The “Year of the Villain” event has been quite a surprise thanks to the one-shot stories focusing on major villains. It’s a great way to celebrate the villains in done-in-one stories while serving a bigger idea at work. Mark Russell has delivered some of the most entertaining with his Riddler and Sinestro tales and this week he gets to tackle Harley Quinn. Russell is known for his comedic writing, so it seems like a no-brainer to give him Harley. In this issue, Harley gets to give out Doomies at the Villain of the Year awards. This can’t end well.
This is practically an Elseworlds tale in its depiction of villains in this highly ridiculous idea of a villain award show. I say this because the Batman Who Laughs is in attendance — I’m quite sure he’d kill a lot of these villains or vice versa. Lex Luthor is also there and played up for laughs more than anything. The book opens with Enchantress and Killer Croc talking in a limo on their way to the event. Croc isn’t excited which sets the mood for an abysmal affair. Quickly Russell is writing Harley giving characters comedic introductions and we’re soon experiencing an in memoriam for a lot of B level villains. Considering the Flamingo is the main villain in this narrative and you can gather this is a ridiculous sort of story.
I love the way Russell writes Harley Quinn. It’s similar to Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner’s take — she’s a bit loopy, unaware of others’ emotions, and does her own thing. The big joke in all of this is the power-up Lex offers Harley. I won’t spoil it, but where other heroes have been given godlike powers, Harley is a lot more simple. In any case, Harley’s voice throughout the issue is solid, from announcing nominees to the types of awkward moments that happen at any event.
Russell packs this book with jokes. There is at least one joke in every panel, which works well with the nominations, winner speeches, and all the rest that come with the gravitas of an awards show. Mike Norton’s the perfect artist for this book, too. The visual comedy is fantastic and the characters all look the part, allowing the jokes to land well. Norton has a way of making the most serious looking character laugh-out-loud funny. There’s a running joke of egomania and self-congratulation throughout that’s not as easy to pull off as you might think. I also loved the costumes Harley is wearing, playing up the ridiculousness of award shows and how hosts must change often, especially if they are women. I wouldn’t be surprised if Norton researched some award shows, as some of these looks could easily have been worn by stars at the Oscars. The various villains are also rendered well and some have looks that are older, but so very iconic.
I had a blast with this issue. It’s one of the funniest forays in the Year of the Villain and harnesses the award show appeal very well. This is yet another example of Russell delivering comedic commentary on society and Mike Norton carrying those ideas forward cleanly and hilariously.
Listen to the latest episode of our weekly Comics podcast