Harley Quinn #61 // Review
Contemporary heroes are thrust into a sword-and-sorcery fantasy world. It’s been done before. THIS time it’s done with everyone’s favorite recovering psychopath as Harley Quinn continues her trials. Writer Sam Humphries has a little fun with the premise, but there isn’t actually a whole lot of plot in an issue that is drawn by Otto Schmidt. Though the introduction of a sword-and-sorcery Gotham City feels relatively predictable, the issue is not without its charm in the first part of a story that’s called “Role Players.”
As the issue opens, Harley and Tina are hanging out with Selina Kyle in her apartment. Catwoman is the only one of the three who is bored by what they’re doing. They’re all playing a medieval fantasy role-playing board game. Harley had been given the game for free by a strange old woman. The gift turns out to be a trap as Harley and company are promptly thrust into an age undreamed of in which everyone except Harley is transformed into cleverly funny fantasy analogs of themselves. Harley is branded a mentally unstable heretic in an adventure which will challenge her recovery from criminal mental illness.
Humphries is clearly having fun with a Dungeons and Dragons-inspired Harley story. The basic premise of a Conan-like Gotham City is fun enough, but it’s not terribly original. (Chris Claremont did an entertaining version of this with The Uncanny X-Men all the way back in 1984.) What Humphries is adding here is the element of insanity. Harley (referred to as “Harlequin” by denizens of The Kingdom of Gotham) is struggling to reform, but what happens when she’s thrust into a dark fantasy world that challenges her sanity? It’s a clever twist on an old mutation courtesy of Humphries.
Schmidt’s highly expressive art style serves Harley well. The over-the-top fantasy visuals serve the story quite well in both emotional drama AND battle action. To a certain extent, Humphries is going through the motions of fantasy mini-world-building. This could have come across as a bit tiresome, but Schmidt’s dynamic visuals and vibrant, vivid colors give the issue quite a bit of atmosphere to sink into. Though it’s all derivative of fantasy imagery that’s been delivered over the decades in many, many comics and movies and such, Schmidt makes it all feel relatively fresh as Harley embarks on her latest otherworldly adventure.
Seeing Harley run amok in a D&D-inspired fantasy world is a lot more fun than it has any right to be. Humphries and Schmidt do an outstanding job of bringing the world of a dark fantasy Gotham to life with striking wit and smart drama that doesn’t detract from the reforming clown girl at the center of it all. Thrust a modern character into a Medieval fantasy world may not be a terribly fresh concept for pop fiction. (Twain did it all the way back in 1889.) Humphries and Schmidt do an excellent job of making it fun anyway.