Harley Quinn: No Good Dead by Stephanie Phillips, Riley Rossmo, Laura Braga and Jay Leisten
DC Comics, pb £11.76
Reviewed by Sarah Deeming
Harley Quinn is back in Gotham, and this time she means business. The Joker has vanished and left a hoard of clown thugs without direction or goal. Some are in prison, and others are trying to move on from their life of crime which isn’t easy without professional emotional support. As Harley Quinn is a qualified psychiatrist and a Joker Survivor, she’s more qualified than anyone to help the abandoned clowns. But first, she has to convince Batman she’s on the level, and then the ex-clowns that they can trust her. Nor is she alone in her attempts to redeem the ex-clowns. Dr Hugo Strange has been released from prison, given a lab and all the clowns his experiments could need. Geez, how many different ways do these clowns need Harley Quiin to save them?
I’ll start my review by explaining that I have a funny relationship with Harley Quinn, specifically, how she is portrayed. For me, she is an intelligent woman who was abused mentally, physically and emotionally by a sociopath. But despite everything The Clown Prince of Gotham threw at her, Harley Quinn escaped their toxic relationship and is making amends for her past crimes. Her journey needs to be recognised, as well as the lasting impact the Joker will have had on her. It is a tricky tightrope to walk, and sometimes, in my opinion, writers focus too much on her quirks than her whole personality.
Luckily, No Good Deed is not one of those. Philips and Rossmo create a Harley Quinn who is flighty and violent like a murderous pixie, but also a Harley Quinn who is thoughtful, intelligent and caring. In one scene, she explains to Batman her plan for making amends to those she’s hurt and how she wants to help the clowns because she gets them as no one else can, and then she shakes him down for money to fund her plans. Only Harley Quinn could get away with that.
The art style is quite cartoonish, which worked really well for me. No Good Deed is quite a dark story with scenes depicting torture. Had it been done in a realistic style, the comic would probably have been released through DC Black Label and to a much smaller reader pool.
Harley’s boundless energy is also captured successfully on the page. She is depicted in a different position in each panel, sometimes more than one depending on how long the panel is, demonstrating perpetual movement, which is not easy to do on paper. It’s a breathless read, which fits Harley Quinn’s character.
Even though Harley Quinn is a redeemed character with a sunny disposition, she is violent and dangerous. The colours are bright, even for those dark scenes of torture and abuse. Panels of her beating people with her baseball bat with a grin on her face and coloured in fun shades capture her essence perfectly. There is more to No Good Deed, and I’m on the hunt for it.
Harley Quinn: No Good Deed takes us on an emotional character journey as Harley Quinn attempts to reconcile her pre- and post-Joker pasts to the future she wants for herself. It is a powerful read, not glorifying the Joker or his actions but laying out the consequences of his behaviour bare, meaning we root for Harley Quinn all the more. Highly recommended.