Harley Quinn #16 review

Harley 16

It’s curtains for this netherland storyline, which has been a strange departure. To say so feels like a misnomer for a Harley book–in which everything is always strange all the time, but there’s Harley-strange and then there’s the rest of the world she lives in, and to be honest, when Harley is not the strangest part of this book, you start to lose your tether to any kind of grounded reality rather quickly.

“Nether Regions Part Three: Domination Abomination” offers a handful of surprises about the current storyline, while continuing to set up the storylines to come. If nothing else, it demonstrates that even after all this time, the Amanda Conner/Jimmy Palmiotti team can still take a hard left even when you’re well-convinced that you’re steadily veering right.

Lots of veering throughout

Zorcrom has decided that Power Girl is to be his ruling empress by his side. This surprise turn of events buys the trio more time to test out a theory they have regarding the source of Zorcom’s power, but it also requires PeeGee to go on a date with this shirtless blue cretin.

Cue a blatant Conan the Barbarian reference and total date-trope silliness, which all comes crashing down when Zorcrom brings up the subject of breeding and begins to insist that they get right to it.  As you can well imagine, Power Girl does not find this amusing and her patience for their “wear him down” plan immediately runs out.

Cue woman-on-man violence the likes of which you probably haven’t seen in too many comics (aside from this one).

We don’t return to the Mason/Sinn subplot in these pages (where would we stuff it? The book is crammed full as it is), but we do stop in with Madison’s hired “vampires”, who, in another surprise twist, aren’t actually vampires at all!

No, they’re just very very hungry

Lastly, we return to that event 150 years in the future: the MMA-style fight to the death for “Biggest Batfan”.  And we finally get some intriguing context for what the fight is about and how it will fit into the Harley Quinn narrative going forward.

It directly involves Batman, and it’s another one of those stories that just sort of feels “out there”, but I’m confident Conner and Palmiotti can make it work.

John Timms and Joseph Michael Linsner team up on art here and even though they have collaborated on Harley before, something feels strangely off this go-round. Timms’ work is great as always–one can recognize his distinctive brows and hawk noses anywhere, but it’s oddly uneven.  For the first time I’d say it even feels a bit waffly and rushed.

Since artists have began sharing so much art duty in Harley Quinn, it has always been coordinated carefully to avoid drawing attention (certain artists draw certain scenes or flashbacks so that the delineation and change the style flows more naturally along with time or temporal shifts in the narrative).  Here, Linsner picks up the future scenes of the fight for Biggest Batfan, and that totally makes sense–and looks great! But when Timms returns, it feels like there’s a stark contrast in the level of detail on a number of the pages. Many of Timms’ medium to small figures lack faces during the action sequences, and their bodies are drawn in broad loose strokes–more the suggestion of form than form itself. It’s not completely out of character, but it feels more loose than usual perhaps. And maybe this doesn’t bother other people, but it was distracting for me.  I actually had to go back and look at the credits because I thought a third artist was suddenly pitching in. I found myself trying to visually adjust to the change in art when I should have just been absorbed in the story.

And whatever my complaints, make no mistake: this issue is very absorbing! I may not like the outer space and netherworld plots in Harley Quinn as a general rule, but ultimately there was something very gratifying about the way Zorcrom gets dealt with. And whatever else lunacy is going on in the pages of this book, I have to confess: I do love me some cannibalism.

Take that as you will.

Recommended If…

  • You want to see Zorcrom take his final bow.
  • Atlee and PeeGee in one last hurrah (replete with much slapstick boob guffawery)
  • Aforementioned cannibalism.

Overall

Atlee and Power Girl combine forces to defeat Zorcrom! Our shopped-in vampires from England turn out to be something else entirely, and the future Biggest Batfan is coming to a past near you!  Oh, and Harley Quinn is in this issue somewhere too. But for being somewhat overstuffed and over-extended in the character department, this book manages to remain coherent, which is no small feat. Lot of new crazy ideas are spinning out of this one, even as we barely get a handhold on the current crazy ones.

SCORE: 8/10

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