Review – Harley Quinn & The Birds of Prey #1 (DC)

Publisher: DC (Black Label)
Writer(s): Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti
Artwork: Amanda Conner
Colours: Paul Mounts
Lettering: John J. Hill
Release Date: 12th February 2020

With DC’s Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn (god do I hate that title) making headlines for a lot of different reasons following its cinematic release this past weekend, it probably only stands to reason that this week sees the release of the inevitable comic book tie-in. Well, perhaps not ‘tie-in’ as such, as this is very much an unrelated story based around Harley’s inability to make rent resulting in her Coney Island home being burned down, and following her subsequent trip to Gotham to reclaim some funds from her ex-beau the Clown Prince of Crime.

While this story is essentially just Harley with a few minor Birds of Prey appearances along the way, it’s admittedly a lot more upfront about that fact than its Warner Bros. counterpart, and as a result is a fairly satisfying experience – assuming you’re a fan of Miss Quinn, that is. Subsequent issues are clearly (read: hopefully) going to feature the BoP in a more substantial role, but for the time being it’s very much The Harley Show™, for better or worse.

Anyone with even a passing familiarity with Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s distinctive take on Harley will know exactly what to expect here. From an opening dream sequence featuring the Man of Steel serving the bikini-clad Harley and Ivy cocktails to the talking beaver that accompanies our heroine everywhere she goes, this is crazy, madcap irreverence from start to finish. Adding to that irreverence is the Black Label stamp on the cover, which allows frequent outbursts of profanity and some gloriously over-the-top violence – although it has to be said that the former feels more than a little unnecessary at times, with the creators seemingly throwing in a random “fuck” every now and again simply because they can.

That said, there’s certainly a lot of fun to be had here, with Harley’s sassy, flirty banter (her “heart-to-heart” with Power Girl is pure gold in that respect) and the colourfully over-the-top cartoon carnage keeping the pages turning all the way through this oversized issue. The cynic in me instantly baulks at the forced marketing synergy at the heart of this release, but when the end result is something as unabashedly enjoyable as this, it’s tough to be too mad.

Much like her ‘Merc With A Mouth’ Marvel counterpart, the “acquired taste” caveat definitely applies here, but there’s no denying that Conner and Palmiotti have done a great job of refining Harley’s schtick to a fine point. It’s visually striking from start to finish, with almost every square inch of panel space being used for some sort of gag or amusing detail, and Paul Mounts’ colours really helping the pages to pop. Sure, it’s very much on the cartoony end of the comic book spectrum, but Conner is also clearly having a lot of fun with the violence, with some brilliantly gruesome action choreography along the way.

At the end of the day, while this is likely to be something of a tough sell for Harley haters, as well as bearing little-to-no resemblance to its big screen counterpart, fans of the character – and Palmiotti and Conner’s iconic take on her – are going to be in absolute heaven. Even as a self-confessed Harleyskeptic, I still found myself chuckling at a lot of the gags here, and Conner and Mounts’ action sequences are almost worth the cover price alone.

Rating: 3.5/5.


The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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