Unbagging DC’s Harley Quinn Romances


DC’s Harley Quinn Romances


David Talaski Variant

Release: Jan 31, 2023

Written by Greg Lockard, Alexis Quasarano, Frank Allen, Zipporah Smith, Amanda Deibert, Ivan Cohen, Raphael Draccon, Carolina Munhóz, and others. Art by Max Sarin, Fico Ossio, Adriana Melo, Giulio Macaione, and others. DC is proud to present a selection of eight stories of rapscallion romance, prodigious passion, and undulating, unbridled affection. Tension builds as Apollo and Midnighter are captured by an unknown alien species who are determined to learn the secrets of their supersoldier success. Harley Quinn gets caught in a scintillating fantasy: What would life have been like if she and Ivy had met in high school? Also featuring Fire and Ice heating things up, fan-favorite heroine Power Girl’s romantic tale, John Constantine’s mysterious tryst, an amorous Aquaman adventure, and many more! These are lovelorn fantasies as only DC can tell them…but it’s not a Harlequin romance…prepare yourself for the Harley Quinn Romances!


WriterGreg Lockard | Amanda Deibert | Jessica Berbey | Alexis Quasarano | Frank Allen | Zipporah Smith | Raphael Draccon | Carolina Munhóz | Ivan Cohen
ArtistFico Ossio | Will Robson | Max Sarin | Priscilla Petraites | Giulio Macaione | John McCrea | Adriana Melo | Ig Guara-Barros
ColoristMarissa Louise | Mike Spicer | Sebastian Cheng | Fabiola Nocera | Andrew Dalhouse | Michael Atiyeh | John Kalisz | Ivan Plascencia
LettererCarlos M. Mangual | Ariana Maher | Becca Carey | Saida Temofonte | Taylor Esposito | Steve Wands
Cover ArtistDavid Talaski
Editor in ChiefMarie Javins

But nobody needs to call anyone these days. We just use the app.

For a while now, DC has been dropping holiday-themed anthologies throughout the year, and while they’re generally a mixed bag at best – and expensive to boot – I generally pick them up, if only because they generally have interesting covers.

Beyond that, they also seem to be something of a new talent showcase, as most of the short stories contained in them come from relatively unknown – at least to me – creators, and are rather low-stakes, rarely having any obvious ties to the main continuity. (Of course, it is DC, so even the flagship books set in the main continuity rarely have any obvious ties to the main continuity.)

The “relatively unknown” part holds true for this special, as I recognize only one writer, two artists, and one letterer.

The story by the writer and one of the artists I recognize is one of the best of the lot.

The special is bookended by stories featuring Harley Quinn, which is appropriate, given that her name is in the title, and she’s featured on the main cover (along with Aquaman, who is prominently featured in the last story) which is not the cover I opted for.

The first story, lettered by Taylor Esposito, the one letterer in the book that I know, involves Harley attempting to give Poison Ivy a Valentine’s Day present, in the form of a “Harlivy” fanfic she wrote.

The story’s POV shifts between what’s going on at the moment and the events that take place in Harley’s fic, and honestly, the story-within-a-story – in which Harley, Ivy, the Joker, and various other infamous Gothamites are high school students -feels like something of a stealth pilot for an all-ages book.

The framing story feels like something that would fit into the continuity of the HBO Max animated Harley Quinn series, which also recently had a Valentine’s Day special. Of course, the animated series is most decidedly not all-ages, but while this story is a lot more family-friendly, the overall style and character dynamics seem more in line with the animated continuity.

It’s a cute artistic style that would be well-suited to an all-ages book.

Because it’s a comic from Detective Comics Comics, there is, of course, a Batman story included. This one, with art by Will Robson, one of the two artists I’m familiar with, focuses on Batman saving a happy couple who get into trouble on that most dangerous of days: Valentine’s Day.

Next is a Power Girl story, written by Amanda Deibert, the only writer I recognize, with art by Adriana Melo, the other of the two artists I recognize. It’s another hard-to-place story in terms of continuity, as it features Power Girl, who these days fits into DC continuity even less well than she did in the immediate aftermath of Crisis on Infinite Earths.

In any case, in this story, she is some form of cousin to Superman – though possibly from another universe as is sometimes the case – who tries to set her up, in her civilian identity as Karen Starr, with his pal Jimmy.

Next up is a story featuring John Constantine that I’m frankly a bit baffled by. The emotional core of the story is pretty moving, but a lot of the action seems unconnected to anything else, and I’m not entirely sure why Constantine, who doesn’t do much in the story, is even involved. He seems to have somehow done a favor for a friend – which is the emotional core I mentioned – but I’m not sure what it is he’s supposed to have done.

The Fire and Ice story is bound to make shippers angry, as it focuses on the two gals being pals rather than a romantic pairing, with the main thrust being the effort to find Fire a date for Valentine’s Day using a dating app for superheroes.

Still, one could argue that the ending gives cause for hope, though it’s probably more likely that it dashes the ship against the rocks.

