This week: Harley Quinn #69 doesn’t really celebrate it’s special anniversary, and the psychological thriller continues in Criminal Sanity.
Note: the reviews below contain spoilers. If you want a quick, spoiler-free buy/pass recommendation on the comics in question, check out the bottom of the article for our final verdicts.
Harley Quinn #69
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Sami Basri
Colorist: Ivan Plascencia
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover Artists: Guillem March and Arif Prianto
Comedy based superhero books have often been hit or miss with me, to the point where I often actively avoid them. This past year has challenged my perception on this, as most of my favorite books last year fell into that niche. A large factor in that has been Mark Russell’s writing. Throughout this past year, he’s turned books I never thought I’d care about into books that I relentlessly loved. For that reason, he was my favorite writer of 2019.
Throughout last year, Russell surprised me with Wonder Twins, Riddler, and the Villain of the Year special, so it was a welcome surprise when I saw his name on this week’s issue of Harley Quinn. With this being issue #69, I expected some sort of tongue-in-cheek celebration of that special number, and the fact that it wasn’t made it even better. As is often the case in Russell penned books, he uses his humor to criticize political and social issues. In this case, he’s calling out corporate greed by parodying McDonald’s.
It’s an all too believable story of greedy executives pitting lower level employees against each other. The Hambezzler takes the blame for embezzling money from the McGobbles employee pension fund, and all the other McGobbles employees are quick to accept that story, rather than looking at Mitch and Murray McGobble.
Sami Basri has been providing great art on this series for awhile, and his takes on parodies of the classic McDonald’s ad characters were very enjoyable. Kudos to both Basri and Russell for digging deep and including Captain Crook in their parodied characters.
Every time I see Mark Russell’s name on a cover, I’m excited to dig into the comic within, and I’m ready to see what’s coming from him in the rest of 2020.
Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #2
Writer: Kami Garcia
Artists: Mike Mayhew and Mico Suayan with Jason Badower
Letterers: Richard Starkings and Comicraft
Cover Artists: Francesco Mattina
The first issue of this series was one of my favorite issues of 2019. I’ve been eagerly waiting for the second issue to see how the story evolves.
I love good forensic thrillers and especially when the focus is forensic psychology. I love Criminal Minds and the Hannibal books, movies and TV shows; and this book is scratching that itch in a way I haven’t gotten in a comic before. Harley in this series is a flawed but relatable character with her own past of trauma that she’s wading through. This series use of color for flashbacks makes those moments all the more intense, and Harley’s memory of her mother was no exception.
The parallel stories of child abuse that drive both the narratives are stark in both their similarities and contrasts. It’s clear that the abuse suffered by John did severe damage to his own mental health, while Harley is hurt in different ways. John lashes out from his trauma in brutal fashion, while Harley is more reserved and closed off with hers. Even with such simple things as cutting out Chinese food after Edie’s death, we see how different the two leads are in processing their trauma.
Mayhew and Suayan‘s art remains an absolute highlight of the book with it’s realistic take on extremely disturbing and gory subject matter. I especially like the fact that our killer in this story is clearly using victims to reference classic art pieces, beyond just the “Vitruvian Man” of the previous issue. This issue’s “The Persistance of Memory” based murder also gave Kami Garcia a chance to flex her research muscles by referencing the “Pishtacos” gang of Peru that was broken up ten years ago.
While Harley Quinn #69 gave us a traditionally comedic Harley, Criminal Sanity gave us a darker introspective look at real world horrors. I continue to be impressed with how well put together this story is, and how painstakingly researched it’s been. It is definitely a series I will buy in both single issues all the way through, and in hard cover when it gets collected.
- Dial H for Hero continues to be a really fun romp, showcasing the extremely versatile artistic talents of Joe Quinones. This second arc has felt a little bit listless, but that doesn’t change the fact that Quinones has been stellar throughout the entire series.
- Both Lois Lane and Action Comics felt like steps back this month, probably because both of them are set prior to the big revelation in Superman #18. I’m excited for the other Superfamily books to catch up with the status quo.
- The Dreaming #17 set up a tantalizing finale for Simon Spurrier and Bilquis Evely to end their run on the title next month.
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