Harley Quinn #20 review

Harley 20

I confess I’ve been kind of dreading this cage-match time-travel storyline since it was telegraphed months ago, but as always Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti manage to sell a premise that’s completely bonkers on the strength of Harley as a character, the relatability of her relationships with her friends and colleagues, and by working with a team of artists who consistently make the crackiest nonsense fly off the page in a way to surprise and delight you no matter what your tolerance level for the “bold and the bizarre”.

“A Blast from the Past” brings Harley face-to-face with a future she has no clue about: somehow being responsible for the death of Batman!

As if Harley hasn’t got enough to worry about on her plate.  The book opens with a bit of coda for the last story: Harley and the Chief of Police on Hart island lamenting the plight of paupers who are buried in mass graves. It’s a nice moment of genuine gravitas in a comic that’s often so zany it feels like there’s no consequences. But the writing team occasionally manage to layer in these gentler, more down-to-earth moments and it provides a little window into a saner, more human Harley.

The scene also does double-duty to set up the fact that Harley and Chief Spoonsdale are in it thick together at this point. We can totally expect to see that play into future storylines to come.

Harley Sinn also remains on the horizon. She’s actually got Mason and Madame Macabre in her nasty little clutches at this point, but with only a facetime call to go by, Harley can’t really do anything about that problem at the moment.  She assures Tony (and us) that she’s working on it.

More immediately, she’s got family coming to visit and she’s convinced in typically Harley delusion, that she can make the place presentable for their stay.  Forget the carny residents (including an anthropomorphic talking goat and an egg with prosthetic tentacles), forget the whole floor dedicated to Harley’s pet-zoo, or the scatapult up top for disposing of pet poop and other unpleasant business.  Tony argues Harley can’t keep it sane for a single day (and he’s definitely right).

And that’s when the time-traveling “door-bustin’ hussie” arrives.

Holee indeed!

John Timms handles the introduction of the story, while Joseph Michael Linsner takes over when Bat from the Future arrives to knock Harley’s block off. The marriage of styles is an uneven one, but I’m a fan of Timms and Linsner definitely has his strengths in the clean lines (which Alex Sinclair’s colors enhance tremendously with all manner of texture and light).  Weirdly, it’s Harley’s hair that bothers me–especially when compared to Timms, Hardin, and even Conner herself on almost every cover of this comic.  Harley’s got big hair, but Linsner gives her small tight pony tails and short bowed bangs.

And why is Harley wearing her derby costume while cleaning house? In Timms’ scene she was dressed to play nurse with Red Tool, and maybe she’s going to go out for derby in a minute, but it’s actually strange to see her in the costume just hanging around the house.

These are such a small details, but I still find it so distracting because I feel like the world they have created here is otherwise so tight.

Harley Loves Joker

They’ve escaped Batman, but now Harley and the Joker need to find a place to lay low and  plan their next caper. You would think it would be a lot harder for two pasty-skinned psychos to get around without attracting attention, but this is Gotham, and when it comes to this sort of thing people seem to be blind as, well, bats (yes, you may groan).

Paul Dini and Jimmy Palmiotti continue this madcap adventure by showing us a rare glimpse into the softer side of Harley and her Puddin’.

Uh-huh. Yeah, right.

Not a lot happens in the installment of this bonus feature, but just spending time with these two nuts is well worth the read. And seeing them actually sort of, you know, get along without the threat of massive violence hanging over the stage is an interesting twist. Time and again Joker seems to be setting her up for some groaner of a dis. What actually happens then becomes quite the surprise.

Bret Blevins and J. Bone continue to make this comic as alive and lively as the cartoon ever was. Even in an installment such as this where most of the “action” is in the humor traded back and forth, everything always feels like it’s fully in motion. Especially love the hyenas feasting on roasted ducks. It’s so completely random and yet totally perfect!

Recommended If…

  • Word on the street is Harley killed (past tense!) Batman. If you want the lowdown, you might want to pick up from here!
  • Joker loves Harley. Seriously. See it to believe it.

Overall

Come for the carnage stay for the cuddles. Harley’s got big trouble on her horizon as a convergence of family, past problems, and future follies threaten to undermine what little might be left of her sanity.  Meanwhile, the Palmiotti/Dini “Joker Loves Harley” feature of this week’s issue is the whole reason a cult of Joker & Harley even exists in the world today. Even with both of these stories only being half the pages of a full book, the buck/bang ratio on Harley Quinn seems incapable of disappointing.

SCORE: 9/10

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