This is a brutal six issues penned by Eisner nominated Magdalene Visaggio and illustrated by Sonny Liew of an Orlando-esque being who feels they have lived too long, and they just want to die but cannot. It is a very maudlin series that perfectly fits several mindsets.
The colors are pitch-perfect, it’s lettered by Todd fucking Klein, and the inks are heavy; it’s Vertigo 100% of the way. (If you’re too young: Vertigo is the the DC imprint Young Animal mimics!)
But goddamn: the paneling.
The fucking panel work is amazing.
It recalls the amazingly dynamic graphic work in Alan Moore’s PROMETHEA, by the ever-astounding J.H. Williams III, but absolutely peppered with Kirby dots.
I have no idea how much of that’s in the script, but holy hell, it’s astounding. It’s all about splintering and feeling fractured and it’s literally there splayed across the page: the sides you show to people, the facets, and it’s right there in the visual storytelling.
Like I said, it’s brutal, but it is a very worthwhile read.
My apologies in advance for posting yet again about HARLEY QUINN but I will never, ever shut up about this show.
It is not only a paragon of comedic entertainment, with a joke-per-minute count that puts ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT to shame, it features some of the most thrilling and cartoonishly squeamish scenes that would make Sam Raimi jealous, it dives head-first into some of the thorniest depictions of trauma — seriously, the first season’s Bensonhurst should be on every screenwriting syllabus — and it has one of the best penned romances of television time. (Suck it, Jim & Pam.)
And it does all of this under the umbrella of the scattershot DC universe somehow.
I’ll note that the show has radically changed over its three seasons: the first season was fundamentally about Harley separating herself from the abuse of the Joker and finding a supportive network. The second season was about her finding herself and reconciling her history. The third kind of blew up her support network, but also (finally) found her living her best queer life with her love Poison Ivy.
That’s a lot for a show to tear off, much less do well, and manage to do so in gut-busting way.
A bit of a sidenote: I think a lot of people get a tad too hung up over ‘being Harley’ or ‘being Ivy’, in the stupid way everyone in the 90s felt the need to label themselves as a Seinfeld or Sex in the City character. (I still don’t understand why anyone would want to self-identify with those hateful people, but it’s not for me to judge. Well, maybe a little.)
What I love about the series — and what makes this special so very special — is that the characters are far more complicated than base archetypes. I can’t help but identify with both. I’m the filthy over-eager people-pleaser that Harley is, but I am also frequently misanthropic and want to do nothing but watch my stories and retreat from the world because I also hate everyone and everything. (Nothing personal!)
However, they make it work. They’re loving, but also have to be constantly mindful of each other’s needs.
That’s one of the great things about this show: it’s one of the first non-John Waters works I’ve seen that celebrates horniness, even against a culture that actively tries to beat it down. (Pun intended.) This episode is wall-to-wall horny in a celebratory way, in the way that I wish sex was more popularly portrayed. It’s mostly about Harley buying drugs to give Ivy the best orgasm of her life — which leads to one of the best lines of the show: “Oh you cannot possibly be mad about me wanting to get you off too good. THAT IS NOT A THING!”
Even us damaged folk want to get our freak on, and this show helps to normalize that.
And then there’s Bane! Kaiju Bane, fucking every building he sees because he took some bad drugs! Literally laying waste to the world, and it’s hilarious.
This show is bonkers, but also manages to be one of the most grounded works out there. I’m so tired of seeing poorly-penned 20-something relationships in media, and HARLEY QUINN gives us something meaningful and substantive, while also being narratively interesting!
I’d like to note that Alan Sepinwall is also extolling the show’s virtues (or, err, lack there of?) so I’m not alone: