“Dressin’ as someone important doesn’t make you important.”
Overflowing with witty writing and dynamic artwork, Harley Quinn #5 is a pleasure to read from cover to cover. A large portion of this issue’s success is the result of Stephanie Phillips’ ability to draw parallels between Harley Quinn’s heroic journey and Hugo Strange’s shtick as a copycat Batman. Additionally, Phillips’ discussion of literary elements throughout Harley’s narration is a humorous method of delivering each plot point as well as her thesis on storytelling. However, this story would feel incomplete without Riley Rossmo’s energetic artwork.
Picking up shortly after the events of issue #4, Harley Quinn #5 finds our title character in the clutches of the deranged Hugo Strange. Since the introduction of Hugo Strange in the first issue, I have been excited about the inevitable confrontation between these two psychiatrists. Thankfully, Phillips and Rossmo continue their winning streak by delivering a humorous, intellectual battle that isn’t lacking in the department of concussive blows from a baseball bat.
During this sequence, Harley successfully gets under Strange’s skin by constantly probing about the time he wore a mediocre Batman cosplay to a duel with the Dark Knight. Phillips’ scripting is so perfect here that I dare not spoil too much of their verbal sparring match. However, one of my favorite things about this issue is how Stephanie Phillips uses this conflict to draw parallels between Harley Quinn’s journey as the hero and Hugo Strange’s attempt to copycat Batman.
In my review of the fourth issue, I discussed Harley’s revelation about remaining true to herself instead of copying Batman through the line, “I can’t be them, but I can be me… and me can still save Kevin and the others… I think. I just need to do it my way.” Phillips provides satisfying punctuation to this lesson through Harley’s mockery of the villain for this same mistake. Here, Phillips concisely reiterates this lesson with the line, “Dressin’ as someone important doesn’t make you important.”
Harley’s combative words demonstrate growth regarding this lesson while also throwing Hugo off balance. Additionally, by drawing these parallels between the two characters, Stephanie Phillips’ work allows Harley’s revelation to serve as a narrative through-line for this two-issue story-arc. As a result, Harley Quinn #5 is wholly satisfying, giving the story a sense of cohesiveness.
“…leave the audience wanting more.”
I would be remiss if I did not mention Phillips’ use of literary elements during the narration of this issue. This is an entertaining method of depicting the events in this story and delivering her thesis on storytelling. Harley’s identification of literary elements like “rising climax,” “foreshadowing,” and “heroic journey” left me smiling because of Phillips’ use of humor and their relevance to Harley’s internal conflict.
Additionally, the reemergence of a character during Harley Quinn #5’s climax instantly reminded me of Chekhov’s Gun. Although this character did serve to deliver the previous book’s lesson to Harley, this big gun never went off during the first act. Allowing this gun to finally “go off” during this issue adds to the series’ overall cohesiveness.
However, Harley’s description of irony during her escape from the S.A.F.E. facility and the cliffhanger ending stand out among some of the other literary elements described by the writer. Phillips perfectly illustrates irony in a humorous and engaging way. Ultimately, bonus points should be awarded for this sequence because it evoked memories of Bender’s definition for the term in Futurama. Additionally, the “man behind the curtain” reveal during this issue’s cliffhanger ending has left me begging for more. I am curious to know more about this mysterious villain and his plans for Harley Quinn.
At one point, Harley narrates, “But what makes a story really interestin’ are the characters.” I couldn’t agree more. Using intriguing themes to explore with each character, Phillips has given the cast depth and made them relatable for the reader. Stephanie’s work with each character remains a highlight of this series.
Additionally, it is important to note that without Riley Rossmo’s dynamic artwork, this story and Phillips’ excellent character development would feel incomplete. Rossmo’s excellent panel work energizes this narrative through each line of dialogue and swing of Harley’s bat. My favorite examples of Rossmo’s work often lie in the subtle details that match the story’s overall tone. Specifically, the word “flush” written out in overflowing toilet water during one panel was incredibly creative. Additionally, Riley’s work with each action sequence conveys cartoonish violence that is pleasurable to the eye.
A pleasure to read from cover to cover, Harley Quinn #5 is overflowing with witty writing and dynamic artwork. Stephanie Phillips’ ability to draw parallels between the lesson Harley learned in the previous issue and Hugo Strange’s shtick as a copycat Batman gives the story a sense of cohesiveness. Additionally, Harley’s narration depicting each literary element is a humorous method of delivering each plot point as well as Phillips’ thesis on storytelling. Ultimately, this issue’s cliffhanger ending has left me clamoring for more from this excellent creative team.
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