Harley Quinn #60 // Review
Harleen Quinzel’s mom is dying of cancer. Her mother specifically tells her NOT to break into an advanced scientific lab to steal experimental anti-cancer stuff. Naturally she’s going to do it. And since it’s S.T.A.R. Labs’ “Extraquantum Discovery Facility,” things are going to get weird in an issue of Harley Quinn written by Sam Humphries with art by Sami Basri and colors by Alex Sinclair. Humphries’ mix of strangeness, action and serious quasi-political interpersonal satirical drama enjoys another pleasant, little 22-page outing complete with some rather clever little bits of dialogue and interesting insight into the ongoing development of DCs ever-popular psycho clown girl.
Harley’s heart is in the right place. She just wants to save her mom’s life. That’s all. She’s not asking for much. She gets more than she might have planned for when she finds herself attacked by xenomorph-esque extra-dimensional aliens. Not the best situation for S.T.A.R. Labs, but what did they expect opening an Extraquantum Discovery Facility on Coney Island? In the process of exterminating the facility, Quinn runs into weird echoes of The Joker, Batman and a whole bunch of herself. As her journey to reformation continues, she learns quite a bit about herself along the way.
Humphries is clearly having fun with Quinn in an issue that echoes the internal psyche of a crazy criminal who is clearly trying to be a good person. The journey opens as a horror story before shifting quite suddenly into a psychological horror comedy about halfway in with the rather sudden appearance of The Joker. Humphries balances the mix of genres quite deftly. A script that mixes serious drama with comedy always runs the risk of collapsing in on itself. Humphrties clearly understands just how far to push the comedy so that it doesn’t overpower the drama and he knows exactly how far to push the drama so that IT doesn’t overpower the comedy.
Basri is more than up to the task of mixing action with drama and comedy. Early on in the issue there are three consecutive cleverly claustrophobic pages of Harley fighting xenomorphs with a pair of stylish hand blasters. Basri strikingly conjures the tension of the action. Those pages end with a rather sudden reversal of energy as The Joker pops-up out of nowhere. Both the Joker and Batman are treated as comic relief in the middle of the issue, which Basri manages to render without compromising the sinister appearances of both iconic characters, which comes across as a hell of an accomplishment. Once more Basri’s delivery of Quinn’s serious, dramatic passion feels positively electric as the issue launches into its most serious moments near issue’s end. Sinclair’s color radiates from the page with gently demonic glow punctuating a muted darkness. The red and blue arcs of energy emitted by Harley’s twin blasters in action sequences feel like a particularly stylish touch in the satisfyingly rich visual landscape of the issue.
Harley really has some kind of serious breakthrough this issue. Humphries, Basri and Sinclair bring together a really complicated world for Harley to inhabit that feels every bit as complex as Harley herself. On the surface, it’s a fun little sci-fi adventure, but there IS deeper dramatic energy lurking beneath the surface of it all for those who are interested in something deeper. This issue continue to exhibit the sharper elements of Humphries’ era of Harley Quinn, delivering a good story that works on any level a reader wants to engage it on.