REVIEW: ‘Harley Quinn,’ Issue #2

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Harley Quinn #2

Harley has moved back to Gotham, intent on being a force for good. With Batman keeping a close eye on her, she sets up a list of people she believes she needs to make amends to. But the city is struggling even more so than usual. After the Joker War, there is a citywide hatred towards clowns and after costumed characters. When a circus is attacked by those seeking retribution, Batman and Harley intervene and protect the person inside. Batman recognizes the victim as a former member of Joker’s team, but Harley steps in between the two. Her new mission: protect the clowns. But another person is also after them: Hugo Strange. Harley Quinn #2 is published by DC Comics, written by Stephanie Phillips with art by Riley Rossmo. Ivan Plascencia is the colourist and Deron Bennett. 

Within this issue, Strange goes public with his plans to “save the clowns,” through his own clinical methods. As the mood in Gotham has resulted in a hatred of the profession, he is hired by the mayor to hunt the clowns down. Harley has started her own investigations, working with her new sidekick Kenny. But as they find an old, burned-down mall, one of the duo’s pasts starts to resurface.

The plot and tone of the series are balanced and suggest much more than initially meets the eye. There is a clear mission to what Harley has to do and a pressing danger against her.  There is very fun energy within this story, the concept paying to fantastic set pieces. But there is also a sad and powerful core that appears in the second half of the comic. This is brilliant as it matches the soul of the main character.

The structure is straightforward, jumping between the protagonist and antagonist. There are flashbacks within the issue but they are easy to follow and fit the story wonderfully. The pace is chaotic and the scenes often blend into one another, similar to the editing in the Birds of Prey movie. The action is intense and full of slapstick, showing off Harley’s fighting ability. 

The reader can lose their sense of the plot at times within Harley Quinn #2, but part of that is because they are absorbed by the terrific new partnership that has been formed. Kenny and Harley are a wonderful double act and Phillips writes some amazing scenes between the two. These moments alternate between being drawn out for multiple punchlines, or short and snappy. But either option is fantastic. Kenny’s low energy is juxtaposed by his new friend’s exuberant demeanor, drawing comparisons to Tigger and Eeyore. 

Kenny is extremely well written by Phillips. Even in a comedic comic such as this, his sadness and longing to be better is tear-jerking. He feels awful for his past actions, tying into one of the most important themes of this run: atoning for your sins. Both protagonists are trying to that, but Harley is much further down that road and able to help a person that has just started.

Another aspect in which this comic taps into the main character is through dialogue. Phillips’s script is interesting because it leans on multiple facets of Quinn’s personality. She is a bundle of chaos and wit, but she also has an extensive background in psychiatry. Thusly, the writer has her analyze those around her almost subconsciously. This turns the emotions into actual psychological terms, breaking down what others are feeling. The implementation of this technique is clever and unobtrusive.

The art is stunning. Rossmo’s style is unique and perfect for character design. Each character is shaped differently, not just in terms of physique but every aspect of their proportions changes from person to person. This means that there is such a diversity in the figures at the readers’ disposal. One of the artist’s biggest strengths is creating scale between characters. Kenny’s size difference from Harley and the other clowns draws attention to him instantly. This was noticeable with Batman in the previous issue too, it creates fascinating dynamics within the panels.

Speaking of panels, Rossmo’s understanding of panel placement and placement within panels is exceptional. The transfer from the past to the present is executed with one of the coolest transitions around, all based around two particular moments. When things get hectic and the action kicks off the panels are seldom straight, creating a genuine sense of movement. The fight scenes themselves are epic and match the cartoonish element of the art style well. An emulation of motion blur is used, insinuating that Harley is moving too fast for people to see. 

So much of the personality of Harley Quinn #2 is exhibited through the colors. Plascencia showcases just how glum the mood of the city has become, the backgrounds often a dark purple or lifeless grey. Apart from Harley, the other characters can be seen in tones that denote depression and lack of brightness. There is a feature within Kenny’s design that only shines when it’s dark, and when it is used it is epic to see.

Bennett’s lettering fits the art style, with thicker lines on the word balloons and text. SFX is used frequently for clever purposes, especially when the panels start to tilt. 

Harley Quinn #2 is building into a phenomenal buddy-comedy, but one that includes moments of deep sadness. Every one of the creators has made sure that all of the aspects of the comic match the personality that Harley exudes, from the diversity in moods to her whiplash-inducing changes of pace. Kenny is a perfect partner for her in this series as it gives Quinn a project, someone that she can help make better whilst she does the same for herself.

Harley Quinn #2 is available where comics are sold. 

'Harley Quinn,' Issue #2
4.5

TL;DR

Harley Quinn #2 is building into a phenomenal buddy-comedy, but one that includes moments of deep sadness. Every one of the creators has made sure that all of the aspects of the comic match the personality that Harley exudes, from the diversity in moods to her whiplash-inducing changes of pace. Kenny is a perfect partner for her in this series as it gives Quinn a project, someone that she can help make better whilst she does the same for herself.