Review: Harley Quinn Vol. 2: Harley Destroys the Universe trade paperback (DC Comics)


Unfortunately, what had seemed a good start to Sam Humphries' Harley Quinn run fizzles out here. I'm not sweating it too much, as news just broke that Humphries run will end with issue #75, which probably means only one more trade to be released before the series apparently relaunches with a new creative team. That's fine; Humphries' Harley Quinn Vol. 2: Harley Destroys the Universe feels off but is by no means terrible, with plenty of fun moments, and of course what we're headed toward here is Harley's intersection with the "Year of the Villain" event. I'm satisfied to bide my time with Humphries for a bit with the promise of something else on the way; is it too much to hope Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti are coming back?

[Review contains spoilers]

To wit, on the "plenty of fun moments" side, Humphries gets Harley Quinn's issue #50 exactly right, as Harley destroys DC Comics continuity and teams with ye olde Jonni DC to put it right. Rather than a tour of DC's Elseworlds back catalog, of the kind I think we'd typically see, Humphries creates his own scenarios with a bevy of guest artists and that feels much more fresh.

Highlights include an Adam Strange two-pager that gets to some of the character's same inborn existential angst (hilariously) that I imagine Tom King will, Brett Booth drawing dinosaurs, Dan Jurgens drawing Harley by way of "Reign of the Supermen," Guillem March on a Lobo/Death: The High Cost of Living mashup, and Tom Grummett riffing on Crisis on Infinite Earths. It's a solid issue that, following from Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Harley vs. Apokolips, suggested Humphries' Harley run was on a roll.

Harley's meet-up with former Quality Comics character Captain Triumph is also good, particularly when Huphries uses Harley to explicate some of the taken-for-granted weirdness of this Golden Age character (like that Triumph talks to and partners with the ghost of his twin brother, but at the same time took his brother's fiancee as his own). Equally, "Minor Disaster," hard luck daughter of supervillain Major Disaster, is the perfect kind of foe for this new iteration of Harley, unmistakably silly but also with real ties to the real DC Universe. Brian Michael Bendis should snap up Minor Disaster for Wonder Comics quickly. Tina, the new Apokoliptian character, gets a nice storyline late in the book, too.

But there's any number of moments where, fair or not, I couldn't help but think Conner and Palmiotti wouldn't have done it that way. The Triumph arc is supposed to be about how nostalgia can both help and hurt you, but Humphries gets into it by having Harley long for the good old days when she used to rob banks (with the Joker, no less), even going so far as to case one now. And granted the end of the Conner/Palmiotti run had Harley looking to take a break after recent events, but Humphries has extended it too long, with Harley whining about how "sometimes I just feel ... overwhelmed and hopeless." She continues, "What if I can hack real life?" It's reminiscent, I'd note, of Humphries' writing of Jessica Cruz as equally hapless, always needing direction from those around her.

Even in the previous volume, I was unsure about Humphries' idea that Harley had been blithely negligent on her rent; there's a sense here, again, that everyone else has to move Harley where she needs to go, whereas in the last run, even if Harley was scattered, rarely did she lack for a plan. In the "Minor Disasters!" story, Harley's having to make online stunt videos to pay for damage done during the Captain Triumph fight, but she whines to Coach, "Ugh, is this what bein' responsible is like?" and on. I don't think Humphries has Harley's character right here — she's crazy, but not irresponsible, and not one to shirk her duties either, I don't think, especially when her friends' building is on the line.

Humphries' shouty Coach doesn't seem right to me, either, and while we do see Nateman and Eggy in the final one-off story by Mark Russell, Big Tony and the rest of Harley's Brooklyn crew are absent (too conspicuously, I think). That Russell story, "Pettergate," is a good satire of current events by way of a just-for-men pet store, "Men O' Paws." Russell wouldn't be a bad choice for an ongoing Harley writer; I just simply don't know if Russell would in the long term be able to make this the kind of ensemble book in the way that worked out before.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Harley Quinn Vol. 2: Harley Destroys the Universe

So, it only took till Harley Quinn Vol. 2: Harley Destroys the Universe before I'm asking for Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti back. I was trying to be charitable and hoped it'd be longer, but there you go. Sam Humphries has the tone of Harley Quinn right, I feel pretty confident, but the character not so much, and two volumes and 10-or-so issues in, the lack of the larger supporting case isn't helping either.

[Includes original covers]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Harley Quinn Vol. 2: Harley Destroys the Universe
Author Rating
3 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 3 )

  1. Just a prediction but I'm calling it right now: Brian Michael Bendis will be the new Harley Quinn writer

    1. That would be interesting! Does he do slapstick comedy of that type? What would be a storyline?

    2. His second volume of Young Justice had a very madcap zany energy to it (plus a tongue-in-cheek tour of the DC Multiverse) which I think would suit a Harley Quinn book.


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