Writer: Sam Humphries
Artist: Otto Schmidt
Letterer: Dave Sharpe
Cover Artists: Guillem March & Arif Prianto
Variant Cover Artists: Frank Cho & Sabine Rich
Assistant Editor: Andrea Shea
Editor: Alex Antone
Group Editor: Brian Cunningham
Harley Quinn created by PAUL OINI and BRUCE TIMM
Harley Quinn is written by Sam Humphries, features art from Otto Schmidt, and follows the Harley Quinn through her worst nightmare yet: The worsening health of her ailing mother.
Poor Harley—like her, we were hoping for some good news with her mother’s diagnosis, but instead, we find out her prognosis is worse than ever. Harley does her best to stay strong, and will end up facing off with death in more way than one this issue.
After the high of Harley’s last victory, we’d like to think we can relax for a moment, but of course, there’s no rest of comic book characters, nor their fans.
We start this issue with a brief glimpse of someone who calls himself “The Coney Champion”—who promptly finds himself in the path of a delivery truck, and falls prey to Death, who is standing by.
Then, we jump back to the hospital, where Harley sits diligently by her mother’s side as they get the bad news: Her mother’s cancer has spread to her bones, and she is officially in Stage 4. Harley, understandably, panics. But her mother stays strong, laughing and comforting Harley, and reminding her that the best way for them to get through this is together, and with as much joy as they can muster.
She then sends Harley out on a mission: Gather up some entertainment, because she’s in for a log fight. After getting permission to stay the night with her mother in the hospital, Harley sets off to find them some comedic relief.
In true Harley fashion, she goes to her old favorite movie rental place, only to find its yet another victim of the neighborhood’s gentrification. Closed down, awaiting demolition, Harley figures doing a little demolition of her own a day early can’t hurt (read: “breaking and entering”). She busts in and starts looking for funny movies, only to have Death show up and drop a shelf on her.
Its at this point that she’s dragged off into a mystical and beautiful world made of all her happiest childhood memories. She’s thrilled…until she realizes that this trip down memory lane is part of her death.
Harley faces off against Death, finding the strength to fight for her life, and for her ability to stay by her mother’s side through all she’s going through. She draws strength and inspiration from her mother, and literally laughs in Death’s face. In doing so, Harley buys herself enough time for Death to realize his mistake: He wasn’t supposed to take Harley, he was just picking up on the death of the store she happened to be in.
Upon returning her home, Harley’s belt lights up, alerting her that this was another trial, and that she’s passed yet again. She returns to her mother, but not before Mirand’r forlornly hints to someone we can’t see that the final trial is likely to destroy Harley.
This issue was emotional and touching. We’ve seen Harley battle every imaginable foe, but facing something she’s so helpless against—her mother’s tragic diagnosis—is a different kind of fight. A relatable, human, painfully real problem she can’t punch or kick or clever her way out of, and I think that’s what comics are ultimately for; to remind us that even the most amazing, powerful, rare, and capable of us are going to face challenges that leave us feeling helpless.
This issue combines beautiful art with a poignant message, and my only real compliant is that it wasn’t longer, because I wanted to expand on those ideas more. But maybe it’s okay that it was short and sweet—it said what it needed to say, and sometimes, that’s enough.