Comic Book Brain

Harley Quinn Review

Harley Quinn #55 - "We'll All Be Home for Christmas"

The unfortunate cliché of the current period of superhero comic book stories is the sacrificing of characters to illness and death in order to compel an emotional response from the reader. This is a reflection on the writers, though I suspect the technique is used as an end-run around a perceived empathetic blockage on the part of the audience. Given a choice, a reader doesn't want death and doom for the hero, possibly because so many heros of comic books are born out of tragedy, and the continued killing of their family is just adding insult to injury.

In "we'll all be home for Christmas" a farcical (in the good sense of farce) Christmas party is thrown by Harley Quinn. She has personally cooked and prepared a holiday feast for her family (Mom, Dad, Barry, Frankie, Ezzie) and prepared a table with 12 place settings (the additional six seat settings are not explained in this story by Sam Humphries, but we later see the extra chairs filled with the likes of a mute Catwoman, etc) and in the space of the few hours of this tale the decoration and food is destroyed (and the Christmas tree is set on fire). In screwball comedy fashion, like the rest of Harley's apartment, the table is wrecked in such a way it looks like a pile of kindling in the art by John Timms. Astounded and hurt by the collapse of her carefully prepared holiday party, Harley is then shocked when the youngest of the family, Ezzie, blurts out that "Mom has cancer."

Feelings hurt, Harley slams the door as she exits to look at the city scape of New York City from a frosty roof top. Mom pursues and explains the situation, during which Harley fantasizes a scene in which she machine-guns the doctor who rendered the diagnosis, and then grabs the bullet-ridden corpse and demands a plan for defeating the cancer.

The story, with a combination of farce and family-warmth wrapped up in Christmas (or, as quoted by Harley's mother in Hawaiian, Mele Kalikimaki), is actually a jumping off tale for "The Trials of Harley Quinn" multi-part story line.

The brevity of the writing undercuts this first tale, and I wished while reading it for more panels with more storytelling to explain everything being seen in Timm's art. Visual goofs, such as Harley's table and chairs getting wiped out and then later suddenly replaced with identical chairs and table makes no sense. The sudden "Mom has cancer" seemed like a cheap plea for the story to suddenly be taken seriously by the reader, and it would have been much better for enough space for Humphries story to have some decent transitions between those two elements, instead its like a light switch being flipped on and off. Harley Quinn #55 is like a sandwich of comedy and melodrama slammed together, and there's just not enough breading.

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Original Page February 2020