Do you like casual racism, Jewish stereotypes and dripping misogyny? Then Harley Quinn vol. 1: Hot in the City is perfect for you. This book started out so bad I wanted to make other people read it just to spread the pain around a little and confirm that I could in fact still read and was not suffering the elaborate effects of a brain tumor. However around the point where Harley becomes the sidekick to a geriatric cyborg that nanar style enjoyment had faded into boredom. By the end, I was pissed off that any of that actually went to print because it means multiple people in DC read this and went “yeah that’s good, print away.”
Somehow in this alternate reality Harley needs a job in order to pay taxes. Which leads her to go back to being a therapist (remember the fact that Harley has an actually interesting back story? Does DC seem to care or want to explore that? Lol no.) She also gets a job as a roller derby girl because either no one in Brooklyn knows who she is or they just don’t care. She also gets the derby job because the boss has a crush on her because oh right every speaking hot female character in this title seems to have bi-tendencies because that’s not horrifically offensive or stereotypical AT ALL. Look DC I’m gonna let you in on a little fan secret, the fact that we make slash fiction doesn’t mean you get to exploit and fetishize female bisexuality. What fans make in their corners of the internet is for our own amusement, so unless you’re going to show the Joker and Batman having a torrid affair in crime alley cut this shit out now. When you continue to print stereotypes like this you normalize them and real people suffer for it.
As for the literal pet shit storyline, I’m sure there’s some 12 year old out there that finds it amusing but this comic goer would have preferred some less craptastic content. The whole let’s literally fling bags of shit at Fresh Kills Landfill rubs me wrong because I can’t think of that place as anything other than the landfill where the body parts of 911 victims were unceremoniously dumped. It’s almost like if they’d used a proxy city for New York they could have pulled this joke off with less offense. A fictional placed we could call it oh I don’t know…Gotham?
The number of times we needed a man around to save Harley proves that DC seriously does not get the point. The kind of ramped misogyny in this title isn’t cute or funny or edgy and having it in a female led title doesn’t fucking excuse it. We could have had a complex, badass killer clown Harley Quinn and what we got was hur-hur she likes her beaver nonsense. This book was a waste of my time and a waste of a good character. Harley has always been ditzy but she’s not supposed to be down right stupid. She is after all an MD, something this comic both acknowledges and sweeps aside because an intelligent Harley is clearly not what they want. It seems DC took the clown costume a bit too seriously because what they gave us was a character that was needlessly but still predictably violent and easily controlled by basically anyone who took a stern tone with her. I understand the attempt to make Harley overly childlike was done to contrast her violent tendencies making them seem more horrific, Neil Gaiman pulled this trick off in Sandman with the character Shivering Jemmy the Princess of Chaos. The problem is part of what makes that character type interesting and scary is the uncontrollability of them. Harley does oopsidaisi kill a couple people but *tee-hee* its no one that her partner wasn’t planning to kill anyway which of course leads into an excuse for some belittling comment about her intellect and her looks. I’ve always liked the idea of Harley as a kind of tragic abused character, I like layers to my villains, but what we have here is a real doll verbal punching bag. I didn’t feel sympathy for Harley, I didn’t like her, I just hated her slightly less than everyone else around her. The fact that I have to imagine everything she says in that God awful accent makes me wish she’d hit me with that hammer she only occasionally remembers to use.
It’s not just the writing that made me think a bit of Scarecrows gas would make for a better Saturday night, the art should stand trial too. The fan service in this book is kind of nauseating and that’s coming from someone who likes tits. All of the action seems to be forced in a way that puts Harley unnaturally into the most sexualized positions possible. The scene where she literally has her stuck with ass smashed into the face of an old man is supposed to be played for laughs, but I can’t for the life of me understand how. Even when they’re just discussing the next mission we’re shown Harley being scolded for her unhealthy choice of food because clearly DC needs to keep shaming women for eating and then gifted with a gratuitously phallic image of her shoving a hot dog in her mouth. The Valentine’s Day issue, which has Harley chased by a bunch of hypnotized convicts who all want to eat, smoke or fuck her would maybe garner some amusement if street harassment wasn’t such an issue for women. If just last week a woman hadn’t been stabbed in my city because she ignored a man’s catcalls. I assume this is meant to be a revenge fantasy for women but when you pair that with all of the other harassment Harley accepts throughout the trade it doesn’t work. Harley is constantly objectified by characters that are supposed to be either her equal or who need her help so the one time she takes action against it rings false. Harley is overly sexualized throughout the comic which isn’t empowering it’s degrading. Harley reads either like a sexually abused five year old or a lobotomized blonde there’s no empowerment there.
Now let’s imagine a world where this trade didn’t come with everything proponents of fake geek girl myths love, it would still be a crappy comic. It’s boring, the pacing is shoddy and the storylines never payout. There’s a lack of creativity here that can’t be excused from a company that claims to only hire the best. It seems like every time DC earns some good will from me it does everything it can to shoot it to hell. This is not 1992. I’m no longer limited to what my local comic shop is carrying. I don’t have to settle for boring plots and character design that makes me hate my body a little bit more. It’s a new millennium DC, why don’t you evolve?