Review: HARLEY QUINN #2
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Stephanie Phillips
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colours: Ivan Plasencia
Letters: Deron Bennett
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Harley Quinn #2: Ya sure you wanna double down on this gimmick? Awright already, I’ll do it! Harley Quinn is back again to tell ya that my mission to help heal Gotham City has already hit some bumps in the road. The awful Hugo Strange—psychiatrist, fitness freak and expert on tiny glasses—is trying to deal with Gotham City’s clown problem, and get this! The city is endorsing him while everyone keeps giving me grief! The only person who believes in me is my new sidekick, Kevin. You’re going to find out some real dark stuff about him in this issue, too! We’re both going to have to keep our guard up, ’cuz Hugo has an army of creepy orderlies he’s about to send after us.
In Harley Quinn #2, we start to get a better sense of the role Hugo Strange is going to play in this series. The issue begins with Mayor Nakano introduce Dr. Strange as the new head of S.A.F.E. (Secure And Fearless Engagement) program. This program’s stated purpose is “healing Gotham’s citizens”, but with Hugo Strange in charge, we can be sure it’s actual aim will be much more sinister.
I liked seeing that Stephanie Phillips’ story acknowledges Hugo Strange’s villain past, rather than glossing over it. Strange presents himself as a reformed soul, but as we quickly see, that’s a show to cover his true motivations. Strange is tasked with dealing with the problem of Gotham’s masked citizenry, especially those who dress as clowns in the wake of the Joker War.
However, when faced with a patient who denies being a clown, telling him, “Mask… no mask… honestly, it makes no difference to me. This entire city needs to take a good long look in the mirror. It’s time for every citizen, clown or not, to ask if they deserve a place in this city. So, from my perspective… you’re right where you belong”. Clearly, whatever whatever Strange’s agenda is, he intends to apply it to the entire city, not just the problem citizens that Nakano wants dealt with.
We also learn more about Kevin’s backstory when he has a flashback to the Joker War. He firebombed a store, only to realize too late that someone was inside. His guilt leads him to ask Harley if he has any hope of achieving redemption. Harley puts her skills as a psychologist to work in reassuring him, referring to her own journey from villain to heroine.
I love that Harley’s background in psychology is a major theme of the story. Often that facet of the character gets ignored in favour highlighting her insanity and being an agent of chaos. It’s especially fitting that Phillips has brought in a villain that is also a psychologist. While there will undoubtedly be a lot of violent mayhem in their conflict, it will ultimately be a meeting of the minds.
Riley Rossmo’s artistic style can be somewhat divisive, but I think it actually fits this series perfectly. Harley sees the world through the lens of her insanity. Rossmo’s style captures her world view in a way that a hyper-realistic style couldn’t. And he beautifully captures Harley’s chaotic and frenetic energy. I also like his rendition of Hugo Strange. In the past, Hugo Strange seemed to me to be rather goofy for a villain who was supposed to be a serious threat. Rossmo’s Strange, however, truly looks imposing and sinister.
I have no complaints with either Stephanie Phillips’ story or Riley Rossmo’s art so far. As long as they can keep up this level of quality, I’ll continue to be a happy reader.
Harley Quinn #2 builds on a the strong start that Phillips and Rossmo made last issue. This series is shaping up to be a winner. It’s well worth checking out, even for those who aren’t big Harley Quinn fans.