This past week, John Layman ended his excellent run on Detective Comics with #29, which also marks the end of his 3-part Gothtopia arc, in which the Scarecrow created a serum to make everyone happy and caused a mass delusion that Gotham was the safest and greatest city in America. He even managed to subvert all the heroes and drew in a number of… medically-oriented villains to his cause, such as Harley Quinn, Professor Pyg, Mr. Freeze and the Merry Maker. But now, the Great Detective is on to them, and the fight is for the future of Gotham and the entire American eastern seaboard.
When Gothtopia was teased out with Layman’s contribution to Detective Comics #27, I was pretty excited. In the New 52, it seemed to be a pretty unique story, and when all the tie-ins came, I was even more excited. Well, except for the Catwoman tie-in, which wasn’t all that good really. But, Layman delivered quite handsomely on the entire premise, and he wraps up things in this issue with a bit of the panache that I expected. Its not as good a story as the previous two issues, but I liked. And the art by Aaron Lopresti and Art Thibert continues to be awesome, so that’s something as well.
After a bit of a mixed start with its first three issues (the very first issue was a #0 issue), it looks like this series just might be getting back on track. I am a pretty big fan of Harley from the Batman: The Animated Series days and while the Harley that Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner are writing is nowhere near the same Harley, whether in terms of characterisation or visual design, she is distinctly reminiscent of the totally goofball and oddball behaviour of that first appearance that catapulted her into the big leagues of DC’s characters. Its actually been quite fun to see how Jimmy and Amanda have been tackling her and despite a somewhat mediocre issue last month, my enthusiasm for this title is still fairly high.
The new issue is a Valentine’s issue. This is odd considering that we had Valentine’s a week back. I don’t see why this issue wasn’t released last week, two days before Valentine’s, to kind of fit that whole atmosphere and mood better. But still, it is probably for the best. I doubt that anyone celebrates Valentine’s by getting all violent and taking out a bunch of mass murderers and assassins who are coming after her. Yeah, definitely not. But that’s totally Harley! Kind of.
John Layman’s run on Detective Comics is coming to a close very soon. The few of his issues that I’ve read, particularly the fourth volume of the new series, have been really good, and he has certainly impressed me with each issue. In fact, I’ll go one step further and say that he is one of my favourite writers at the moment. This weekend, I got to meet him in person at Comic Con India and it was great! Given some of my other plans this year, I’ll be reading his other series Chew quite soon, probably once his excellent Gothtopia arc on Detective Comics is done.
In last month’s celebratory issue, we saw the beginning of Gothtopia, a story in which Gotham is the safest city in America, by far, and where crime is at an all-time low. In fact, it is virtually extinct, except for suicide rates going up. Seemingly an Elseworlds take at first, the story quickly morphs into something else, and things really get interesting. In the new issue this past week, John fills in some of the blanks and shows how things got to this point. And Aaron Lopresti’s artwork is just as amazing as ever, supporting John’s script in every way.
Harley Quinn #0 was very much one of the best comics of last year. The humour was great, the rotating artist gallery was a fun thing, and the writing just generally was good. Harley Quinn #1 had a lot to live up to and it met some expectations, but failed others. But it is undeniable that Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti wrote a really fun comic with Harley at the center of the proceedings and the series could very well be the bright spot in the grim and grittiness of the New 52 if it could keep going in the same vein all the way. But that’s not what happened with the latest issue.
Harley Quinn #2 is a bit of an odd-beast for sure. It has some really great moments, but then there all the other things that bring it down. The jokes fall a little flat, the writing is not as good, we are already into guest stars and we already have an assistant artist to help out Chad Hardin with the pencils. It is a really weird thing. I liked the story here, but I felt that a lot of the potential was just squandered. I expected more out of it.
Looks like its going to be the month of busy weeks. The last two weeks I’ve read two graphic novels each along with all my regular monthlies and this past week proved to be no different. Both Detective Comics Volume 4 and The Flash Volume 4 proved to be exceedingly good and now I have two more series that I need to catch up on for the New 52. Tall order, but doable. And as regards the usual monthlies, there were comics across the board, in all sorts of ways: genres, publishers, characters, etc, etc. The year has slowly transformed over the months into a really solid year for comics overall.
I still haven’t made any dent in the pile of graphic novels I have to read, but I’m not too worried about any of it, to be honest. Already used to that phenomenon from my novel reading.
Just a few days ago the sales figures for the month of November were released and it turns out, surprise surprise, that Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner’s Harley Quinn #0 was the 2nd bestselling issue of the month. Comic Book Resources’ sales report post mentions a figure of 114,000+. That’s pretty damn fantastic for an issue that got lambasted to hell and back for its controversial elements back in September. There was, in fact, so much criticism of the issue before it hit stands that I thought it would barely sell. But sell it did, and quite handsomely. It was also a pretty damn fantastic issue for me, one of the best that I read last month.
The first issue (technically the second issue) brings the story forward, and also restores the fourth wall that Harley repeatedly broke in the previous issue and it presents a protagonist who is most definitely crazy, but also possesses a strong violent and rough streak, thanks to her previous association with the Clown Prince of Crime of the DC Universe, the Joker himself. Equal parts serious and hilarious, Harley Quinn #1 is a fun issue overall, but it does have a few missteps that prevent it from being as great as the previous issue.
Slightly slow comic-reading week again, but not by all that much since I got to read a graphic novel as well, so that balances things out a little bit. Really interesting week this one, particularly with the launch of a Harley Quinn ongoing from DC Comics and some really good second issues or the start of new arcs for some of the other regular books.
The month is closing out now though, not all that much time left, just a handful of days, and I’d like to end the month on a good high. TO that end, I might well be reading two graphic novels at least this weekend to catch up on things a little since that particular reading pile creeps higher every week or two weeks. Getting almost scary now!
There isn’t any comics issue or character in recent months, or even in the last couple years as far as I know, who has drawn as much attention and controversy as Harley Quinn, who got a new ongoing series today from veteran industry professionals Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner. The controversy had largely to do with an apparently insensitive artist submission that was put together for this title in September, which involved some test art panels that completely lacked the context of the actual issue. Do a search for it and you’ll find all there is to know about it. That’s not what this post is about thought.
I love Harley Quinn as a character. Bruce Timm and Co. introduced her in Batman: The Animated Series nearly two decades ago and since then she’s gained a life of her own, becoming one of the most quirkiest characters in comics, and that’s saying something since she debuted as the sidekick to the Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime and you can’t get any (insanely) quirkier than that guy. And yet, Harley one-upped him. With this new issue, a zero issue no less, Harley Quinn is back in the saddle with lots of great humour and some fantastic artwork.
DC’s Villain’s Month went ahead full-steam last week with a ton of new releases. And on the other side of things with Marvel, their X-Men: Battle of the Atom event also continued apace with the release of X-Men #5. My reading is still all primarily DC, thanks to Villain’s Month because there are just so many comics to read. I’m attempting to change things around but its going to be slow. Just a comic or two here obviously doesn’t work and I intend to grab some graphic novels at the least.
We shall see what happens when it happens.