Review: HARLEY QUINN #5
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Stephanie Phillips
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colours: Ivan Plascencia
Letters: Andworld Design
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Harley Quinn #5: Did I miss something, or is there another new creep in a funny costume tryin’ to take over Gotham? Villains in this city are like that multiheaded hydra monster: blow a few up in Arkham Asylum, and 50 more pop up in ridiculous costumes thinkin’ they’re worthy of one of those fancy character variant covers. And here I thought bustin’ outta Hugo Strange’s new headquarters and savin’ the clowns was gonna be my biggest problem today.
In Harley Quinn #5, Harley comes face to face with Dr. Hugo Strange as she braves his headquarters to rescue Kevin. I find it fascinating how much Harley’s abilities as a psychologist are at play in this encounter. Yes, there is plenty of Harley’s unique brand of violence, but Harley seems more interested in what makes Hugo tick as she is in beating the stuffing out of him.
Harley and Hugo present an interesting juxtaposition. Hugo puts on a show of calm and sanity, while Harley acts as wacky as usual. But somehow, Strange seems to be the one with deeper and darker mental issues. And Harley seems to be the better psychologist. Hugo seems to see Harley as an annoyance to be dealt with, and not worth analyzing. While Harley uses her insights to get under his skin.
The story begins with Harley recounting the most notable Hugo Strange story where he attempted to replace Batman and donning a duplicate costume. This give Riley Rossmo the opportunity to show us a stunning sequence of two Batmen fighting each other. And we find out later in the story that Hugo still hasn’t completely moved past his desire to supplant Batman. He still keeps that Batman costume. Is this just a memento, or is he still looking to somehow replace Batman?
And what’s with Strange’s collection of Batman villain plush toys? My guess is that since he wants to be Batman, he has symbolically his own substitute rogues gallery to symbolically stand-in for the real villains. I also found it interesting that Harley doesn’t seem to notice or even comment on the fact that Hugo has a Harley Quinn plushie. She even picks a Solomon Grundy toy to keep for herself. This seems to indicate that she values her friendship with Grundy, but has no vain attachment to her own likeness.
Grundy helps Harley with her rescue. He seems to have a more benign personality at the moment, which hearkens back to the James Robinson Starman story that revealed that the villain has multiple personae at various levels of malevolence and intelligence. I wonder if the simple, benevolent Grundy we saw in Starman has reasserted himself. Or maybe it’s just a similar persona.
And we get a brief introduction to a new villain called Keepsake. We don’t know much about him yet, except that he’s carrying what looks to be a collection of Batman villain paraphernalia. This would seem to imply that he collects keepsakes from Batman’s foes. I am guessing that Hugo took Harley’s bat to give it to Keepsake for his collection. It’s unclear what his agenda is, but he and Strange are colluding in some nefarious plan that will undoubtedly figure in the upcoming issues.
While Harley Quinn has become a rather hot character for DC, I understand that some readers don’t really care for her. However, I do think that it might be worth it for those readers to check out this series. Yes, she is up to her zany antics, but I believe that Stephanie Phillips is giving the character a bit more depth than she usually shows.
Similarly, there are some readers that dislike Riley Rossmo’s artistic style. It is strikingly different than most other comic art, and can seem rather jarring to readers used to a more realistic style. However, Rossmo’s style seems perfectly suited to this title. His offbeat style perfectly reflects Harley’s offbeat view of reality.
Harley Quinn #5 is another great issue of this odd but fun series from Stephanie Phillips and Riley Rossmo. I never really expected that a Harley Quinn title would become one of my favourite books. Her antics are as entertaining as always, but Phillips has added an undercurrent of deeper meaning that makes this title more compelling that previous incarnations. It’s well worth checking out, even if Harley Quinn isn’t your usual cup of tea.