Batman Urban Legends #1: “New Roots”
With a broken down Harley remembering the love she longs to get back, “New Roots” sets up a romantic mystery that will echo through the pages of both Harley Quinn and Batman.
“New Roots” is the Harley kick off short story that we’ve been waiting for and deserving for quite a while. The dialogue between Ivy and Harley in the flashbacks is dynamic and engaging, with the characterization dancing graciously between cocky, charming and sweet. The emotional gravitas of what Harley is going through and how she remembers Ivy through her solitude and their memorabilia is dramatic, tense, and plays in a perfect contrast with the joy in the flashbacks. Each one of the connections between Harley’s nostalgic feelings and the sprouting of their love is a beacon of light shining over their relationship, in a way that, finally, makes justice of how these are two queer women that have been dating for years. In love. Kissing on-the-mouth. Stephanie Phillips gets Harley and Ivy’s relationship perfectly and, with very little but needed details, moves it forward in the bluntest way it has ever been done. No excuses, no “but”s, no confusing narratives sidelining their relationship. Harley and Ivy are central here, and Harley’s drama is way more potent and weighted because of it. And… yes, there’s a “but” coming.
In the first page of this story, the line “a couple of Robin Hoods with X-chromosomes” threw me off in a lot of ways. Probably cause this is the joy story I want, as a queer woman, but, as a trans woman, I’m casually and quietly sidelined from it. But, my complaint is not only my personal feelings towards it. This is a phrase that can be easily thrown by cis women unaware of how chromosomes have nothing to do with someone’s gender or sex, and how calling women “X-chromosomes” erases both trans and intersex women from the conversation. And, yes, Harley could humanly fail to recognize that when she’s throwing a casual joke… but the problem is Harley is not a real person. She’s one of the most prominent LGBT+ characters of DC Comics, and casual cissexism could easily have been avoided here, making this story way more enjoyable for trans and intersex readers, who most probably would be hurt by one of the characters LGBT+ fans hold dearest casually erasing part of our community.
So, first and foremost, thank you Stephanie Phillips, because this was one of the best Harley stories I’ve read, and what you moved, represented and put in a deserved light here is damn important. But, I kinda wish that casual cissexism wasn’t there, especially for how important this short story is, and how the LGBT+ community is in a very delicate moment in regards to trans inclusion. I wish you’d read this, and I wish you’d understand where my feelings come from.
In regards to the art, this issue delivers as much awesomeness as the story it unfolds. Laura Braga nails a contrast between the sexy, shameless and casual flashbacks, and the emotional gravitas and expressive intimacy of Harley’s present, in a way that rounds what’s being told to the detail. With Ivan Plascencia providing a equally contrasted coloring, the sensation of the story of moving through Harley’s memories as if they were a vivid joy-filled present-moment, and then feeling her weighted desperation of getting that capital L Love back, is preciously achieved by a creative team in its best shape. In just these few pages, this team has nothing to envy from the stellar Conner & Palmiotti duo, and, in some ways, it reminds of its wittiness and attention-catching shots, but with new components, in a way that I feel it could surpass most people’s expectations.
This is definitely one of the bluntest and most important short stories that have been done in Harley and Ivy's relationship and, even taking into account my conflicted feelings with that specific line of dialogue, I can't wait till Stephanie Phillips takes over Harley's solo to see what kind of amazing stories she has to tell.
Batman: Urban Legends #1: Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy in “New Roots”
- Writing - 9/109/10
- Storyline - 10/1010/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 9/109/10