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Harley Quinn

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass

Harleen Quinzel has a measly $5 in her pocket when she gets off the bus at Gotham City. Her mother has sent her to live with her grandmother for a while. To Harleen’s chagrin, she finds her grandmother has passed away, but Mama, the current tenant of her apartment, gladly takes in the eccentric teenager. Harleen’s spirits are not dampened by this turn of events; she embraces Mama and his cohort of drag queens just as enthusiastically as they’ve embraced her. However, big changes are coming to the neighborhood. The Kane family, who owns Millennium Enterprises, are looking to buy out the block to build upscale condos and “improve” the area. Harleen faces a difficult choice. Should she organize community protests with her new friend Ivy and her family? Or should she burn the corporation down with the mysterious Joker?

I have to say, this one surprised me. I’m not a Harley Quinn fan, but DC Ink has put out some fine stories, so I decided to check it out. This reimagining of Harley’s origin story will be hard to top.

Harley’s distinctive voice and character lent particular weight to the themes in this story: African-American and LGBTQ+ rights, gentrification, and poverty. As it’s written from Harley’s point of view, her colorful and optimistic speech firmly place us in her head. We see from the art more than hear from Harley about the injustice that happens in the world around her, showing the audience that while you can hide from problems in your head, you can’t escape the real-world causes and consequences. Harley ultimately has a choice: whether or not to see the problems, and how to respond to them. Is there a right or wrong way to fight for justice?

The art is phenomenal. In both an homage to and deviation from your typical Batman, Gotham-style book, it’s rendered in cool sepia. Pops of color come through at critical moments or in flashbacks: Harley red, Joker yellow and purple, hot pink. It feels like reading an old black and white film where someone expertly colored over the reel in the most emotionally charged moments. There are a few Easter eggs and homages to Harley’s history sprinkled throughout that both old and new fans will enjoy.

The question Harley faces here, how to respond to injustice and what the right way is to fight for justice, is something many teens can relate to. The timely, yet timeless, message and stellar art make for a Harley origin story that will be hard to beat in the future.

– Kathleen

Tamaki, Mariko, and Steve Pugh. Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass. 2019.

Heroes in Crisis

Tagline: “How does a superhero handle PTSD?”

Superheros have been dealing with the repercussions of death and destruction for years and who better than author Tom King, a former CIA operative, to know that this would start to wear on these DC heroes. Thus Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman band together to build a secret mental health clinic in rural Nebraska called Sanctuary where heroes can go for anonymous assistance. It is staffed by androids and offers virtual reality reenactment and counseling to help them with their issues.

Event books seem to be my kryptonite with DC. While I rarely read about individual superheroes, except for Aquaman lately, I am a sucker for these stories that bring everyone together in sometimes implausible ways. So the story begins with Harley Quinn and Blue Beetle duking it out, as each accuses the other of being a murderer- and we soon find out that there was a slaughter at the Sanctuary with several heroes dead. While most of them are heroes of little note, Wally West who is the original Kid Flash, is one of the casualties. The Big Three are called to investigate, and they are dumbfounded, as they had put in place many safeguards to protect their traumatized brethren.

This story was filled with tons of lower-level tier heroes (or those who are “good” for now). Besides Catwoman and Jade (GL), I was unfamiliar with the other characters here. But the comment that Red Tornado makes is a sly joke about The Vision (who he looks like) from the Marvel Universe- that King wrote an amazing two-part series about.

The story had some incredible highs and lows. While I applaud the idea that superheroes would need counseling to process their grief and the insight that King brought to the large cast of characters, the ending was very convoluted. I had to poke around in The New 52 and DC Rebirth to understand why the culprit did what they did, and it still didn’t make a lot of sense. But no matter, this character will be yet again retconned and their crimes will not matter in the future. In addition, the release of private confessionals to the public and Lois Lane’s decision to go to print with the story rubbed me the wrong way. In real life, there are “outings” of people’s private lives all the time for sensationalistic effect, all in the name of the “public’s right to know”.

Yet, the book worked in smaller moments. There were some interesting pairings- towards the end Batgirl, Harley Quinn, Blue Beetle and Booster Gold band together to solve the mystery of what happened. As I don’t read a lot of DC, I was unaware that Harley and Poison Ivy were a couple, but the two of them have a brand new mini-series that takes place directly after this event, aptly named Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy. I enjoyed seeing Batgirl prevent Harley from spiraling out of control, and the bromance between BB and BG. I looked up several of the heroes I was unfamiliar with, and the insecurities that the four Robins showed (see below) was pitch-perfect. Tom King is now known as someone who writes about deeper psychological issues, and that is readily shown in this story.

The artwork by Clay Mann, Travis Moore, Mitch Gerads, Jorge Fornes and Lee Weeks was absolutely outstanding. For so many artists, the style stayed remarkably consistent. The two-page splash pages that opened each issue were visually stunning, with distinct drawings of both small settings and large outdoor expanses. The nine-panel pages were my favorite, as each character was drawn with precision, with facial expressions showing their personalities and conveying the distress that they each of them was working through. Rich colouring and lettering also added to the top-notch illustrations.

All in all, a thought-provoking story that may trigger some difficult feelings for some readers, as mental health is a loaded topic for some, but is worth discussing and bringing out into the open. I was glad to read an online preview from NetGalley before it was published and will plan or ordering this graphic novel for my library.

-Nancy

I LOVED these panels about past and present Robins. All of them are insecure about their reputation, except for arrogant Damian.

