If you’ve read any of my previous DC Super Hero Girls book reviews (and if not, you can find links to both of them at the bottom of this post), then you know I’m all in on this book series and the very concept of this line to begin with. The books hit as a real breath of fresh air after some of the series drama that is going on in the main line of comic books.
As one might suspect, Harley Quinn at Super Hero High elevates the joy factor. Author Lisa Yee consistently pens tremendous celebrations of not only the eponymous character of each addition to this YA series, but she excels at dropping in larger DCU Easter Eggs (Thunder and Lightning debut in this book and they’re adorable!), that keep comic fans on our toes. In the previous book, Katana at Super Hero High, Yee employed a more serious tone in keeping with Tetsu’s samurai origin and the deeply personal, ancestral narrative that the titular character was dealing with. By contrast to that careful, thought-provoking story, this one is all impulsive emotion and boundless optimism.
The DC Super Hero Girls brand strikes an interesting balance with the starring characters. Unlike in the older-skewing DCU, no one at Super Hero High is evil, they’re just a little meaner than some of their peers. For example, Frost, Ivy and Cheetah are a touch anti-social and prone to snide remarks from time to time. Now, over the past ten years or so Harley has been on the path from villain to anti-hero to heroine and this is definitely the character that’s reflected in the pages of this book. She’s in full on hero mode here, as dedicated to saving the world as she is growing the prominence of her web-channel.
This take on Harley really defines herself by the power and prominence of her online presence. In one way, I think this makes her one of the most relatable DC Super Hero Girls characters to the demographic that she represents. She wants nothing more than to be an internet star and, in fact, dedicates so much of her time to this that she is forced to learn over the arc of Harley Quinn at Super Hero High that it is more important to focus on her impact as a hero than as an online celebrity.
She is nothing if not ambitious, though. In a fixated effort to raise her subscriber count, Harley first throws a dance competition and a battle of the bands. Not only does she organize and broadcast, but she is able to delegate work to her friends and get an impressive number of participants in both competitions. I think there’s a wonderful lesson for the young readers here. Harley proves that any idea is worth pursuing, and that there is no reason to let anything stand in your way no matter your age, experience or anything else. These two competitions also show how much can be accomplished when friends work together—when you think about it, it’s a pretty early lesson in networking!
Later on in Harley Quinn at Super Hero High, the Krazy Karnival comes to town and our protagonist dives in with all enthusiasm. It is here that she must face down the combined powers of Mirror Master working under the influence of the Mad Hatter. It’s a nice inclusion of two rather midway-themed villains in a single location and a way to highlight a classic Flash and Batman villain at the same time. Mad Hatter’s master plan is actually quite reminiscent of his plan in ROBIN: YEAR ONE.
(By the way, if you haven’t read Robin: Year One, I would highly recommend checking it out.)
I think these more fantastical villains are perfect foils for Harley Quinn to have to go up against. They are both showmen who rely on their personality and their tricks as much as they rely on having to outthink the heroes who come after them. They share so many similar traits with Ms. Quinn that in order to take them down, Harley is forced to confront some of the more difficult aspects of her personality that have been a hindrance during her time at Super Hero High.
Plus, Harley’s final act in taking down the Mad Hatter—and freeing her fellow Krazy Karnival-goers from the ginormous bubble they are trapped within—relies heavily on her gymnastics training. In Karl Kesel’s HARLEY QUINN solo series, it was established that Harley went to school on a gymnastics scholarship. This is a detail that I am a fan of and I liked how integral it wound up being to her saving the day.
Harley Quinn at Super Hero High is the fifth installment in a wonderful franchise that builds out this unique version of the DC Universe. Looking back at the series as a whole, this latest book is the most fun and celebratory of the five, and I would highly recommend picking it up yourself or giving it as a gift to a young person in your life who’s looking to go on an adventure with one of the most unique characters in comics.
"Harley Quinn at Super Hero High" by Lisa Yee is now available at bookstores and online retailers nationwide.