“DC’s Harley Quinn Romances #1″
Writers: Alexis Quasarano, Zipporah Smith, Amanda Deibert, Franke Allen, Raphael Draccon and Carolina Munhoz, Greg Lockard, Jessica Berbey, Ivan Cohen
Artists: Max Sarin, Will Robson, Adriana Melo, John McCrea, Ig Guara, Giulio Macaione, Priscilla Petraites, Fico Ossio
Color Artists: Marissa Louise, Andrew Dalhouse, John Kalisz, Mike Spicer, Ivan Plascencia, Fabs Nocera, Michael Atiyeh, Sebastian Cheng
Letterers: Taylor Esposito, Steve Wands, Becca Carey, Ariana Maher, Saida Temofonte, Carlos M. Mangual
Review by Lauren Fiske
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, DC’s Harley Quinn Romances #1 has arrived! This little collection of mini comics covers several different love stories. Queer, straight, platonic, and self love are all explored in these stories with a variety of tones. The fact the covers of this issue, and the actual title, reflect and honor the classic Harlequin Romance novels (first published in 1949, and still in print today!) is a bonus for fans of the romance genre.
Each tale has its own stars (other than the first and last, which both feature Ms. Quinn) and their own creative teams. Each story is unique, relatively comical and at least somewhat fun. All of the teams do a great job with the stories they want to tell and definitely incorporate love in wonderful ways… but dang, there’s a LOT to go through, so we’ve got to just dive in.
Beware of light spoilers!
DC’s Harley Quinn Romances #1
Harley Quinn in “Stranger than Fan Fiction”
Harley Quinn starts this issue with my favorite of her romantic partners, Poison Ivy! Not every iteration of Harley and Ivy work as a couple but I truly enjoy reading about these two. I also love that they represent a major part of the LGBTQ+ community in DC comics! I highly doubt that the original creators of each villainess thought that the characters would end up together (and be extremely popular as a couple to boot), but that’s quite alright.
This story’s incredibly cute. From writing to art, there’s a lot to love as, Harley’s idea of writing a fan fiction comic about her own relationship is so endearing, even if Ivy’s distracted most of the time that she’s trying to appreciate it. However, both girlfriends do get to give each other meaningful and beautiful gifts for Valentine’s Day.
This story’s sweet, but not sickeningly so and both Harley and Ivy’s mutual softness for each other is lovely to see. The only problem is that it wrapped up rather abruptly, but that can be forgiven for all the cute art of Harley and Ivy together!
Batman in “Here’s to Jack, Here’s to Molly”
Batman may be the hero of this website, but he was kind of a jerk in this story. This was one of the shorter tales in the issue and for that I’m grateful. Bitterness isn’t a good color on Batman, especially when we’re missing context for why he’sfeeling and acting that way. The fact that he’s just upset about being alone and is being a bit of b!+(# about it is frustrating. Bruce Wayne’s usually very nuanced and multi layered, but this version of Batman just fell flat.
I liked Jack and Molly though! Their determination and goofy love of Batman was an unexpected element, especially when their eventual wedding is shown. The use of color in this mini is also very dynamic with the combination of darker shades of blue and red.
This tale ranks lower on my list, but there’s nothing wrong with a reluctant Batman doing his job as the hero of Gotham City. Bruce even learns that his help of the public is its own kind of love, and isn’t that part of what being a superhero is about?
Power Girl in “Power Girl and All-American Boy”
Power Girl’s a hero I wasn’t wholly familiar with before reading this issue, but I really enjoyed Superman’s cousin, Karen. Clark sets her up with a coworker of his, someone who’s perfect for Karen in almost every way and the two definitely seem to be headed toward love.
It’s incredibly sweet that Superman wants to see other members of his family happy, but I feel like he looks at love through rose colored glasses because of his upbringing and his relationship with Lois. Love is more complicated for other superheroes and that’s okay, as long as they’re okay with it.
My only issue with this story’s the pacing, as it’s difficult to gauge. There don’t need to be panels that say “three days later…” or something like that, and the whole thing feels rushed. Sadly, this is because the it’s part of a collection and there’re limited pages and panels devoted to it, but it’s still a bummer. I would have liked to spend more time with Karen in this one, but I’m grateful for the time she does have on the page. Fingers crossed that she’ll find love if she so desires.
Constantine in “Grace”
Okay, so this one broke me a little bit. I honestly wish I could say a LOT more about it, but to do so would give away the ending and I don’t want to spoil one bit of it! I will say however that this little tale is near perfect. It’s not a typical romance story in the slightest, but is incredibly moving and heartfelt. I genuinely almost cried after I finished it (and learned more about the characters involved). Constantine isn’t the most present character in his own story, but that’s just part of how it is.
