Rating: 3.5/5 – An Overdose of Wacky Stories, Changing Artists, and Smells.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Gabe Bustamantez.
You can tell the new Harley Quinn series has been a hit for DC Comics considering that they have really been pumping out the Harley Quinn comics lately. The issues have been shipping non-stop since the title was released December of last year. With the release of multiple printings and one-shots a Harley Quinn comic is always available on the racks. October was a 5 week month and comics get spread a little thin across those 5 weeks, which can make shipping and scheduling a little crazy for publishers and retailers. “Crazy” is the key word when talking about the Harley Quinn Annual.
The husband and wife team of Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Connor team up to write this mixed bag of crazy, zany and random material thrown together to tell a tale about the one thing we’re all looking for, friendship. Harley breaks into Arkham Asylum to save a mind controlled Poison Ivy who is creating a new and powerful potion for two villainous Arkham Doctors. During the fight everyone gets exposed to an intensely power new strain of marijuana which sends the story spiraling into separate psychedelic stories that shows how the hallucinations caused by the drug affects each character. Each story is then taken over and drawn by a different artist. You get Stjepan Sejic, Joe Quinones, Ben Caldwell, and Kelley Jones who prove the visuals to each character’s drug induced visions. Each of these guest artist have very different art styles, so it’s fun to see Kelley Jones do a story where Harley Quinn is Jack the Ripper, and Joe Quinones draw Batman eating with Arkham inmates, but this also created a sense of confusion for me as the art continues to switch up mid story and then reverts back to the main artist, John Timms, which may or may not be a part of the planned storytelling with this issue.
Normally I enjoy everything Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Connor do together, but this issue was very much all over the map. It’s a double sized issued with about 40 story pages, but felt like it ran too long to me and I had a feeling like most of the story was filler for the issue to reach the higher page count. We are introduced to a new character, Eggy, who starts out as the villain and the mastermind behind the new drug is introduced the momentum of the story is stalled as 3 pages are used up so the group of characters can try and guess Eggy’s secret origin. Then the scenes of each character’s own hallucinations also feel just thrown into the middle of the story. Since neither of those story tied in with each other or with the main story you could have easily skipped them and still follow what was going on.
This issue comes equipped with a fun new element added to the reading experience. Throughout the issue certain scents are embedded into the panels that you rub and smell for an effect that ties into the story; like suntan lotion, leather, pizza, and marijuana. But, are the added smells really a value to this comic? To me they were not. I think the story still works the same way without or without the added scents. The story felt as if the smells were forced into it with the story written around the need for smells to be in the comic. The scenes where Harley had to apply suntan lotion, or eat pizza did not feel natural and didn’t add to the story at all. I do not know how this could affect readers who read their comics digitally, since they are still paying the same $5.99 without having the chance to smell the scents which was the main marketing focus of this issue. Since the added scents caused this issue to be polybagged, will this issue even be reprinted with the smells for the next collection? Who knows.
The Harley Quinn Annual is a fun and silly stand alone story with a beginning, middle and an end that includes art from so many great artists. For a comic that is double the normal cover price the added element of the scents are fun and interesting and the extra pages are nice since you get to see so many great artists draw Harley for the first time. If you’re at all interested in reading this issue with the addition of the ‘Rub n Smell’ gimmick then you will need to go buy yourself a physical copy of this issue, since that may be the only way to get the added effects of the scents. It’s an interesting notion and seems to be the main selling point justifying the $5.99 cover price, so if it’s “cool to you” look for this at your local shop. while it’s still available
Reviewed by: Gabe Bustamantez
https://comicspectrum.com/ Covering the full spectrum of comics culture