Review: Multiversity: Harley Screws Up the DCU hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)


There is an Aquaman joke in just the first issue of Frank Tieri’s Multiversity: Harley Screws Up the DCU that is so smart, so filthy, I may never look at a certain DC villain the same way again.

If not wholly living up to its “Multiversity” monikker, Harley Screws Up the DCU is in my judgment Tieri’s funniest Harley work to date, one that makes me eager for DC to give Tieri another shot at the main series, or at least keep passing him more miniseries. Even insofar as the old cast doesn’t play an outsized role, it’s still nice to see them; Tieri and artist Logan Faerber’s Harley is good in its own right, but it’s also a reminder that the Harley Quinn series hasn’t ever been as good as it was in the days that Tieri pinch-hit for Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti.

[Review contains spoilers]

There’s really nowhere else you’re going to find the infant Wonder Woman simulacrum referred to as a “poop baby” — such is the humor of Tieri’s Harley. Arguably, as opposed to Tieri’s Old Lady Harley (which I also enjoyed), what’s skewered here are the origins of the Justice Leaguers, humor about things I’m familiar with. But “Land ho”? Starro as “Mera’s contraceptive”? It feels like Tieri’s earned himself some extra bite here and the jokes are landing, my familiarity notwithstanding.

[See the latest DC trade solicitations.]

I’ll grant maybe I’m hyper-focused on “Harley as funny” right now, having just finished Stephanie Phillips' Harley Quinn Vol. 4: Task Force XX. That book was zany, though never actually funny, made all the worse because I think it was trying. Again, that’s been the Harley Quinn series' problem for a while, writers mistaking cracking wise for actual jokes and/or the need for the series to tell jokes palatable to the wider audience DC hopes the Harley Quinn series might attract.

Saying Bronze Tiger has bad fashion sense, as Task Force XX does, isn’t a joke — it’s a jibe, designating the characters as non-serious, but it hardly has that humorous shock of feeling unexpected or original (especially when the art doesn’t back it up), nor revealing a perspective that seems obvious in retrospect. Tieri’s Harley referring to the scene of Lara and Jor-El putting baby Kal-El into his rocket ship as “Flash Gordon’s bris,” now that’s funny — the intersection of references to religion and two different pop culture franchises that feels immediately spot on; the Harley Quinn series hasn’t been that clever in a while.

I would say — and I imagine this falls on DC marketing more than it does Tieri — this book is really hardly a “Multiversity” story. This is a time-travel story, but there’s really no multiverse-hopping; arguably the Council of Quinns at the end brings the DC Multiverse into it, but I’m not sure that little bit warrants tying this to Grant Morrison’s Multiversity series. (And whereas Multiversity: Teen Justice involved no multiverse-hopping, it was at least set on a Multiverse world.) I had rather hoped this would be an inter-dimensional work, Harley meeting like the Harry Quinn of Earth-11 or something. That’s perhaps coming in the Harley Quinn series proper, and equally I’m interested to see to what extent Harley’s main-series trips through the multiverse are more or less “Multiversity” than this.

I did enjoy Harley as a time-travel story, and the mantra of “the reason something didn’t happen that way is — that’s not the way it happened” is about as concise an explanation of fixed time points as I’ve seen. I would say that the beginning confused me slightly, in that — from our perspective — Harley goes into the time-travel booth and immediately comes out in the Starro-ed Coney Island with no time seeming to have passed. We learn later that there’s a bunch of time-travel shenanigans between those panels, but that wasn’t apparent to me at the time; it took me through the second chapter and into the third, when we finally begin to see flashbacks to that missing period, before I really felt I understood what was happening in the story.

Artist Logan Faerber does standout work here. It seems his first work for DC, though perhaps not his first comics work, but again I’d note that Faerber does better here than the artists seeming to make first-timers' mistakes on Task Force XX. (Particularly good is where Faerber switches over from the cartoony approach to a post-apocalyptic splash page or emulating comics scenes of old.) Looking ahead, I’m pleased to see Faerber doing at least some guest pages among Tini Howard’s upcoming Harley run, again giving me hope maybe these events or the Council of Quinns might be referenced again later on.

Neither the Gang of Harleys nor Red Tool play much of a role in Multiversity: Harley Screws Up the DCU besides being zombified antagonists (and why is everyone wearing a recognizable costume except, is that Catwoman?), but still it was fun to see them. Maybe it’s that the Gang had their own Gang of Harleys miniseries, but they feel more dynamic to me than Harley’s sidekicks since (it’s too bad Petite Tina shuffled off to limbo, and I’ve yet to quite warm to Kevin). I grant that you can’t go home again, but the extent to which this book is better than the main Harley series is telling; maybe, as we’ve said before, the next new run will be the one.

[Includes original and variant covers]

Rating 3.5

Comments ( 2 )

  1. My friends often tease me that I hate fun, and this book really made me feel that they're right. Vacillating between poles of "annoying" and "seventh-grade edgy," this book at first made me think it might be a welcome check-in with the Coney-era Harley, but instead it reminded me of all the reasons I dropped the book back in the Conner/Palmiotti days. (Full disclosure, I found the joke wearing thin around the time of the HQ/Power Girl mini.)

    I had higher hopes for the Multiversity banner on this one, even after being burned on Teen Justice. The best parts were the Amanda Conner covers, and I had thought we might see more of Harley mucking about DC continuity, not just the secret origins. (Early panels spotlighting Crisis, Knightfall, and Zero Hour seem to have augured the book I would rather have read.)

    1. Yes, unfortunately we are zero for two on the Multiversity banner.

      My problem with Harley Quinn Vol. 4: Task Force XX was that it was more toward the "annoying" pole; I don't think the latest runs have had the courage to approach even "seventh-grade edgy." For Harley Screws Up the DCU, I thought that impressively Tieri got some licks in that were at least "eighth grade edgy," but the bar is pretty low.

      Harley Quinn Vol. 5: Who Killed Harley Quinn is occasionally heartfelt, but certainly not funnier than this.


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