 

DC Bombshells (Vol. 4): Queens

I present… my shame. It’s been way too long since I last talked about Bombshells on this blog… please take this two-in-one comic and haul update as penance for my failure X,D

Deep in the jungles of Zambesi, Africa, Batwoman, Catwoman, and The Question are led by Vixen and her Hawkgirl to a dig site. What they’ve unearthed could change the tide of the war – for good or evil, depending on the hands the objects fall into. Strange mechanical beasts rise from the earth at the site: gods from an old forgotten civilization. The Bombshells, however, are not alone in their discovery. Barbara Ann Minerva, the Cheetah, is tracking these old gods as well, for her mistress Baroness Paula Van Gunther, and for the Reich. Old and forgotten these gods may be, but they will do anything to be remembered and worshipped once more. Who are the Bombshells, mere humans, to stand up to gods?

It’s probably been too long since I’ve read the last one, but this one moved into much more pulp territory than I remember – in a good way. With the introduction of Hawkgirl and Renee Montoya as The Question, plus grappling with Nazis over archaeological sites… this volume screams Indiana Jones, much as Athena Voltaire does. Indy could only hope to be so badass and good-looking as Athena and our DC heroines 😉

(There’s even an Indiana Jones joke in the book!)

That said, there were some odd skips in the writing in this volume. I found myself having to backtrack frequently to make sense of what I was reading. The art and layouts, while dynamic as ever, were a bit too overdone here, and it was hard to follow along in some passages. I think the story is also getting a bit too unwieldy, with trying to cram so much into one run. Overall a solid installment, and looking forward to the next, but wondering how it’ll all tie together in the end.

As promised, here is my latest haul! I bought Lois Lane back in November, just over a year after Killer Frost (linked above). I must admit getting engaged and trying to save for my wedding really pumped my collector’s brakes. There are some figurines that are now sold out online, and will be difficult to find later. The thrill of the hunt is part of the fun, though!

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“Hear ye, hear ye!”

(That is what I tell myself to console myself for not buying Supergirl instead of Lois. Though she is adorable, I really wanted Supergirl more. Brb beating myself up again)

This haul is a big one. I got promoted at my university job, and my fiancé and I went a little nuts. I wasn’t missing out on Harley Quinn again, so I got the Deluxe Edition and all the magnets, and he got Batman/Catwoman and shipped it to me. Teamwork makes the dreamwork =P

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I do love me some magnets and car decals!

I continue to be amazed by the quality of these figurines. I admit I regret buying Lois over Supergirl, but Lois is probably the sturdiest figure of the bunch. Only her front foot is pegged into the base, but her dynamic pose is balanced perfectly so she has an even weight distribution. I wouldn’t worry at all about putting her on a higher shelf.

I’m not even a Harley Quinn fan, and am seriously annoyed at the overabundance of all the Bombshells Harley stuff I have to buy, but the deluxe figure is gorgeous. The original sculpt is honestly kind of boring, and not really Harley at all. This sculpt is much more befitting of Harley’s personality. I’m only disappointed they didn’t set the cloud on top of the regular steel base – when I eventually display all of these together, this one will look out of place.

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Deluxe Harley, Gotham City bound.

But Batman and Catwoman. Let me give you a little bit of background. I hate this ship. I want off it every time it comes up. I understand they have comic history, but no. Just no. The only woman Batman belongs with is Wonder Woman. So you can imagine how thrilled I was when we were finally getting Bombshells Batman! … Only to see he was with Catwoman. I heaved a HUGE, WORLD-WEARY SIGH and resigned myself to a completionist buy.

But guys. I opened the box, and gasped in total awe. IT IS STUNNING. I know I say this every time, but I think this is my favorite figurine yet. Getting them out of the box and into the base was a little nerve-wracking (they are in one big piece, and the ends of Batman’s cape can easily snap off), but it was SO WORTH IT. The colors of each hero’s costumes compliment the other’s without being overtly “couple-y”. Both Batman’s feet are pegged into the base, to give Catwoman a sturdy leg up as she lifts the Batmobile’s keys from his belt. Is she kissing him to distract him from her stealing it, or thanking him for letting her borrow it? We can only guess 😉

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Bat/Cat – what started out as a completionist buy totally floored me.

I’m now thinking Funko Pop Bombshells as centerpieces for my wedding… what do you guys think? ;D

– Kathleen

Bennett, Marguerite, Laura Braga, Mirka Adolfo, and Marguerite Sauvage. DC Bombshells (Vol. 4): Queens. 2017.

Batman: Harley and Ivy (The Deluxe Edition)

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Dini, Paul, Bruce Timm, and Shane Glines. Batman: Harley and Ivy (The Deluxe Edition). 2016.

I feel like a lot of my posts start out this way, but me and my boyfriend were at the comic book store one time… XD He saw this and immediately bought it. We’re both fans of Paul Dini and Bruce Timm, having grown up on all the animated series they’ve created.

There are a couple different stories in here. First, Harley and Ivy attempt to steal a rare zombie plant they plan to use on every citizen in Gotham! Batman manages to thwart their plans, but they escape to South America to harvest the plant at the source. When they get it and Ivy perfects the formula, they decide to do a test run – in Hollywood! Next is a story where the girls kidnap Bruce Wayne so they can go Christmas shopping. Then, they get hold of Robin and use him to plan all their heists! What will Harley do when her jealousy gets the best of her? Another Christmas story follows, where Harley asks Batgirl to help her recover the kidnapped Ivy. Finally, there’s a really cute story from Batman: Black and White where the girls save a little girl from a creepy guy in the absence of any other heroes.

Some other editions of this book have only the first story by Dini and Timm, but since this was the deluxe edition, it had some extras. This book is really funny. I was literally lol’ing through a lot of it XD Even though a lot of it looks like the animated series, it’s not really for kids. The humor and art get kind of racy at times. It wasn’t a problem for me, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable giving it to anyone under high school. Other than that, it’s a fun read and I really liked it!

– Kathleen

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