In this review of Harley Quinn #34, Harley wants to track down a multiversal murderer.
Title: Harley Quinn #34
Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Sweeney Boo
Color Artist: Sweeney Boo
Letterer: Steve Wands
Cover Artist: Sweeney Boo
Variant Cover Artists: Jessica Fong, Erica Henderson
This review contains spoilers.
Story #1: “Private Eyes in the Public Eye”
Harley is angry with the intelligent forms of Bud and Lou and demands they return home. There, based on evidence collected by Lux Kirby, Harley accuses the hyena-beings of conspiring to murder she and Ivy. She demands the Warworld beings from Earth-48 depart from Bud and Lou’s bodies, and they comply. On Earth-48, they seek out Lady Quark, who reveals part of her plan: to generate an AI version of Harley.
Back on Earth, Harley takes Bud and Lou out for a walk. She heads into Foxtech to scope possible Hanukkah gifts, but AI Harley leaps out of one of the screens and confronts Harley. AI Harley attempts to merge with Harley, but there is a struggle given Harley’s “unresolvable errors.” The clerk calls the police and Harley flees to the rooftops, while Bud and Lou hide out in a dumpster. Harley jumps to Earth-48 and begs Lux to help. Lux suggests they head to Earth-43 to ask the 43 Ivy for assistance in learning who is killing Harleys in the Multiverse.
There, 43 Ivy relates the story and is sympathetic until Harley annoys her. Lux whisks Harley away and back to Earth, where she crawls into bed with Ivy after apologizing. In the apartment, the computer screen laughs quietly.
I generally prefer the Gotham cityscape as a backdrop for The Batman Universe in general, and I think that suits Harley given how rooted she is in the community and contexts in which she was raised as Harleen Quinzel and as Harley Quinn. I’m less a fan of multiversal madness type stories, and writer Tini Howard’s ongoing arc is nothing if not frantic energy and chaotic storytelling forced across multiple earths.
I do not mind the Harley she is giving us as a character, but this Harley is so much flatter and thinner than the version wrought by previous writer Stephanie Phillips. At least Howard has dispensed with superhero rabbits and cosmic carrots, and while there is plenty of weirdness to be found, readers can follow the story itself, which is a welcome change from the first few issues of Howard’s run. Howard has made the decision to center Harley’s relationship with Ivy, and while this is understandable given the decentering of that relationship in the previous run, the dialogue still feels too much like a Netflix teen drama than anything befitting the depth and power of Harley and Ivy’s relationship.
Artist Sweeney Boo’s colors also feel flat in this issue, lacking some of the vibrancy and luminousness typical in much of her art. Still, her Harley is as punk as any and pushing that aspect of Harley is always a good decision, almost as if the Bombpops themselves came to life in a comic.
Story #2: “Harley’s Big Exit,” by writer Grace Ellis and artist Steve Lieber
Harley is dreaming. First she runs though several pages of advertisements for Harley-themed merchandise and then gets into a conversation with a figurine of Harlequin with a mallet. She wakes up and realizes a narrator is still issuing captions, so she gets mad, grabs a mallet, and smashes.
The book neither needs nor benefits from a backup, and the Dreaming Condition is now over 400 years old (Descartes’ Meditations!). It can of course accommodate a great story but that’s not really possible in a backup and as usual it adds nothing to the main story.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with an advanced copy of this comic for review purposes. You can find this comic and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this issue digitally on Comixology through Amazon or a physical copy of the title through Things From Another World.