Review: HARLEY QUINN #6
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Stephanie Phillips
Artist: Laura Braga
Colours: Arif Prianto
Letters: Andworld Design
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Harley Quinn #6: Yer pal Harley Quinn back again! Now, there might be a lot of new faces in Gotham, but it’s always nice to see an old friend. Okay, so Catwoman explicitly asked me not to call her my friend, but I know she secretly loves me under that tough, broody, leather-clad exterior. You’re not gonna wanna miss this one as we tangle with those boring Magistrate goons in Alleytown like a real dynamic duo! I smash a lot of stuff with my bat, and Selina does a bunch of flips and awesome things with her whip. She’s so cool.
Harley Quinn #6 takes the titular heroine on a visit to Alleytown to visit seek assistance from guest-star Catwoman. While this issue isn’t one of the official Fear State tie-in issues, that event figures heavily in the plot. Harley and Selina face off against some of the Magistrate’s Peacekeepers and Hugo Strange has a meeting with Scarecrow.
The story begins with Harley narrating about the nature of cats: “I don’t hate cats… but I’m not comfortable around them either”. She goes on to describe them as standoffish and judgmental. And she states that she prefers pets that give unconditional love. At the story’s end, she adds that there is a satisfaction in winning a cat’s trust, because you’ll know you earned it.
Of course, she’s making a neat metaphor for her relationship with Catwoman. As Catwoman doesn’t want to deal with Harley at all to start with. Selina then reluctantly agrees to help her, and by the issue’s end, Harley has proven herself to Catwoman. The metaphor is apt, but as someone who has had a number of cats in my lifetime, Harley’s characterization of cats is off base. Many cats are affectionate by nature and will give their trust and unconditional to anyone, deserving or not. Cats can be as capable of unconditional love as any other creature. However, while Harley’s view of cats is faulty, it is a view that is common amongst those who aren’t cat people.
I especially like the conversation that Harley and Selina have about their respective views on being a hero. Each is at a different place on their redemption arc. Harley is optimistic, eagerly trying to be good, while Selina seems resigned to not being a heroine. Selina is focused on her past deeds: “…it didn’t matter which side of the line I was on. It was never enough to make up for the past”.
But Harley isn’t dwelling on her villainous past: “But it’s not about the past. It’s about the future and trying to make it a little better for the people I want in that future with me. And it’s about me. About how I feel about myself”. However, Catwoman is further into her redemption arc, while Harley is just starting hers. It’s likely that Harley will have times where she will doubt in her own capacity to be good like Selina from now. And perhaps Harley’s optimism will have a positive influence on Selina.
The art in Harley Quinn #6 is provided by Laura Braga, whose style is markedly different than Riley Rossmo’s. Her art is a more traditional, realistic style than Rossmo’s more offbeat style. This seems particularly fitting when Harley is interacting with characters like Selina who are much more grounded in sanity. Selina doesn’t share Harley’s off-kilter view of the world, and this appears to be reflected in the story’s art. However, the difference in style doesn’t make Braga’s art any less delightful.
I have no complaints about Harley Quinn #5. The characterizations are spot on, the plot is interesting and logically fits into the overall Fear State story. While there is a distinct change in art style, that’s not necessarily a drawback. I would be hard pressed to state which of Rossmo’s or Braga’s art is better. Because they are differing styles it would be like comparing apples and oranges. All I can say is that I like both their styles, and I believe that Braga’s fits this particular story better than Rossmo’s would have.
I honestly never thought that a Harley Quinn title would be one of my favourites. I don’t dislike the character, but I’ve never been particularly drawn to her either. But Stephanie Phillips has managed to hook me into her story about Harley’s quest for redemption. Even if you’re not a fan of Harley, this title is well worth checking out.