I definitely understand some people turning their noses at “Director’s Cut” editions as cheap and lazy cash grabs. They recycle pages from books most fans have already read and are typically more expensive because of additional material like production sketches and script pages (this one clocks in at $4.99 and 56 pages).
But for fans interested in comic book creation, these are actually kind of priceless: behind-the-scenes looks at the scripting and drawing processes provide a unique look at what it takes to get even a single issue from start to stand. More particularly with this one, however, we get to see some exciting alternative artwork from the runners-up of last September’s somewhat controversial “Draw Harley” contest that had artists from all over vying for a one-page inclusion in a book that’s really more about the art than it is about the story.
For those of you who missed this when it was originally released back in December and may be picking up the title for the first time, the very thin throughline (drawn by Amanda Conner and Chad Hardin whose styles so closely match you’ll be hard pressed to pick out who’s doing which panel) is that Harley thinks it would be keen to have her own comic book. And in a fourth-wall-breaking dreamscape (drawn by everyone else), she wanders through scenes compliments of the likes of Bruce Timm, Sam Kieth, Dan Panosian, Jim Lee (sorta), and numerous others. Each page shows Harley in a unique setting doing battle with everyone from Batman, Joker, the Tiny Titans, Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Conner, and many more. It’s all in good fun and pokes gently at the artists, Harley’s reputation as a spurious role-model, and comic books in general.
Bruce Timm riffing on his own creation: fun!
Following the aforementioned controversy, Palmiotti chose to alter the description of the final panel for the competition page and this, to my thinking, was a solid move on his part. The new scenario pays a small homage to one of the funniest movies ever made and fits better overall in tone. The writers address the controversy in their notes and Palmiotti even shares what he’d had in mind when he suggested the scene (see below). Because the book features all the runners-up for the page prize, you get to see not only a number of other artists’ takes on the bathtub variation, but the original artwork by winner Jeremy Roberts as well. In context all of them are fine. Palmiotti admits he just used the wrong shorthand, but changing the panel was the right thing to do for the good of the work as a whole.
Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Chad Hardin all lend commentary to the work, but there are a handful of other artists who also contribute on their experience being asked to participate, so you get to read about their reactions to the material, their approaches for tackling it, and, in some cases, the major ways in which they changed what they were given (though I will be sad forever not to see what Darwyn Cooke had originally been assigned as it involved Harley riding a moose and the Joker wearing skis made of bacon (mmmm…bacon).
You also get to see alternate cover art by Stephane Roux and a few extra character sketches by Hardin, and if you can’t tell the difference between Hardin and Conner’s work, it tells you who did what. You also get to learn a lot of other interesting things about details I didn’t catch reading this originally, so it’s fun in that way as well.
And of course you get the complete original comic, interspersed with the commentary.
I wasn’t real crazy about the layout of this issue–it feels rushed and doesn’t make the best use of space. Because there was no real script for many pages, we just get banter from the writers (and occasionally artists), and it’s often not enough to fill a page. The commentary is also very densely set (and I found at least one spacing error). A little more planning might have given this overall more visual appeal. Also, it feels like a glaring omission that there’s not a peep from the prize page winner. The commentary for that page mostly focuses on the controversy and reprints directly much of the content from the link above.
Lots of interesting tidbits throughout, but again, very dense reading. This is something you might browse in spurts rather than read in one whole sitting. I read it in one whole sitting to write this review and I can assure you that’s just not the optimal way to enjoy it.
Aside from the somewhat off-putting format, this is easy-going–and mercifully free of the really graphic violence the series gets into starting with issue No. 1.
This is a much better use of the commentary space than most of the pages
- You missed the original (now sold-out) release.
- You really dig seeing a variety of artist variations on Harley Quinn’s design.
- Something funny, off-beat, and with the creative team’s running commentary is what you’re looking for.
- It’s time to get on board with this series and you’d like to see why Harley left for Coney Island.
This one’s hard to rate because it is a redux, but if you’re coming to the material for the first time, it’s a 10/10. The additional content is a solid value even if the presentation is a bit hard on the eyes, but unless you really want all this behind-the-scenes stuff you don’t need to buy it again. Would have also liked to have seen more sketch work to maybe fill in some of the more glaring gaps and balance those walls of text.