Harley Quinn #62 // Review
A semi-reformed psycho clown girl bursts through a magically sinister sword and sorcery fugue as she deals with a cast of characters who don’t know that their world isn’t real. It’s just another episode in the trials of Harley Quinn as writer Sam Humphries’ “The Role-Players” tumbles through its second part. The story is brought to the page by artist Otto Schmidt. What could have been a really disappointingly tedious march through the Kingdom of Gotham turns out to be a fun and breezy head trip of a story thanks to the anarchic irreverence of Humphries and Schmidt.
As the issue opens, Harley Quinn and Catwoman are being burned at the stake. Judgment is passed on them. They are found guilty of heresy and thus sentenced to death by being...burned at the stake. (A punishment already in progress.) In order to extricate herself and her friends from the evil machinations of a former friend and accomplice of Harley’s, she has to convince them that the world they know is a false one. Given the fact that she doesn’t exactly come across as being terribly sane, this is going to be a difficult 20 pages or so for the lovable clown girl.
The one thing that saves Humphries’ story from being hopelessly silly and unoriginal is the fact that Harley knows she’s in a comic book. (Her recap of the last issue is delivered to both the readers off the page and her friend/potential executioner Tina.) Both the story AND its lead character are saved by Harley’s peculiar relationship to the comic book page. As is mentioned at one point in the issue she is, “someone who is simultaneously inside and outside the continuity.” She doesn’t have to be looking directly at the readers to have fun entertaining them. Humphries’ big success here is keeping Harley constantly aware of life on and in the page without that knowledge feeling at all repetitious. The craziness of Harley and her story continue to fuse together in a really fun duality.
Schmidt’s playfully whimsical art serves Harley quite well. The rubbery exaggerations of drama and action propel Harley through the story in absurdly graceful energy. The amplified emotions of Harley are accompanied by comically overpowering moments of epic action which perfectly fit the Kingdom of Gotham’s sword and sorcery fantasy world. The impressive thing about the weird overly dramatic action and energy that Schmidt brings to the page is the fact that he’s able to rather deftly carve in subtlety, nuance and yes: a coherent story in spite of all the craziness.
Humphries’ run on Harley Quinn continues to gracefully convulse through story elements that really have no business working. Nothing about Harley and her supporting characters necessarily has any reason to develop into anything more than a silly, little exercise in weak comedy, but Humphries manages to make Harley fun enough that it’s always a pleasure to hang out with her for 20 pages a month. Her two-issue glide through fantasy has turned out to be a lot of fun.