Smiling-chin-Kevin is clearly traumatized by the experience, and lil' Harley suggests they go into the store to look around.

Keep in mind, Smiling-chin-Kevin's guilt is amplified by his fear there was somebody in the building. Whether there was or wasn't is never addressed again. Some plot points should be started and left open as part of the cliffhanger, but this isn't one of them. Not clarifying whether or not smiling-chin-Kevin inadvertently killed someone creates more frustration with this issue rather than anticipation for the next.

Cut to the SAFE headquarters where Hugo Strange has almost immediately started abusing the power of his position by experimenting on people suspected of being clowns. When confronted by one of his prisoners who claim they're there because of a lie from a disgruntled neighbor, Strange replies "honestly, it makes no difference to me."

Why was Strange put in charge of SAFE? We know he was released from prison at the end of the last issue to clean up the clowns, but you'd have to essentially corrupt every member of the Gotham government to make Strange's appointment happen. It's accepted lure that Gotham has a deep corruption problem, but this move strains credibility. If Nakano knows Strange doesn't care about cleaning up clowns, and this appointment is simply an excuse to return to experimenting on humans, what is the goal here? It makes no sense other than as a contrivance to get under lil' Harley's skin, and it's not a very good one.

During one of his mustache-twirling (err... beard-twirling?) diatribes, one of Strange's assistants comes in to tell him lil' Harley has been spotted in Gotham. "She's a clown, so bring her in," he orders.

Lil' Harley and smiling-chin-Kevin continue to root through the wreckage of the storefront that smiling-chin-Kevin torched. While they sort through the odd pile of singed knickknacks, two of Strange's men show up and try to capture lil' Harley. Again, we see an unbelievable display of strength and prowess from lil' Harley as we did in the first issue in her fight against Killer Croc. Lil' Harley is not only able to incapacitate two large brutes that are three times her size and weight, but lil' Harley apparently has super strength and is able to hurl one of the brutes 15-20 feet through a storefront window with a single back kick.

Harley ties up the brutes and steals their van, which apparently has a tricking device activated.

Bits and Pieces:

Harley Quinn #2 is loud, childish, unbelievable, and unlikable. Whatever hope for a smart, fun, interesting take on the character hinted at from the first issue is wholly absent here. Perhaps issue #3 can get back on track.


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