A little while ago, the DC fighting game known as “Injustice: Gods Among Us” started sweeping across the world. It generated massive hype and marketed itself amazingly well, and among the methods used was a prequel comic series, written by Tom Taylor. In many cases, this brilliantly-written piece of work was more beloved than the game itself, and had its run-time extended repeatedly, representing its success.
This culminated in the first Injustice Annual, which starred Lobo (before DC ruined him completely) and Harley Quinn (after DC ruined her completely, prompting Mr. Taylor to repair her, which I thank him daily for). Now, let’s be honest, that sounds like a hell of a lot of fun for even the casual fan, so let’s crack this open and take a look at Injustice Annual #1: Contract on Harley Quinn.
I try to stay reserved for reviews. Or at least, um, composed. Obviously total objectivity can be a challenge in even the easiest cases, but let’s just say that with this, all of that’s going right out the window.
Because, after reading it, I’m certain that it was the best single issue of any comic book of all time. At least, y’know, in my humble opinion.
At the heart of this comic, it’s fun. It’s hilarious, it’s got action, the dialogue is sharp, and all of the characterization is absolutely flawless. Injustice’s more troubled and ruthless Superman is pulled off with outstanding execution as he shows Lobo exactly what he’s capable of, and that he’s not afraid to do it. Lobo himself has all the necessary elements of being the macho, capricious, gruff, flippant bastich he is. Green Arrow is smarmy and swashbuckling. Black Canary is playful yet mature.
But all of that pales to something that Injustice readers already know about – Tom Taylor’s Harley Quinn.
Now, a lot of other blogs and articles have handled this issue before, and even as big a fan as I am, I believe many of them did a better job explaining this than I ever could. However, to make a long story short, Quinn has struggled with characterization over her entire run, and especially in the past few years. While even trusted authors like Jimmy Palmiotti have been destroying any semblance of the character she once was, Mr. Taylor (and Mr. Taylor alone) has managed to bring back (and, even more amazingly, improve upon) a character who’s been beloved by fans of over twenty years.
Here, Harley Quinn runs the full gamut through crazy, adorable, sympathetic, sexy, badass, intelligent, and uproariously funny without sacrificing any shred of her personality. Each trait builds upon the others exactly the way they’re supposed to, creating the perfect style of her character.
But enough gushing. This is about the comic, not a single character, right? Well, yeah, sorta. Anyway, let’s take an even closer look at some aspects of this.
The dialogue is perfect. Not at any moment did I feel my eyes wandering away from the screen or skimming even a single syllable of any speech bubble by any character. The action is easy to follow but not overly simplified, making it both delicious and easy to digest. And, amazingly, this book isn’t just fun – it also shows signs of deeper introspection, specifically in that of its two protagonists. There’s a very empowering moment for Harley that keeps her cuteness and relateability intact that no other author has managed, and Lobo gets a really hardcore finale to remind everyone why he’s the Main Man.
The graphic novel (eh, it’s on the small side, but I’m callin’ it a graphic novel anyway!) is also respectful – both of its readers, and of the source material. Injustice may be an alternate reality, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get a brief glimpse at Harley’s classic costume in a trophy room. It also respects its readers’ intellect, using several call-back jokes and references that only get funnier the more they’re aged and refined.
The artwork wavers, as the burden is shouldered by multiple different artists (I can only assume they were rushed and worked simultaneously). Certain artists are better than others, but when push comes to shove and we need a really visually spectacular scene (the few pages right after Harley pops her pill spring to mind) it doesn’t disappoint in any respect.
Another, smaller note is this comic’s use of sex appeal, which is balanced just about perfectly. There’s definitely some fanservice for everyone, no matter what they’re into – Harley’s cleavage presents itself quite proudly in several pages, and there is also a brief panty shot towards the end. Canary’s butt makes an appearance. Ollie is as dashingly adorkable as ever. And, for those who like ’em macho, Lobo’s combination of confidence and a sense of humor makes him weirdly sexy in a way that I never before noticed. However, none of this is overplayed in the least; it adds to the experience rather than distracting from it, and never seemed like it went too far (in my personal opinion).
So, what else is there to say? Gosh, everything. If I thought it’d interest anyone I’d gush over every panel of every page, that’s how much I enjoyed this comic. However, I feel that I’ve said enough, and hopefully this will convince you to pick up the annual (and if you’re smart, and a DC fan, you’ll grab the entire run of the prequel comic). And, when in doubt, remember – no one should have ta justify th’ greatness of a mustache.