Channeling the infamous Leeroy Jenkins, Harley’s battle cry exudes a naive sense of overconfidence as her dice clatter against the game board. If she can’t pass this skill check to discover the Acapella-Singing Mud Pit, or cast magic missile against the darkness, then the entire realm will plummet into chaos. With one twist of the wrist, Harley flips the game’s hourglass only to discover that reality has flipped with it. Finding herself straightjacketed in a medieval Arkham Asylum, Harley quickly realizes that either her friends have been transformed into their fantasy-inspired counterparts or everyone has really gotten into Game of Thrones since the last season. Unfortunately, all excitement surrounding this discovery is dampened as Enchantress, the Sorceress Queen, threatens all of existence from her tower above the Kingdom of Gotham. Will Harley make the saving throw to maintain her dubious sanity or is our world doomed to suffer this renaissance fair madness?
“I fought hard ta put my mental health back together – I know I ain’t crazy!”
Harley Quinn #61 is dressed in the trappings of every great Dungeons and Dragons-inspired adventure: excellent world building, a compelling threat, and plenty of self-aware humor. Most of all, this issue is just plain fun. Certainly some people, along with Selina Kyle, may question the level of enjoyment someone can get out one session of Dungeons and Dragons, however, Humphries’ work with characterization and dialogue will stifle any doubt. These elements set the comedic tone for the issue and will leave you smiling after putting down the book.
One of the elements that really stood out to me after reading this issue was Humphries’ work with characterization. Harley, Tina and Selina’s true nature are on display during the opening pages of this issue. Harley and Tina have brought a new board game to Selina’s apartment in order to cheer her up. Tina is completely enthralled with the new board game. Although Harley is trying to bring some of her infectious positivity to the room, Selina wants absolutely nothing to do with it. This introduction evokes fond memories of different player personalities the first time that I played a role playing game.
However, once reality is twisted into an episode of Game of Thrones, a majority of these characterizations are completely changed to suit the needs of the story. This may be a point of contention for some readers. However, this is where a lot of world building needs to be done on the part of the writer and artist.
Instead of a thief, Catwoman is now the Kingdom of Gotham’s disgraced queen. Due to Otto Schmidt’s excellent artwork, we can gather all we need to know about her character from her reintroduction in the issue. Selina sits imprisoned in a cell at Arkham with Renaissance halo encircling her head. Although this image of sainthood runs contrary to her traditional characterization, it does make sense given Harley’s perception of her friend. Harley was essentially trying to save her friend with a game night and now she must save Selina from this new reality. Additionally Tina’s reintroduction as one of the Sorceress Queen’s executioner, and the reveal of The Gotham Knights runs contrary to what we know of their characters. However, understanding that Humphries is using this issue to build the Enchantress’ twisted new world helps us understand these changes. (Am I the only person who wants to see an ongoing story with this version of the Gotham Knights?)By twisting what we know of each character, Humphries will be able to toy with Harley’s sanity for her latest trial on the path to becoming The Angel of Retribution.
“It’s me, Harley Quinn! Ya remember, right? Cute, charmin’ and quick to castrate?”
Sam Humphries’ dialogue is sharper than a long-sword. Each of the characters’ lines help sell each version of reality to the reader. Once Enchantress’ spell has taken over Gotham City the characters’ dialogue change to reflect the fantasy story. However, Harley retains her traditional dialect and when she attempts to change her speech patterns to match the others, the result is pure comedy. Dave Sharpe’s work on lettering helps to convey the cadence of Harley’s speech and sell Humphries’ punchlines.
“Forsooth I done dang figured it out.”
Harley Quinn #61 serves as the introduction to the next trial through building this new world and establishing the stakes involved. Through establishing this world, Humprhies poses many questions that have me excited for the next issue. I am curious to find out why Harley Quinn was the only person to possess the energy to charge Enchantress’ transmutation spell. I also find it intriguing that the Enchantress doesn’t fully understand the forces she’s messing with. As a result, it is not that far of a leap to assume that the Lords of Chaos and Order are involved. With the Enchantress and these mysterious Lords working together in some capacity, you can be sure the threat is real. Additionally, I am dying to know the true identity of Princess Joanna. Although, if the Lords of Chaos and Order are behind this change then my best bet is on Mirand’r.
Otto Schmidt’s artwork is perfect for this story. Through the use of exaggerated facial expressions the reader is able to understand each character’s range of emotions. This adds to the sense of chaos that is typically present in every issue of Harley Quinn. One of my favorite pages involves the twist to our reality when Harley grabs the hourglass and everything devolves into psychedelic swirls. Additionally, the artwork during her interrogation at the hands of medieval Hugo Strange accurately convey the turmoil she is experiencing with the red coloring. Additionally, Schmidt’s fantasy portrayals of these Gotham City heroes and villains is awesome. Deuce-face possessing one normal face on his head and then an evil second face on his torso has to be one of my favorite interpretations.
Harley Quinn #61 is just plain fun. With excellent world building, a compelling threat, and plenty of self-aware humor, this issues has everything a great Dungeons and Dragons-inspired story needs. Otto Schmidt’s artwork is perfect for this story and his interpretations of these characters are amazing. Thankfully, Humphries allows some questions to linger so that I can experience this world more in the next issue.
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