HARLEY QUINN #38 by Frank Tieri, Mirka Andolfo, Eleonora Carlini, Alex Sinclair, and Dave Sharpe
Even though Harley doesn't show up until halfway through the issue, HARLEY QUINN #38 is still great. It's got references, puns, and jokes that'll probably make you laugh out loud. More than anything, it looks absolutely beautiful. The art is striking and impactful, and it really elevates the book.
90 %
Funny And Beautiful

You would think a HARLEY QUINN book would need a whole lot of Harley to be good, but apparently not. HARLEY QUINN #38 only brings its namesake in about halfway through the issue. Somehow, it still works. It’s because this comic has some very notable things going for it. Just this time around, not one of them is the “Clown Princess of Crime.” Warning, spoilers can be found below!

Chaos, Just Chaos

While Mr. Freeze and a bunch of seemingly worthless villains attack Coney Island on behalf of the Penguin, Harley is out of town fighting the Gorilla Gang. Little does she know her friends are the only thing preventing the total destruction of Coney.

To make matters even worse, Killer Croc has made it his mission to take control of the entire Island. As we find out later in this issue, it’s because he was once part of the freak show there. It’s clear that this wasn’t a positive experience for him, which we find out in a truly emotional moment.

By the end, we realize that unless Harley can heal enough to go home, Coney as she knows it is as good as gone. Somehow, HARLEY QUINN #38 still isn’t a total downer.

All The References

Everyone loves a good pun, but series of good puns? Forget it. Nothing’s better. Except for a series of good puns that happen to be making a pretty incredible reference.

HARLEY QUINN #38 page 5. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Writer Frank Tieri either loves BATMAN & ROBIN, or he loves to hate it. Because damn. The instant Mr. Freeze comes into this book all bets are off. He might not be the one making all the puns, but they’re still there. Schwarzenegger is even mentioned. It’s a lot.

What’s even more hysterical than Harley Queens’ puns is the way the rest of the Gang of Harleys reacts to them. Harlem Harley saying, “Terrible. Just… terrible,” after Harley Queens tells Freeze to “chill out, dude,” will never not be funny. It’s clear that Tieri has nailed these characters, and the work he’s doing with them is impressive.

In the true spirit of the series, the pop culture references in HARLEY QUINN #38 don’t end there. We also get nods to Ben Kingsley, Magilla Gorilla, and fan theories about Supreme Leader Snoke. It’s a fun time.

HARLEY QUINN #38 page 6. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

An Artistic Joy

The jokes and banter aren’t the only fun things about this book. The art is truly beautiful to behold. Some pages literally made me go “wow” aloud. Mirka Andolfo, Eleonora Carlini, Alex Sinclair, and Dave Sharpe absolutely nail every inch of this issue.

Carlini’s take on Killer Croc will make you stare, and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s truly striking work, giving Killer Croc an added dimension of sadness to top of the usual terror he invokes. The reason he’s so connected to Coney Island is heartbreaking, but the art takes it to another level of realism and melancholy.

Andolfo’s first image of the Gorilla Gang is also powerful. The arrangement of the characters, their dynamic faces, and the downward angle of the frame make a serious impact.

Things Get Pretty Batty In HARLEY QUINN #36

But perhaps the most terrifying page of HARLEY QUINN #38 is the last one. The sheer chaos depicted is truly something to behold. As scary as it is, it’s still somehow beautiful. Everything comes together just so in this instance, making it one of those pages that stays with you once you’ve closed the book and moved on.

And Then There’s This Guy

Perhaps Tieri’s shining moment in HARLEY QUINN #38 is the series of bad villains he introduces. Chief amongst them is Condiment King. Yes, that’s right, kids — Condiment King.

He takes over the Nateman’s hotdog stand and starts squirting mustard and ketchup on people, which is funny enough as a concept. Then he decides to take it up a notch and say one of the most amazing things I’ve read in a comic in a minute: “Now you have to go home and change your clothes! How inconvenient! Condiment King wins again!”

Like, my dude. You have to know that that is a low bar you’re setting for yourself. You’re better than this, Condiment King. Damn, did it make me laugh.

Poison Ivy and the Importance of Empathy

The Overall Success Of HARLEY QUINN #38

Even though there’s a lot more to celebrate than criticize in this issue, there are a couple of missteps. Red Tool saving Harley without her knowing is questionable. He’s a little bit of a stalker and, quite frankly, Harley can save herself 99% of the time, but whatever. I’ll let it go because it’s not a big part of the plot here.

What’s been great about Tieri’s run so far is the treatment of Harley’s trauma, which is virtually unmentioned in this issue. Despite small gripes like these, HARLEY QUINN #38 is absolutely a win for this team. Here’s to many more.

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