Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Harley Quinn #14 Review

The Hammer in the Slammer

Written by: Stephanie Phillips
Art by: Riley Rossmo
Colors by: Ivan Plascencia
Letters by: Andworld Design
Cover art by: Riley Rossmo
Cover price: $3.99
Release date: April 26, 2022

Harley Quinn #14 shows Harley trying (and failing) to adapt to prison life.  Meanwhile, Batwoman crosses paths with the killer who framed Harley.

Was It Good?

Harley Quinn #14 is okay.  It's not great, but there are things in this issue that could lead to a really good story.

The issue breaks down into three sections.  Harley's new status quo in prison, the introduction of Batwoman, and romantic bliss (or is it?) between Kevin and Sam.

First, we see Batwoman swooping in to investigate a court judge's murder.  The death involves having one of the judge's eyes scooped out, leading Batwoman and Oracle to conclude Harley was not the killer and maybe imprisoned wrongfully.  The full introduction and action sequence when she spots Verdict watching her plays out well, but it's here where Rossmo's art becomes off-putting.  Rossmo draws Batwoman with a long, horn-like chin that's so sharp you could open a can of tuna with it.  Why Rossmo chooses these exaggerated anatomy disfigurements is a mystery, and it doesn't serve the characters.  Does it hurt the story?  No, but it is a distraction.

Second, we see Harley adapting to prison life - bad clothes, bad food, and a bad reputation among her fellow inmates, courtesy of some unflattering tall tales by Punchline (who is referenced but does not appear in this issue).  The setup to get Hartley into prison was a series of nonsensical contrivances that reek of lazy writing (see the review for issue #13).  Still, now that we're here, it's presented decently again.  Harley gets the amount of guff you would expect.  She handles the guff in kind.  And when Batwoman magically arrives to break Harley out, the breakout sequence makes sense.

What doesn't make sense about Harley's incarceration is the lack of intervention by Batman.  Phillips half-hardheartedly tries to address it here without actually addressing it.  Batman spent several issues at the beginning of Phillips's run playing watchdog, but when Harley is arrested for a crime she clearly didn't commit, Batman is nowhere to be found?  Either Phillips was denied using Batman in an already over-saturated Batman market, or Phillips didn't want to include him.  Whatever the reason, it's not a good one.

The third thread is a peek into the domestic life between Kevin and Sam.  Kevin is one of the best things about this series.  You can feel a genuine sense of sweet awkwardness as Kevin tries to make everyone happy while focusing on doing the right thing.  He encourages Harley during a prison visit, and he's attentive at home when Sam stays over.  Still, the big red flag is Sam's evasiveness about helping to free Harley while nursing mysterious scratches on her arm.  Again, the hints point to Sam being Verdict, and Phillips does a good job setting up an "is she or isn't she?" mystery over Verdict's identity.

Make sure to listen to our Weekly DC Comics Recap and Review Podcast to hear us talk more about this book.  Just look up "Weird Science DC Comics" anywhere you listen to podcasts, and make sure to rate, review, and subscribe!

Bits and Pieces:

Harley Quinn #14 is a decent issue overall.  Unfortunately, Rossmo's stylistic design of Batwoman is more distracting than interesting, and Phillips ignores specific dangling plot points in favor of moving the story forward.  Nevertheless, the big moments make sense, and Phillips lays the foundation for a good mystery surrounding Verdict's identity.


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