With every treatment unsuccessful and her mother fighting for survival, Harley turns to God’s number one feel-good medicine: comic books. Surrounded by loving family members and friends, Harley chooses to dive headfirst into the newest issue of her solo title. In this comic-within-a-comic take on “Year of the Villain,” Harley must decide if she will participate in the event. Although the Godfather of all villains may lack Brando’s charm, Lex’s offer may be one she can’t refuse.
“Listen, Spandex Lex. I got a good thing goin’ over here. I’m in my own li’l bubble o’ the multiverse.”
Leading up to and throughout the “Trials of Harley Quinn,” we have seen Harley take on Christmas, “Pettergate,” Lord Death Man, Kafka, an alien horde, The Enchantress, and Death. However, Harley Quinn #64 sees the titular character take on her most sinister enemy yet: crossover events. Finally, someone who can put a stop to the villain robbing my wallet each year!
One of the things that I loved the most about this issue is the way Humphries blends the ongoing narrative of Harley’s mother with DC’s line-wide crossover. Through presenting Lex’s offers within Meredith Clatterbuck’s latest issue, Humphries explores “City of Bane,” “Event Leviathan,” “Year of the Villain,” and the current crisis in Justice League Dark using Harley’s trademark humor. The result is both funny and meaningful. Whether it is Humphries’ depiction of Justice League Dark as Scooby-Doo, the “City of Bane” as a nudist dystopia, or Harley as secret agent Lacey Underthings, Harley Quinn #64 will leave you smiling. It’s hard not to appreciate the entire “City of Bane” sequence as one big dick joke you didn’t see coming.
Throughout each of these sequences, Harley continues to deny Lex Luthor’s offers while also spouting off many of the things that fans say about events. When Harley says, “So go’wan and orchestrate yer complicated crossover scheme. Tie into eleventy-thousand other stories that were doin’ just fine withou’cha,” the character echoes the sentiments of many event-weary readers. Additionally, it is hard not to laugh at lines such as, “Aw nuts, c’mon! Can I pleeeease join yer story line? Mine got hijacked by anudder one a’ dem crossover events. Ya know, th’ ones everybody complains about, but everyone still buys!” These tongue-in-cheek lines are obviously Humphries’ poking fun at crossover events as well as fans. Humphries’ use of common internet complaints only adds to the humor, as he knows us all too well. Yes, despite my objections, I will continue to shell out money for every crossover.
“Yer so irritatin’ I’m gonna call ya Herpes Simp-Lex!”
My favorite portion of the entire issue involves Lex Luthor taking over Humphries’ set of DC Daily. During this sequence, Harley reveals herself as a cross-dressing Sam Humphries. Although this moment is funny on its own, it is even better if you follow Sam Humphries on Twitter. At the time of writing, Humphries profile picture is himself dressed up as Harley Quinn. This call-out to the real world makes this gag even funnier.
However, the real power of this sequence lies within the questions and themes Humphries addresses. Throughout their interview, Lex points out that Harley Quinn must not be a part of continuity as she has not participated in the line-wide event. As a result, the title must be irrelevant. The lack of adherence to continuity is something that Humphries has toyed with most recently during the trial with the Enchantress. At that storyline’s closure, Jonni DC reveals that Harley is unique because she can exist both within and outside of continuity.
Humphries uses Harley’s ability to avoid continuity as a method for toying with our emotions. After several failed attempts, Lex’s final offer is to save Harley’s mother from cancer. Although this only happens within Harley’s copy of the book, you can sense the rumblings of a plan going on within her. She knows that if she can find Lex Luthor, her mother will have a chance. However, all hope is immediately torn from her as Death arrives to claim her mother saying, “… No one can escape Death, Harley. That only happens in comic books.” This moment immediately brings all the laughter to a halt, as we can all feel Harley’s heart shatter.
The final sequence in the issue allows Humphries to balance the humor with more weighty themes. After reading Lex’s offer, Harley begins to question the lengths she would go to save her mother. I think this is something we all wrestle with during times of crisis. Are we willing to do a horrible thing to protect our loved ones? If so, would they be proud of your actions? I think everyone knows the “correct” answer to these questions. However, the answers are more complicated when you’re in the hot seat. The use of this theme not only makes Harley more relatable as a character but also left me questioning myself after reading the issue.
“Aw man, th’ ol’ ‘To be continued.’”
Sami Basri’s artwork with Jessica Kholinne and Hi-Fi’s colors do an excellent job rendering each sequence. Every portion of the book has a unique feel. In Clatterbuck’s comic book sequences, the artwork’s tone evokes Batman: The Animated Series, as well as Scooby-Doo. Each of these sequences is made better by the careful work put in by the art team. Basri’s artwork during the final pages does an excellent job conveying Harley’s range of emotion as all hope is torn away. Although the hilarious moments are accentuated by familiar cartoonish tone, it is the moment when Harley begs Death to save her mother that will stick with me until the next issue.
Hilarious and meaningful, Harley Quinn #64 serves as an excellent commentary on crossover events. Sami Basri’s artwork with Jessica Kholinne and Hi-Fi’s colors perfectly render each sequence. The devastating final moments of the issue have left me wondering if Harley will find a way to accept Luthor’s offer to save her mother.