After a particularly cringe-worthy page from the issue with an overt line of social-justice dialogue got his attention, Cyberfrog artist and creator Ethan Van Sciver is reviewing issue #18 of Harley Quinn.
To start, EVS calls the supposed jokes uttered by Quinn – who should be funny – and written by the comic’s writer Stephanie Phillips “unfunny.” He says, “A lot of untalented writers mistake a lot of chatter from the lead character for wittiness or funniness or wackiness. Believe me, none of this is funny or interesting.”
He also isn’t impressed with the use of villains Killer Frost and Bronze Tiger, who are pursuing Harley throughout the issue.
The veteran artist ended up comparing Frost’s haircut to that of a “sullen lesbian,” and suspects Bronze Tiger was only used to check off a diversity box “because he’s black.”
Circling back to Phillips’ jokes, EVS has one big critique – humor works best under the rule of three. As in, you should only use the same joke three times, or else the gag becomes overplayed.
A recurring bit – or several – in the issue is Harley’s obsession with Italian cuisine, encapsulated in an order of garlic breadsticks she purloins from a restaurant, while running from Killer Frost and Bronze Tiger. The breadsticks aren’t that important, but they are referred to over and over on every page.
Running through a kitchen, Harley finds time to compliment the smells, and the chef for cooking the sticks while beating back Tiger with a pot of soup. Outside, she runs into Dreadbolt and offers him a breadstick before pleading with him not to step on one she drops – and it goes on like this.
But soon came the main attraction, the thing that is leaving readers who deigned to pick up this book aghast, and it’s not what Harley does that really gets her jonesing for breadsticks. Luke Fox appears to tell Harley what the chase was all about, and to deliver a speech that has trended into infamy.
The very Jussie Smollet-looking Fox isn’t happy living in Batman’s shadow, or his vision and wants to strike out on his own to fight for issues he cares about.
“I spent years trying to follow in the shadows of someone else’s vision,” Fox says, “wearing a costume to fight a war that wasn’t mine.”
Van Sciver calls this a confession unintentionally said out loud by SJW writers trying to follow in the footsteps of Stan Lee, Bob Kane, Gil Kane, and others they can’t live up to. Then, after all that hoopla and hijinks comes the winning line from Luke, conveying his real concerns, that made this issue so widely talked about and covered by EVS and others.
“See, you can shoot Joker in the face, but it’s much harder to shoot issues like homophobia or systemic racism,” Luke says to Harley who replies she’ll give it a shot. All this leads to Luke using his resources to send Harley, the villains she ran from, and Solomon Grundy into space – no questions asked – where we’re subjected to more breadstick jokes, and the possible end for the bad guys as a missile is fired at their shuttle.
Managing to make it to the end, Van Sciver’s reaction is naturally visceral and mortified. “That was absolutely diabolical,” he said. “I hated this comic book with all my heart, it gave me a headache, and I want everyone punished – everyone involved.”
The real issue here, he adds, is women writers. That might be a bit harsh, but what do you say? Have you read Harley Quinn #18? What did you think? Tell us your reaction below.