Harley Quinn #50 // Review
Harley Quinn #50 is an “Extra-Sized Anniversary Issue!” written by Sam Humphries with art by John Timms, Whilce Portacio, Dan Jurgens and more. Colorists include Alex Sinclair, Michelle Madsen and...a LOT of other people as well. Amanda Conner did the main cover, with a Frank Cho variant. In this special anniversary issue, Harley picks-up a copy of her own comic book, and things get weirdness that tumbles through 30 pages before clattering to a conclusion.
The issue opens as Harley is taking some time away from her casual insanity to hang out with her mom on Coney Island. Things are pleasant and happy until Harley pulls out a copy of Harley Quinn #50. Things get kind of crazy from there. By opening a page of her own comic book while she’s in it, she creates a paradox that causes all of reality to tear apart in an issue called “Harley Quinn Destroys the DC Continuity.” Harley is nothing if not adaptable. Theoretically, she could even be okay with things getting a little crazy. The problem: in having torn apart DC continuity by opening the issue she’s in, she has accidentally retcons her own mother (which makes...about as much sense as the rest of it, really). In the interest of getting back her beloved mom, she must work alongside a DC continuity cop named Jonni who appears here as a curly red-haired head wearing a mortarboard attached to a body consisting of a few black lines emerging from the current DC Comics logo. So yeah. Things get a bit weird from there. The issue cycles through drastically different artists, contrasting drastically different genres which spoof a dizzying parade of different formats. Harley’s determined to carve her way through it and come out the other side with her mother intact.
At the heart of the madness, this is the story Harley looking to find the one constant in her life: the one woman who has always been there for her. Though Harley’s love for her mother is the main force driving the plot in this issue, much of the actual script is far more interested in spoofing various things. It’s slapstick comedy with an emotional core. Fun. Lots of little jokes lurk around the edges of the action. Harley rushes through a series of different bizarre mash-ups. Adam Strange is lost in a classic sitcom. Superman and Batman fight as swashbucklers on the high seas. The Creeper hosts a game show. Lobo stands-in for Death in a brief spoof of The High Cost of Living. This sort of thing has been done better before elsewhere. There was afar more deft treatment of this sort of thing in the crazier elements of Chris Claremont and Alan Davis’ long-running “Cross Time Caper” in Marvel’s Excalibur back in ’89/’90. That being said, Sam Humphries’ one-issue Parody on Infinite Earths is such a concise satire on the entire concept of superhero continuity that it certainly makes a good impression while advancing the humanity of DC’s craziest lady.
The art in the issue is all over the place. Literally. This is perfectly okay, because it’s exactly what they’re going for. John Timms puts in solidly respectable work with clean lines to open and close the issue. In between Timms’ intro and ending, there’s a little bit of classy dark Whilce Portacio scratching, a little bit of something that looks like it might have come out of an Archie-like My Little Pony-style comic by Agnes Garbowska, a little bit of precise line work here and there from John Timms. Some heavy shadows by Kelly Jones. It’s a nice sampling. All the right artists appear to have been paired with all the right stories. When this many people work on a single issue, though, it’s a bit like going to a party with too many people. It’s fun and confusing.
Anniversary issues can feel excessive and unnecessary. It can be fun when a creative team takes a look back while carefully advancing the story in a new direction. Humphries takes a different route here: just invite a bunch of people over to have fun with the character. It’s a huge party. Like any good party, it gets pleasantly out of hand. (Even the Anti-Monitor shows-up.) Not everything works, and it may not be perfect, but it’s the perfect approach that’s perfectly suited to Harley.