Since Rob Williams, Jim Lee and Scott Williams will also be the creative team for the new “Suicide Squad” comic, “Harley Quinn and the Suicide Squad April Fool’s Special” #1 is in a position that puts a lot of eyes on it. In many ways, the issue could have served as a preview of what “Suicide Squad” will be in just a few months. However, Williams, Lee, Williams and Sean “Cheeks” Galloway go for several different styles, but never quite click with any of them.
The basic thrust of the comic involves Harley Quinn attempting to start “Evil Anonymous,” a super-villain therapy group with herself at the center. Despite her best efforts to assist the criminally insane, things start to go haywire, and everything comes to a head as Harley finds herself back in some familiar hands. The ideas here aren’t bad; Williams uses Harley’s former profession as a launch point, and he keeps the overall scheming nature of Amanda Waller intact. However, there’s no denying that the first two-thirds of this comic have a very different tone than the last third. The sudden shift feels a little too abrupt, and neither tone feels fully fleshed out.
The lighter part of the book encompasses the first 20 pages, with Lee drawing the first ten pages and Galloway the second ten. It’s clearly meant to be very silly and fun, as we see Harley trying to help those who are clearly not ready to be helped. There are some little bits here and there that are genuinely funny, like the sequence with Harley hearing from all of the different villains and their deliberately puerile confessions (Killer Moth’s eventual “I’m obsessed with moths” being the best). However, much of this never comes across as quite funny enough; certain lines — like Harley saying you should never use your patient as a surfboard — are clearly meant to bring laughs, but the strength behind those one-liners is never present. They’re all half-hearted jokes that should be witheringly funny or at least built up over time to gain some added impact.
It’s clear Galloway’s art is better suited for the humorous part book; his clean, cartoonish style will bring to mind Bruce Timm’s work on the classic “Mad Love” one-shot that first presented Harley’s origin. His art gives an extra tinge of levity, although it’s not quite enough to make sequences instantly funny. Still, I like the animation cel look of the art a great deal. It’s also a huge contrast next to Lee and Scott Williams’ styles, both of which are hyper-detailed. They definitely aren’t as suited to the lighter part of the book; their artwork comes across as a more deliberate superhero tussle than something madcap or slapstick.
Lee’s pencils fit in better in the last third of the book, where Rob Williams shifts things a great deal and the book becomes much darker. Lee draws Harley’s capture by the Justice League, which transitions from harrowing to downright disturbing. Lee makes this sequence border on horror, and it’s the most promising part of the comic. That said, we barely get any of the new setup — most of it being promised in the “to be continued” tag — and that’s too bad, because this is where Williams and Lee could have sold the readers on buying “Suicide Squad” #1. As the Squad is barely in this comic, there’s not quite enough in this story to get a feel for what we’ll see there. It is nice to see Lee’s renditions of the Squad characters, though; Amanda Waller is clearly based on Viola Davis a bit more now, though the rest of the Squad (Boomerang in particular) look like their familiar comic book selves.
I’m hopeful that the little glimpse we see at the end of “Harley Quinn and the Suicide Squad April Fool’s Special” #1 bodes well for what’s still to come, but — due to its brevity it — it never quite shifts into “you must read this” territory. That’s a shame, because this could have quickly transformed “Suicide Squad” #1 into a must-purchase. In the end, this is just alright, but I wish that either portion of this book felt a little more confident in tone. The humor isn’t quite funny enough, and the grimmer section comes and goes in the blink of an eye. With all eyes on “Suicide Squad” thanks to the upcoming movie, this needs to be more than just average. Here’s hoping for something well above average the next time around.