NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for "Harley's Little Black Book" #5
In the realm of hypothetical, or completely literal match-ups between fictional heroes, it's usually the superheroes who are most hotly debated. And one throwdown can divide comic fans like no other: who would win in a fight, Superman or Batman? There are those who believe that the Kryptonian's superpowers render all gadgets useless, while the other side may claim that Batman will find a way to win because... well, that's his defining characteristic. But in the age of the DC Rebirth, Superman's had his hands full without trouble from the Dark Knight.
First, it was Deathstroke's new suit of armor that turned Superman's superstrength against him, letting the mercenary get the better of the Man of Steel. But in the recently-released "Harley's Little Black Book" #5, the alien warrior gets a beating served by the Joker's Girlfriend herself.
That's right, Harley Quinn just beat Superman to a pulp.
The Stage is Set
Before we get to the question of exactly what defines Superman as an actual superhero, the premise that pits these two mascots of DC Comics against eachother is as far-fetched as you would hope for from a Harley-branded series. Harley is simply taking in a sunny day on the Coney Island beach with her friends when, out of nowhere, an alien menace appears to threaten the existence of Earth itself. The alien in question represents the Scrubb, a group of aliens claimed to value honor and courage above all else... and apparently, global destruction is also fine with their belief system.
Since the Scrubb fancy themselves the most terrible and destructive species in their home galaxy, the rise of humanity as the most lethal in our own galaxy has put Earth on their radar. As a result, this messenger of the Scrubb has arrived to request that Harley Quinn - one of Earth's bravest warriors - return with him to battle their own champion. We say "request," except... if Harley refuses, the alien threatens to blow up Earth and kill every living being on its surface. Which is about the point that Superman, as usual, leaps into the scene.
The version of the Man of Steel introduced by writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti has a bit more of a sense of humor (or suspension of disbelief) than usual, and makes things worse from moment one. By laying his hands on the visiting Scrubb, Superman has to save Staten Island from eradication. With his point made, the Scrubb comes to a compromise: both Harley and Superman will compete for the title of Earth's Champion - without the Man of Steel's superpowers.
Superman Gets Sucker Punched
The pair are given a day to prepare for their boxing match - a challenge chosen at random - and head to the Fortress of Solitude to being their training. It's here that Superman's hubris starts to show: assuming the match will be held in a system with a red sun, thereby negating his powers, he still believes he's better equipped to tackle the Scrubb's champion. This is a Harley Quinn comic, so the readers know that there is nobody in the DC Universe better prepared for virtually any threat. And Harley doesn't take long to drive that point home.
Heading to the "Fringe of Creation" through use of a "Kryptonian Continuum Disruptor," the pair have more than a day to practice, given how time slows to a crawl in the Fringe. The location also allows the two to conjure up whatever they wish - and while Harley orders a pizza, Superman creates a nearby red sun. With his superpowers gone, Harley feeds her curiosity and drops the Man of Steel with a single punch. Knocked out cold, Harley spends the rest of their training time enjoying a party with imaginary superheroes... and Superman wakes up to the new sensation of a splitting headache.
But if you're thinking that's where the hits to the Man of Steel stop coming, you're sadly mistaken. Once Superman and Harley are teleported to their televised cosmic boxing match... things get even worse.
Harley Beats Superman To a Bloody Pulp
Knowing that they'll be caught if they pull their punches, Supes and Harley make an agreement to give the fight all they've got. While Harley relies on her years of pummeling villains, Superman must rely on his years of battle and ingenuity... and things go wrong for him the moment the bell rings. It would be a simplification to say that Harley succeeds in dissecting, punishing, and all-around crushing Superman in the ring, but by the end of the second round, the alien crowd assembled for the bout is chanting for mercy, hoping Superman collapses and the fight is called.
That's exactly what happens, with Superman unable to support his own weight without superstrength, let alone land a meaningful blow. He eventually comes to and consumes a concealed snack of yellow sunlight to destroy the Scrubb armada threatening Earth, but in the same amount of time, Harley succeeds in defeating the Scrubb champion, Hun'ka. So, in the end, defeating the Man of Steel in a fair-and-square boxing match was just an appetizer to her claiming the title of Champion of the Universe - and saving Earth in the process.
All in all, a pretty typical day in the life of Harley Quinn. But one that Superman will probably never forget.
Harley's Little Black Book #5 is available now.