Harley Quinn #53 // Review
Destructive recreation is all fun and games until the bills arrive. A certain psycho clown girl learns this all too well in Harley Quinn #53, written by Sam Humphries with art by Lucas Werneck. Alex Sinclair handles the color. Humphries’ recent run of playfully thoughtful stories hits a bit of a dead spot in Part One of a story called, “Minor Disasters!”
When Harley ran with a displaced Golden Age hero in recent issues, the meeting caused quite a lot of destruction in and around Manhattan. Harley is now being held responsible for the damage. As she has decided to be a responsible adult about things, she’s going to try to pay the bills. How will she make the money? Evidently, Harley thinks the easiest way to do this is to become an internet video star by doing the types of things Harley would do to catch an audience (the issue opens with her straddling a dragon-shaped rocket high above Coney Island). Her video stunts get more and more risky in the interest of picking up more and more subscribers. Things get a little bit more complicated when the daughter of supervillain Major Disaster steps-in to cause mischief with her father’s disaster-causing tech.
Sam Humphries’ recent issues of Harley Quinn have mischievously tumbled around the edges of political and social satire that also spoofed contemporary comics. With this latest issue, the cartwheeling between depth and silliness falters. The overall premise is kind of fun. Harley looking to take responsibility for inadvertent disaster in a very irresponsible way is contrasted against a young woman looking to cause disasters in an effort to get her father to notice her. There’s a potential for real thematic depth here, but it ends up coming across like an uninspired Coyote & Roadrunner cartoon. Every time she tries to do a video, a minor disaster hits and she fails thanks to intervention by the daughter of Disaster. It’s not as fun as it sounds.
Lucas Werneck has done some beautiful art in the past. There’s a sensual attitude in his work that feels like it should be ideal for Harley Quinn. Werneck captures a crazy sweetness about her that brightens the tedium of the story a bit. Werneck has a clever sensitivity for human emotion, which is particularly apparent in moments alone with Major Disaster’s daughter. Her frustrations over problems with tech and personal failures feel a lot more real than they should, given how tedious the story feels at times. Colorist Alex Sinclair does a lot to help establish mood throughout the issue. Vibrant color carves its way around darkness and muted tones. Video screen feel like video screens glowing in low light. Sinclair’s most prominent contribution, though, is the shadows in and around the chalky white of Harley’s skin. Her emotions are given a palpable depth by the subtle hint of darker grays around the edges.
Harley’s journey to legitimate, responsible adulthood continues. The subtle “Harley-is-America” aspect to the story continues to be appealing. Here Humphries continues his exploration of modern American pop consciousness trying to grow-up into some kind of responsible adulthood. Humphries’ attempt to address this in internet video culture within this framework isn’t quite handled with the kind of sophistication he’d managed in previous issues. However, it’s interesting to watch it continue to unfold in this issue, even when the quality falters a bit.