Staff Picks – Week of 11/09/2019

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass OGN
Mariko Tamaki (w), Steve Pugh (a)
DC Comics

Paul says: One of the most pleasing things about the reinvention of Harley Quinn is the fact that her origins are being readdressed. There’s a shift from willing participant in the grand joke perpetrated by the clown prince of crime to victim of circumstance. It doesn’t matter if you agree with this version or that version. If Joker’s origin can be multiple choice, why can’t Harleen’s? Everyone changes eventually, don’t they?

In Tamaki & Pugh’s interaction, Harley is just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world who took the midnight train to… well, Gotham. Like little red riding hood, off to Grandma’s house only to find Granny dead, Harley finds herself in a modern fairy tale. Only in this tale, Harley gets an education, support friends and a cause to champion. She also gets her very own big bad wolf in the form of a giant corporation (not Wayne Enterprises) and her prince charming is only as deep as the smiling mask he wears.

Harley becomes a girl caught between the sanctioned rebellion of protest, petitions, marches and the unsanctioned rebellion that becomes indistinguishable from terrorism. Such is the nature of this book that hits upon a lot of hot button topics. It builds a modern Gotham where injustice doesn’t just rely on which end of the gun you’re on. Tamaki’s writing handles the shifts of politics with ease and grace. Steve Pugh’s art is beautiful. It’s painterly without being static and the constantly evolving colour palette would put any Hollywood DOP to shame. There’s a hint by the end this might be the first of a series and I’ll certainly be first in line to pick it up if that happens. I’m not a Harley fan, but everyone changes eventually.

Gwenpool Strikes Back #2
Leah Williams (w), David Baldeón (a)
Marvel Comics

Liz says: The internet was in a froth this week over the cover of Gwenpool Strikes Back #2, which features a teenaged Gwen planting a smacker on a gobsmacked Reed Richards. As it happens, in the meta-context of a Gwenpool comic, the Twitter-verse’s reaction to this deliberately provocative image is entirely the point. The self-proclaimed “sex sells” issue begins with Gwen smooching us, the readers, and awkwardly shoving her butt in our faces. Very sexy, indeed! Then Deadpool turns up for some banter and some intentionally icky “Daddy” jokes. Gwen clarifies her age (nineteen) and both she and DP point out to readers and potential future writers that while she’s of legal age, any hanky-panky between them is age-inappropriate and gross. Then there’s the stuff involving Gwenpool practice-kissing cardboard cut-outs of the Fantastic Four in the basement of the Baxter Building, which is hilarious, especially when an unsuspecting Reed actually shows up. Lots of the biggest LOLs were in a lot of the little details (Deadpool referring to Spider-Man as his “Special Boy”, Gwen’s texts with Quentin Quire). Writer Leah Williams and artist David Baldeón are clearly having a blast on this miniseries, taking every opportunity to make the most of Gwen and Deadpool’s fourth wall-breaking wackiness. Here’s hoping every issue is as gleefully, knowingly absurd as this one!