The art style in this is a little more old fashioned, but incredibly well done. It’s not really to my taste but I definitely recognize the skill it takes to create grungier art, in the style chosen by the artists. This grittier linework and colors suits the tone of the story and the character of Constantine, so everything in it flows really nicely. I highly recommend reading this story as soon as possible and going into it blind. It’ll get you where it feels good and you won’t regret it. This was my favorite story from DC’s Harley Quinn Romances #1.
Fire and Ice in “Dating App Disaster”
Off to Brazil! This comic goes international with Fire and Ice, a power duo that surprisingly isn’t just blue and red (okay, Ice is still blue, but Fire is at least green!). These two gal pals are trying to figure out their Valentine’s plans with a new exclusive dating app that’s just for superheroes. The resulting Valentine celebration instead is a sweet result. Some people however have been hoping this pair would become romantic, while I think the platonic ending is valid and should definitely be shown in an issue all about every aspect of love… but I had a different issue with this story.
At the beginning, Fire explains to Ice what Valentine’s Day’s all about in Brazil and it’s strictly a romantic observance of love. Ice tells Fire briefly about other ways to celebrate the day, but it’s Fire in the end who proposes that the gals spend the day together. It just felt a little bit odd in the end, even if it was a nice result. This comic is a nice slice of life for a superhero and simple fun. I hope to see more of Fire, Ice, and Brazil in the future.
Midnighter and Apollo in “Across the Multiverse”
Alright, so as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I don’t want to say anything against queer stories, in any shape or form. That being said, of all of the short tales in this issue, I liked this one the least. It’s a quality comic and of course, it’s so important to tell more stories about queer people and gay men, but I found Apollo’s character a bit pretentious and unrelatable. His partner, Midnighter, was sarcastic and fun, but we spend the majority of this comic with Apollo. His statements about love are extremely corny and, as a result, come off insincere.
The story’s ideas of one lover saving another is charming though. The unknown villains were an interesting choice, but I felt like they were given too many frames and too much space in the frames. The art is fun and I love the color juxtapositions between Midgnighter and Apollo. Overall, the story’s fine, though a little simple, albeit slightly boring entry. I’m just glad that gay stories are making their way into comic books.
Kite Man in “Once Upon a Romance Novel”
Oh, Kite Man. What a strange and sad villain you are. Chuck Brown is a lower tier villain compared to some of Batman’s greatest foes, but I really appreciated his relatability. Alone on Valentine’s Day, Kite Man consigns himself to going home and reading a romance novel., and that’s when things get… weird. At the same time, I loved this story! It’s so goofy and doesn’t take itself seriously whatsoever. Kite Man goes on a journey of self love that is very unexpected and hilariously narcissistic, in the best way possible.
The story’s full of kite motifs and the villain’s obnoxious shade of green. Honestly, it couldn’t be more perfect. This isn’t a stereotypical love or Valentine’s Day tale, but Kite Man isn’t your usual criminal either. The art style’s slightly lurid but classic and I love the tonal shift between the character’s reality and fantasy. This entry’s very enjoyable and genuinely makes me want to explore the world of Kite Man more. Even if the guy is completely full of himself, reading about an idiot is always a good time.
Aquaman and Harley Quinn in “Splendor in the Foam”
Harley’s second outing in this issue sees her romantically pairing off with someone I doubt anyone would expect, Aquaman! Well, to be clear, this one’s more of a bait and switch as most of the time is spent with Harley at lunch with “friends” who all were former paramours of Arthur Curry’s… or so they claim. This story’s odd. There’re a lot ideas that the creative team’s trying to tell from several different female perspectives. It all feels a bit rushed and we don’t actually get to see the two title characters very much. The story suffers a little bit as a result.
Still, I love the art direction of this mini. As each ex of Aquaman recounts her time with the king of Atlantis, the art style changes entirely. Each perspective of Arthur feels unique, which works really well since he’s portrayed differently to each woman. Classic Aquaman and more modern takes are shown from panel to panel, which all adds to the humor of the moment. Nothing’s as fun. however. as seeing Harley getting visibly flustered and fleeing after she herself encounters him.
This one’s alright. I enjoyed the fun little experiment of a villain/hero combo, especially one as seemingly silly as Harley and Aquaman.
DC’s Harley Quinn Romances #1 is enjoyable. Nothing in this issue is bad, and that’s a compliment. honestly. Most of the stories had a clear direction, the art was always creative and looked fantastic, and you could feel the love coming from the pages, both in the lives of the characters and the work that the creative teams put in. Some of the entries were more heartfelt or meaningful than others, but everything in the issue was quality.
I want to congratulate DC on such a stellar outing and the many teams that worked on the different chapters. creating a collection such as this one can’t be easy and DC used this opportunity to provide work for several new and up-and-coming talents. Any future Valentine’s Day issues will hopefully feature even more new creators and team ups. Also, more queer stories!
I’m excited to read more, learn about other obscure DC characters, and enjoy more love. See you next time!
Images Courtesy of DC Entertainment