DC Comics Presents: Harley Quinn #1 review

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This 100-page spectacular serves as a Harley Quinn greatest hits collection, but unfortunately doesn’t feature the one story everyone wants to see most: Mad Love. I’ll give you a rundown of all the stories compiled behind Alex Ross’ iconic cover.

Quinn 1

Batman: Harley Quinn #1

The main event. This one-shot by Paul Dini and Yvel Guichet was Harley Quinn’s introduction to the DC Universe. If the disaster-zone setting catches you off guard, that’s because this book doubled as a No Man’s Land tie-in. Essentially, Dini retells portions of “Mad Love” through the lens of No Man’s Land (you’ll get more enjoyment if you’re familiar with that material) and then adds a rather unnecessary plot point in which Harley receives her own super powers. I suppose it could be argued that giving Harley heightened speed, strength, and agility makes her a more formidable villain, but I think that she was a strong enough character not to need any of that. Most of the rogues gallery doesn’t have such supercharged hokum and this comic itself shows Harley as being plenty capable against a team of Penguin’s henchmen without the enhancements (although it would’ve been nice to have had some mention of how she was able to nimbly bring them all to their knees when all we know was that she was a psychologist). “Batman: Harley Quinn” has some great moments, particularly between Quinn and Mr. J (You really can’t beat Dini’s Joker dialogue, you can hear Mark Hamil read every line) and Joker and his henchmen. I mean, there are some absolutely laugh-out-loud moments to be found here. However, even with Dini behind it, this No Man’s Land-ified retelling is more of a bastardized version of an Eisner Award winning tale and there are occasions in which the artwork fails to find a proper balance between the realistic and over-exaggerated, cartoony imagery. Lastly, I think something went wrong in the printing process for this one. The pages of “Batman: Harley Quinn” lack the sharpness of the other stories in this collection and appear to have been scanned. It looks photo-copied and unprofessional, you might want to find a previous printing or buy digital.

Asylum II

Joker’s Asylum II: Harley Quinn #1

“The Most Important Day of the Year”

How timely! This Harley Quinn Valentine’s Day special sees Quinzel bust out of Arkham so she can celebrate the holiday with her Puddin and NO ONE is going to get in her way of that. Even Batman backs off (and it makes sense too– you’ll understand when you read it). Watching Harley go on a rampage to find what happened to Mr. J so that the two can experience some romance before midnight is just a perfect idea for a Harley Quinn story and it’s easy to see why it was included. Writer James Patrick captures the character’s voice well and balances his grasp on humor with an engrossing plot that makes great use of a Gotham mobster we just don’t see much of anymore. The artwork by Joe Quinones is also a major improvement over what was seen in our largest feature and we have a high resolution image as well so there’s no more distortion to worry about for the remainder of the book.

The Bet

Batman: Gotham Knights #14

“The Bet”

This one might have originally been uncolored. The only images I can find are like the black and white one you see above, but “The Bet” featured in this book is vibrantly colored by artist Zylenol. It’s a funny short written by Dini with art by Ronnie Del Carmen that has a horny Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy challenge one another to see who can kiss the most Arkham inmates– obviously it’s not the sort of story that’s meant to be taken too seriously. It’s amusing and has a great ending, but the art was a little too cheesecake at times with Harley’s short-short clad butt always in frame and Poison Ivy not even wearing any pants.

Punchline

Batman: Gotham Knights #30

“Punchline”

This very short, mostly-silent contribution by Doug Alexander and Rob Haynes is an amusing look at Harley’s attempt at stealing another crook’s (who looks kind of like Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass) big score. This one actually is black and white (and so is the next one).

HarleyIvy

Batman: Black and White (2013) #1

“Justice is Served”

This chapter was taken from Batman: Black and White #1, which I reviewed just a few months ago. So I just copied and pasted what I wrote in that review here. It was my favorite part of that comic and one of the best Batman stories from that entire series. 

“Justice is Served,” a short story that channels the spirit of the classic Batman: The Animated Series episode “Harley and Ivy.” Simply put? This is the best Harley Quinn story in years and, gun to my head, if I had to pick a favorite from this terrific collection I would have to go with what Maris Wicks and Joe Quinones made here. Maris wrote a very funny comic that stayed true to the tone of this world without turning to parody. This really could have been a Batman: The Animated Series episode and that’s one of the highest complements you can give a comic. The story begins with Harley’s visit to a Gotham Burger fast-food restaurant that quickly escalates to her and old pal Pamela Isley being blamed for a city-wide plant-themed pandemic. I would love to see Maris Wicks write more Batman comics in the future and if Joe Quinones could draw them then I would be in heaven. These pages are gorgeous and not just because we get to see the classic Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy costumes again. The camera angles are perfect and the lighting is beautifully cinematic, I especially liked the panel in which Ivy’s eyes are illuminated as she turns her gaze to the sound emanating from the corridor. It’s a style that’s so richly detailed and so expressive that it’s effective in the Batman’s most serious detective scenes and Harley’s most ridiculous comedic scenes. And Quinones isn’t afraid to mix up his style either when Harley recaps the first 3 pages of the comic in a single cartoony panel. This is a story fans of Harley will be revisiting again and again.

Origin

Countdown #10

“The Origin of Harley Quinn”

What would a Harley Quinn collection be without the work of Bruce Timm? Unfortunately the Timm illustrated finale by Scott Beatty is only two-pages in length and mostly just repeats what we already saw in Dini’s Batman: Harley Quinn #1 that kicked this book off only “Origin” covers the highlights alone. You can find both pages of Beatty & Timm’s “Origin” in a Google Image search, by the way.

Recommended If…

  • You love Harley Quinn, obviously
  • Dini’s Joker is your favorite Joker
  • You’d like a look back at The Gotham Cataclysm. The Harley Quinn one-shot wasn’t included in the latest release of No Man’s Land volumes 1-4 so if you’re looking to complete your collection this is something you’ll wan to pick up

Overall

It’s a nice ensemble of Harley Quinn stories for the price, but Mad Love‘s absence is felt and Batman: Harley Quinn #1 looks like it was scanned in low-resolution.  Otherwise, I think fans of the character will have a wonderful time reading these amusing tales of Quinn’s misadventures.

SCORE: 8.5/10

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