The Midnighter and Apollo story is probably the one I like best. It’s pretty straightforward – which is ironic, I guess – if a bit confusing, given that there’s no explanation for how they find themselves in the circumstances they’re in. Still, it’s just a little bit of fluff that explores the depth of their love for each other, which is the kind of thing that a story in a Valentine’s Day anthology ought to do, I think.

The Kite Man story certainly is a story that exists in this anthology.

There’s actually a good video that gets into it – as well as some of the other stories in this book – so I’ll just leave that right here, as her thoughts on it pretty well align with mine.

The final story, as mentioned, involves Aquaman.

The setup is that Harley has stolen Wonder Woman’s JLA credit card, which is a thing, I guess, and has invited several of the women of the DC Universe out to lunch (though they think that it was Wonder Woman who invited them).

The attendees are: Big Barda, Lori Lemaris, Black Canary, Vixen, and Zatanna.

In time, the conversation turns to the subject of romance, with Harley, for some reason – I guess because they’re eating seafood – asking if anyone has ever dated Aquaman, and being surprised by the response.

It turns out that none of them actually dated him; they all just recount various encounters with the King of the Sea, some of which were mildly flirtatious, with the “steamiest” one being him kissing Zatanna after a successful team-up.

There’s a gag about all of these things happening while “Mera is in another dimension,” with the suggestion that’s just a line he used, but given that nothing really happened anyway, I hardly see how it matters.

It ends with Aquaman showing up at Diana’s behest to recover her stolen credit card, which she learned about when the restaurant tried to charge Harley’s lunch to it. It turns out that he and Harley also had some kind of history as well, one that involves this specific restaurant, which is apparently the reason for Harley asking him about him.

Also, Mera is there, off panel, so the women all ask her to join them so they can talk about the other dimension.

Harley, meanwhile, runs away.

This one is the worst of the bunch, as it’s ultimately just kind of boring while still being kind of baffling.

I’m reasonably certain that Lori Lemaris was originally supposed to be a wheelchair-bound Barbara Gordon, as that’s who she looks like, and then there was some kind of last-minute change of plans. She looks completely different in her Aquaman story segment, suggesting to me that they scrapped a Barbara segment and replaced it with a hastily-thrown-together Lori Lemaris segment and didn’t change Lori’s look in the rest of the story.

Mainly I’m confused by her being in a wheelchair while having legs, as I’m pretty sure in the stories in which she appeared during the period in which I wasn’t reading comics in which she had legs on land she could walk, whereas in the stories I’m familiar with, she uses a wheelchair on land because she still has her tail, which she keeps covered with a blanket at all times.

Lori, as she appears in most of the story.
Lori in her “romance” segment.

As can be seen in the panel from Lori’s segment, there’s also some meta-humor in this, with, for example, Harley commenting on how few panels Lori’s story took up.

Like I said, it’s just kind of a mess, but what really bothered me was the Vixen segment. As one of the very few people in the history of the world who actually likes Justice League Detroit, I can tell you that while there was plenty of regular tension, there was ZERO sexual tension between Vixen and Aquaman.

They pretty much straight-up hated each other, and not in a “there’s a thin line” or “enemies to lovers” kind of way.

At one point, Aquaman even tried to use his telepathic abilities to take control of Vixen’s mind because she was defying his orders.

Definitely no romance – even on a primal level – there.

So that was this year’s romance special from DC. As I said, they’re always a mixed bag, but the mix on this one was off compared to previous years, but I still wanted to write about it, given what day today is. I will say that overall, the art was solid, with Robson and Melo being the standouts, though as I said, I did like Max Sarin’s style in the first Harley story, and despite having little to say about the story itself, I will say that Priscilla Petraites did well on the Kite Man story.

My main takeaway – and this is something that will probably make the Harlivy shippers mad, should they stumble upon this post – is that the first story reinforces something I’ve felt since watching the most recent season of the animated Harley Quinn and Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special: Harley isn’t always – or even often – very good girlfriend.

I mean, sure, she means well, and ultimately, Ivy seems to appreciate her, and in fairness, it does seem like sometimes Ivy needs to be pushed out of her comfort zone, but Harley ignores Ivy’s wishes all the time and is unwilling to give her any kind of space. Her own feelings often take precedence over Ivy’s, even when she thinks – or at least insists – that she’s doing things for Ivy’s benefit. She always promises to do better when Ivy finally speaks up, but then she just does the same thing over and over again.

Of course, a lot of that stems from Harley’s own insecurities and her fear of losing Ivy, which isn’t surprising, given her romantic history.

But I’m just saying: you really need to take some time to work on yourself, Harley. Spend more time listening. I mean, you should be good at that, given your former career.

And speaking of working on yourself, I need to work on writing up more Unbagging posts, given that it’s what this site is here for, but in any case, that does it for this special Unbagging of romance.

As always, special thanks go out to my comic shop, Comic Logic Books & Artwork. Please remember to support your local comic shop, and if you need to find one, click here.

Born and raised in the sparsely populated Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Jon Maki developed an enduring love for comics at an early age.

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