Publisher: DC Comics
Writer: Frank Tieri
Artwork: John Timms, Moritat
Release Date: 21st March 2018
Harley is a character who is proving ever more divisive. However you first discovered Miss Quinzel, you probably have a fairly established idea in your head of the character, and which version of her you actually like and want to see in print – or, indeed, you’ve reached saturation point.
This is perhaps not helped by the various incarnations of her running round the DC universe. For some people, only classic Dini/Timm will do, whilst many others are delighting in the reimagining that’s coming from the pages of White Knight. Me, I’m not picky, but I’ve been really enjoying how she’s depicted in the pages of Suicide Squad, which continues to impress by being funny whilst having a sinister edge run through the character.
The New 52/Rebirth Harley is an oddment in all this. Palmiotti and Conner undoubtedly did something ambitious in taking Harley out of Gotham and reinventing her as Queen of Coney Island, and all credit to DC putting a mainstream title out that exists (essentially) outwith continuity. It was a spectacular jaunt, whether you loved it or loathed it. I fell somewhere in between. I was fairly on-board with it during New 52 (especially the Gang of Harleys) but once we got into the increasingly bonkers cross-overs (Power Girl) I started to find the schtick a bit… tired, I suppose, whilst the Harley/Ivy relationship felt like it was drifting into fan-service.
So by the time Tieri and Andolfo took over, Harley had dropped off my regular pull list, although I dipped in now and again for fun. In fact, I missed them taking over the reins – which, as it turns out, was a massive mistake on my part, because this should leap right up on to your pull list, before beating you around the head with a mallet.
Tieri has managed to marry the wacky, zany, non-continuity Harley with the feel of mainstream DC storylines, in a way that doesn’t seem forced or contrived in any sense. The basic premise is simple: Gotham’s too much like hard work, so Penguin ups and moves to Coney, taking a brace of Gotham’s second-stringers with him as his lackies. He has manipulated Harley into quitting her team, leaving behind her Gang of Harleys and rest of her crew, and only by this issue has she come to realise she’s been played – and, boy, is she mad.
It ticks so many boxes. First of all, it’s convincing: I’m very team Cobblepot, and this is absolutely what he’d do. There’s some really bonkers touches – giant carnivorous penguins, for example – but it’s devious, untouchable mastermind Penguin all the way. It’s funny: we have Egghead obsessing over Harley’s ovoid sidekick, Hugo Strange getting dealt with in a very uncomfortable place, and even Condiment King being downright creepy. It’s still skirting the edge of being smutty, though less so in this issue, and never to the point where you’re just fed up with it. And it’s even surprisingly thoughtful, exploring Killer Croc’s trauma as a child in a Coney Island freakshow, and continuing to explore the uneasy friendship (of sorts) that we’ve seen in Suicide Squad.
The art isn’t slavishly trying to recapture Conner’s style, wisely; I wasn’t sure initially, as I couldn’t quite place the feel of it, until I realised that what it reminded me of was the Animated Series. It’s a great fusion of styles, in the end, and makes for a vibrant, eye-catching read.
This is a crazy good comic. Don’t make the mistake I did and miss out. Go back and read from the start of the arc if you can (this is part 4), but regardless, don’t let it pass you by. You’ll fall in mad love with Harley all over again.
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