Now there’s a clever title for the annual giant love anthology from DC. OK, it took me a second to get it, as in the UK we don’t have Harlequin Romances, but it’s undeniably smart.
As are the stories in this 86pp spectacular. OK, they aren’t all to my taste, but none are less than objectively decent.
Let’s get the difficult one out of the way first, the opening ‘Stranger than fan fiction’. It has Harley distracting Poison Ivy as she bids to reach a rare plant by reading a teen romcom she’s written and drawn about the two of them. The two different worlds look terrific as drawn by Max Sarin, coloured by Marissa Louise and lettered by Taylor Esposito, but it took me three attempts to get through the story. This isn’t witty, manic Harley, writer Alexis Quasarano is playing to the section of the audience who just want to see two cute supervillains snogging. So a distinctly wet Harley spends the whole nine pages goo-goo-eyed over Ivy, while the Joker and Punchline occasionally show up to mock them. But as I said, it looks amazing.
‘Here’s to Jack, here’s to Molly’ is more my cup of tea, immediately engaging me by playing into the heroically miserable Batman trope (‘Just another couple assuming they’ll get their happy ending’). It’s St Valentine’s Day and as the Caped Crusader bids to stop would-be groom Jack exploding, his lady love Molly comes along for the ride.
Writer Zipporah Smith balances drama and humour to marvellous effect, and tops things off with a cherry on the wedding cake, while artist Will Robson, colourist Andrew Dalhousie and letterer Steve Wands provide immersive visuals and texture.
After the decidedly strange new approach to Power Girl in the latest Action Comics, it’s wonderful to see a more classic version of the character in ‘All-American Boy’. Superman sets alternate Earth cousin Karen up with the great guy he reckons she needs – Jimmy Olsen. Jimmy is usually played as the Daily Planet’s court jester, Power Girl suffers no fools… will they get on?
Answers come courtesy of writer Amanda Deibert, who we really need to see more of at DC, artist Adriano Melo, colourist John Kalisz and letterer Becca Carey. This story is a gorgeous slice of grown-up superhero life and if the creative team don’t get another crack at Peege it would be criminal. At the very least let Melo design Karen an entire wardrobe…
When is a team-up not a team-up? When I don’t realise who John Constantine has helping him stop a demon – and there’s a big clue right there in his name! All is revealed by our clever writer Frank Allen at the close of proceedings, following a touching meeting between ‘Brandon’ and Grace.
It’s such a treat to see Hitman and Demon artist John McCrea here, few artists handle the everyday madness of the DC Universe so brilliantly; the quiet moments with Grace and Brandon sit perfectly alongside the satanic struggles of Constantine. What’s more, McCrea gives John a swanky new look, nicely coloured by Mike Spicer, while Becca Carey spreads the words.
Who remembers Capoeira? Early Nineties Black Canary bad guy? Reckons he knows the dance of death? Well, he’s back because no one demanded it, and Fire and Ice have got him.
They’re in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for St Valentine’s Day, and Fire fancies finding someone to make her hot heart smoulder. Bring on the Super Dating App!
By the end of the story, ‘Dating app disaster’, Bea has a brilliant new boyfriend.
Well, maybe not, but you’ll have had a fun diversion courtesy of writers Raphael Draccon and Carolina Munhóz (actual Brazilians, and married – oh, the romance!), artist Ig Guara (another Brazilian – is no one from a hidden ice kingdom?), colourist Ivan Plascencia and busy fonts queen Becca Carey.
Love conquers all – or at least a bunch of nasty extraterrestrial scientists – in ‘Across the Multiverse’. Amusingly, when Apollo arrives to rescue his tied-up husband, Midnighter would rather watch him in action than be rescued.
Maybe it’s pride, maybe it’s horniness… it’s certainly different. The unusual angle comes from Greg Lockard – writer of the acclaimed ComiXology Original love story Liebestrasse – and artist Giulio Macaione, whose open, expressive illustrations are a delight. Adding to the joy are colourist Fabs Nocera and letterer Ariana Maher.
Next up is Kite Man, elevated just beyond obscurity by writer Tom Taylor during his Batman run. Here’s he’s sad because he has no date for February 14, and then he’s an idiot. The main gag of Jessica Berbey’s ‘Once Upon a Romance Novel’ – who is Kite Man’s dream date? – is a tad overextended but the real story is the art, just look at the opening page.
You can see the names right there, but let’s officially laud illustrator Priscilla Petraites (Brazilian!) and colour artist Michael Atiyeh for a beautiful scene setter. Heck, the art is amazing throughout, I mean, look at these pups!
And Berbey made me laugh out loud with this moment.
The sharp lettering comes from Saida Temofonte. So it’s superb-looking, surreal silliness all the way, and that’ll do me.
You will have noticed the glorious cover from illustrator Amanda Conner with designer Darran Robinson. Turns out there’s a story to go with it, as a gaggle of DCU lovelies gather at the invitation of Harley Quinn and find out they’ve got someone in common.
‘Sort of an amnesiac hippie.’ Ouch! And seeing what Aquaman has been up to I feel terrible for all the times I’ve called Dolphin an undersea slapper. Writer Ivan Cohen uses his deep knowledge of DC history to give us the harsh, but fair ‘Splendor in the foam’. It’s true, Mera was ‘in another dimension’ a lot (or on a break – a psychotic one), but that’s what happens when the same Aquaman story beats are echoed down the continuities. Whatever, this story is a hoot, with Cohen’s breezy script energetically illustrated by Fico Ossio, coloured by Sebastian Cheng and lettered by Carlos M Mangual.
It’s the perfect ending to what must by DC’s best seasonal giant in a while, put together by editors Andrew Marino, Michael McCalister, Katie Kubert, Ben Meares and Alex Galer. Kisses all round!
7 thoughts on “Harley Quinn Romances #1 review”
You did it again. I can’t stand Harley Quinn and now I have to read this. You need to stop doing this to me!
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It’s already on DC Infinite to be read, happily.
I agree with you this is the best holiday special in a while. Had a lot of fun with it. Great to see you cover it. It seems as if the writers and artists had a lot of freedom to pick and choose what they wanted to tell and play with a lot of continuity and cameos. Made it fun. That Constantine one affected me more than I thought it would. Power Girl got a good showing as well.
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So many big comics lately, Nick. I’ve still not cracked open the Black Power issue.
The Kite Man story draws a bit on his character beats and approach from the fantastic Harley Quinn cartoon, where he spent the first season engaged to Poison Ivy before she left him for Harley. And Clayface is very much ‘an actooooooor’ in that show. 🙂
This is a great issue all around. Love FUN read these days.
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Thanks, that’s so over my head (appropriately), I couldn’t get through a single episode of Harley Quinn. I am against DC mixing continuities, tut!
Come on. The last Titans series proved there is no continuity or at least no one paying attention to it.