Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Harley Quinn: 30th Anniversary Special Review

  

  

Written by: Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, Rafael Scavone, Stjepan Sejic, Stephanie Phillips, Kami Garcia, Paul Dini, Sam Humphries, Rob Williams, Cecil Castellucci, Mindy Lee, Terry Dodson
Art by: Chad Hardin, Rafael Albuquerque, Stjepan Sejic, Riley Rossmo, Mico Suayan, Jason Badower, Guillem March, Erica Henderson, John Timms, Dan Hipp, Terry Dodson, Rachel Dodson
Colors by: Alex Sinclair, Marcel Maiolo, Stjepan Sejic, Ivan Plascencia, Annette Kwok, Tomeu Morey, Erica Henderson, John Timms, Dan Hipp, Terry Dodson
Letters by: Dave Sharpe, Josh Reed, Pat Brosseau, Deron Bennett, Richard Starkings, Tyler Smith, Tom Napolitano, Saida Temofonte, Clayton Cowles
Cover price: $9.99
Release date: September 20, 2022 

Harley Quinn: 30th Anniversary Special brings together an army of creators to celebrate the (in)famous Clown Princess of Crime in ten short stories guaranteed to feature one Harley Quinn.


Is It Good? 

Harley Quinn: 30th Anniversary Special is a beefy anthology containing ten short stories intended to celebrate the multiple facets of life, love, and (mid)adventures of the titular character. Anthologies can notoriously vary wildly in quality from one story to the next, and this one is no exception, with few hits and mostly misses.


The major flaw with this issue is the same flaw DC currently is unable to overcome with the character. Nobody can seem to decide who Harley is and what she wants to be. Subsequently, each short depicts Harley as almost a completely different character, bound together with an undercurrent of obnoxious silliness.


As with all our anthology reviews, I'll summarize each story in brief and highlight what worked and what didn't.


Uncommon Bonds

Harley intercepts a group of burglars sent by a faceless coordinator to rob Harley and several other residents blind. When Harley figures out the next stop on the bounty is Wayne Manor, Harley and Alfred team up to save the day.  Loud, obnoxious, annoying, silly-billy Harley has returned to save the day. The setup makes some sense, Harley's ability to infiltrate Wayne Manor without detection and save the day against armed burglars using kitchen utensils makes little sense, and not naming the mastermind behind the series of heists makes no sense. The art by Hardin looks great.





Cease and Decease

Harley and Fifteen Minutes Man take on a Suicide Squad mission to infiltrate an enemy base. When the duo makes short work of the guards and enters the inner sanctum, they find the unexpected, and Fifteen Minute Man figures out what his name really means.  A silly story with a silly setup and silly execution leading to a silly ending. The art is fantastic, but the silliness never generates enough amusement to warrant even a smile.


Submissive

Catwoman stops by Harley's place to have a heart-to-heart about Harley's unresolved feelings for Joker. When Catwoman proclaims, Harley has a Submissive need for Joker's Dominance, Harley storms out into the Gotham streets to prove Catwoman wrong. What Harley doesn't know is that Catwoman's goading is all a plan to help out Poison Ivy.  For a reader to make the most of this issue, you have to at least be superficially aware of Sub/Dom culture and all its nuanced implications. For the casual reader, the delicacies here may seem tawdry. For readers aware of the Harley/Ivy relationship and who have some foreknowledge of Sub/Dom culture, this short may tickle your fancy. Either way, Sejic's art is next-level fantastic.


How To Train Your Hyena

Harley Quinn and Kevin (see the current Harley Quinn main title) break into a nature preserve to retrieve Harley's hyenas, Bud and Lou. Unfortunately, a group of poachers arrives to disrupt the family reunion.  Riddled with more questions than answers, at least the creative team of Phillips and Rossmo is consistent. Where is the nature preserve? Who knows. How did Bud and Lou get there? Who knows. Why are poachers infiltrating a fenced-off and guarded nature preserve? Who knows. The story is silly, the art is typical Rossmo style (acquired taste), and the jokes are terrible. Again, consistent.





Criminal Sanity

Harleen Quinzel puts her criminal psychology training to good use to help the GCPD track down the Joker, the man who killed her roommate Edie. The more she digs, the more Harleen realizes the police are looking for the wrong killer.  This short is less of a Harley Quinn story and more of a prelude to the Black Label series, Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity. It reads and plays out like a police procedural where none of the colorful Gotham villains have adopted their infamous personas. The art is serviceable, and the short is technically complete, but the absence of Harley Quinn reads as bland.


Siren Soiree

Harley, Ivy, and Catwoman are enjoying the quiet life as reformed Gotham criminals in their new place. Unfortunately, Harley's overenthusiastic restlessness results in a housewarming party that gets out of control.  Of course, this is the best story in the bunch because it's written by one of the creators of Harley, Paul Dini. Harley's silliness is annoying yet endearing, the guest cameos are amusing, and the night is punctuated with a hopeful, heartwarming moment or two to make the party one to remember.


A Legend Is Born

A silly barmaid dressed as a jester strikes out into the world on a quest to obtain her first sword and become an adventurer. Adventuring, however, is not as easy as it looks.  Well, this is a story that looks, reads, and feels like an episode of Adventure Time. There's nothing remotely "Harley" about the story, including the main character, so set your expectations accordingly.


The Last Harley Story

Suicide Squad-era Harley has had enough of Amanda Waller's nonsense and charges to attack. Waller has had enough of Harley's nonsense and activates Harley's brain bomb. What follows is an adventure that takes place in the blink of an eye.  Credit where credit is due, Williams has something to say about Harley's nature and finds a way to bring that nature out in the most critical moment of Harley's life. The idea isn't super-original, but it's well-done, and the art is excellent.





Troop Harley Quinn

Harley decides she wants to be accepted into one of Gotham's most exclusive Women's Clubs. Lacking the requisite amount of volunteer hours, Harley decides to start a Girl Scout troop to get her hours in and show the snooty club leaders who's the best.  Harley, as depicted here, is a silly woman who concocts a crazy scheme to get her way. There's very little "Harley" about this story (are you seeing a trend?), the plot is silly, and the outcome is mediocre. Coupled with hyper-stylized art that definitely won't be everyone's cup of tea, you get a story that misses the mark.


Harley's World

Harley skates, swings, dances, and laughs through a fevered montage of scenes to show readers exactly why Gotham is Harley's World.  This isn't a story so much as it's a vignette or vision. Harley dreams her way from one partner to the next in a trip through the important relationships that formed her career as Harley Quinn. The ideas are there, presented with gorgeous art, for a visually memorable experience.

 


About The Reviewer: Gabriel Hernandez is the Publisher & EIC of ComicalOpinions.com, a comics review site dedicated to indie, small, and mid-sized publishers.


Follow @ComicalOpinions on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter



Bits and Pieces

Harley Quinn: 30th Anniversary Special lacks quality and makes up for it in volume and a hefty cover price to make you feel like you're getting your money's worth. Of the ten shorts included, only two or three truly celebrate the titular character and are worth your time.

5/10

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