Thought I’d join in the fun in the laziest way I could!
I’ve enjoyed Jimmy Palmiotti’s work for many years now – his stories, whether with Justin Gray or Amanda Conner – usually embrace the one element I really look for in comics: fun. Sure, he can do dark and serious as well, but in amongst all that, someone’s more often than not having a good time and not taking things too seriously.
Over the last few years, he and Conner have really hit the jackpot with the work they’ve done on the Harley Quinn series, pretty much taking her out of the mainstream DCU and just having a blast with her, barely paying any attention to what’s going on in the wider DC world – just witness the team up between her and Power Girl. Apart from a few cosmetic costume changes to PG, she was clearly the version Palmiotti was writing and Conner illustrating before Flashpoint and the New 52, even though she’d been replaced by the Earth 2 version.
While I don’t get the Harley series as a monthly, I have picked up the trades because of Palmiotti and Conner’s work, and I’ve really enjoyed them.
I’ve just read volume 5, The Joker’s Last Laugh and while it was a blast, there was a scene in there that made me groan not just at DC’s publishing policy but what I perceive to be an American issue.
Quick bit of setting the scene: Harley’s friends run burlesque show; she’s ticked off some powerful people who are about to storm the building and slaughter not just her but anyone else in the way. Just getting ready for the show are Queenie and a new girl:
Note the cat and dog on the right hand side.
Straight after this, two bad guys arrive and are about to shoot the girls before Goatboy – another of Harley’s friends – charges them, breaking the nose of one of them. Being bad guys, they plan to shoot Goatboy for standing up to them before the girls distract them:
And what are two burlesque performers going to use to distract the bad guys?
Yep, by flashing their boobs. This being an American comic aimed at teens, though, you’re not allowed to see those boobs, hence the cat and dog flying in front of them, obscuring them from the reader’s view.
With the bad guys distracted, the next panel is this:
The bad guys’ heads exploding as Big Tony arrives with a shotgun to save the day:
But thankfully the girls have now replaced their bras. Sure, we can still see the bloodied headless corpse of one bad guy, but at least we’re not seeing boobs.
This weird double standard is everywhere in American TV, films, video games and comic books – blood and guts are fine to view and (in the case of games) to allow the player to create, but the merest hint of nudity? Nope, we’re not having any of that, thank you very much.
I’ve no doubt there are scholarly papers written about this strange worldview and whether it stems from some anti-sex Puritan holdover mixed with some Second Amendment fuelled love of guns, but I just find it baffling that two consecutive comic books panels censor boobs in one then show heads being blown up in the next.
You sure are weird, America.
Critics hate it, fans love it, apparently. At the time of writing, Rotten Tomatoes scores it thus:
For what it’s worth, those scores aren’t much different from the much maligned Batman v Superman which are currently 27% and 65% respectively.
I’m going to have to come down somewhere in the middle – there’s stuff to enjoy in the film but there’s a lot of dross to get through as well.
First the good stuff:
Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn are both absolutely spot on and carry the majority of this film. Smith is back at his wise-cracking but serious best and absolutely nails the character of Deadshot. He shares most of the limelight with Robbie’s Harley who has received much of the pre-release hype and more than lives up to it. They’re both damaged in different ways and of all the Squad members, they’re the ones who most believably bond, Deadshot’s daughter issues making him look after the sometimes innocent, mostly crazy Harley.
The other character that shines is Viola Davis’s Amanda Waller who is scarier than a dozen Killer Crocs. She’s cold and ruthless (perhaps too ruthless in one scene) but always in control of the Squad and isn’t rattled by any of them. These three are definitely the high points of the film – it’s just a shame there are so many other things happening around them that don’t allow them to be even better.
As to the bad – well, to be honest, it’s not terrible . . . it’s just disappointing.
Once again a DC film takes places almost entirely at night in the rain; you want to make a brighter film, DC? Try doing it in daylight for a change.
The plot’s barely there: after twenty minutes or so of setting up most of the characters, the Enchantress (technically a Squad member) manages to escape, rescue and resurrect her brother and then sets about wiping out humanity by building a machine using magic. Because, you know, that’s what she does, apparently.
And Enchantress’s method of magical machine building seems to be comprised of wearing not very much and writhing about with her hands in the air.
The Squad are assembled and head off to deal with a “terrorist threat” and rescue someone very important. Led by Rick Flag and accompanied by a band of nameless and expendable special forces types, they quickly realise the threat is actually the Enchantress and her brother and end up coming together in order to combat her.
And that’s pretty much it. Sure, there’s a sub-plot featuring Jared Leto’s much talked about Joker (short version: he’s okay, but he’s no Heath Ledger – and, man, he’s going to hear that a lot so full marks for having the balls to take on the role) and his attempt to rescue Harley, but really the film spends a good 80% of its time battling the bad girl. There’s no real lead up, there’s no believable bonding among the Squad (with the exception of Deadshot and Harley) and apart from the leads, none of the other members really have a stand-out moment.
El Diablo comes closest near the end but even his moment (and I’m trying to avoid spoilers) comes out of nowhere and is gone in an instant; Captain Boomerang does next to nothing and has a fetish for pink unicorns that is neither explained nor mentioned; Katana has a handful of lines of dialogues, slices up some generic bad guys and does little else; and Killer Croc merely growls a lot.
Because most of the Squad doesn’t bond with each other, the audience doesn’t have the opportunity to bond with them either so when one or more of them don’t make it (hey, it’s called Suicide Squad – not everyone pulls through) there’s no real emotional cost.
Again, it’s not a terrible film and I would definitely watch this again rather than B v S, but if this was the one that Warner Bros/DC were banking on as being a credible counter to Marvel’s run away success, they’re going to be disappointed. Again.
So, no pressure, Wonder Woman.