In for a penny, in for a pound: if you’re going to pick up Harley Quinn, you know it’s going to be violent and you know it’s going to play up the gross-out factor.
This week’s issue, appropriately titled “Pies in the Skies” continues the trend of mixing the blackest humor with the most insane circumstances. Harley fences the jewelry she took from the Russian assassin in issue No. 6 to finance a rooftop crud-chucker she calls the Scatapult (which is a portmanteau of catapult and scat, in case it’s not obvious). When the solicits came out, I thought we were going to be introduced to a new villain. Instead we get a revolting waste-elimination system that frankly, I’m surprised made the press. Even co-editor Chris Conroy says so himself:
— Chris Conroy (@dyfl) July 30, 2014
If you’re a pet owner who deals with picking up after your darlings on a regular basis, you’ll probably get through this okay. If flying bags of poop might make you gag, however, you want to proceed with caution.
The opening pawn shop scene is one of the best (and most violent) random exchanges in this book (and maybe any other) this month for sure. Harley battles two would-be robbers with a technical assist from “Big T” Tony. You can always tell Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s influences by the references they make and this has Tarantino all over it: it’s quirky, brutal, and get us where we need to go in the story. Conner and Palmiotti won 2014 Inkpot awards, by the way–which were well-deserved.
Never get between a girl and her haggling
Next up is a dose of roller derby demolition. What more needs to be said about that? Except perhaps the sweet promise of even more skate violence in the near-future?
So then we get to the grand finale: Harley’s got a problem with her tenants, right? They’ve been complaining about the smell from the floor she’s reserved as a sanctuary for animals rescued from a lab back in issue No. 2. The floor is decked out nicely like a city park (compliments of Poison Ivy) but Harley’s having a hard time keeping up with waste management. Enter the aforementioned Scatapult, built by Tony and designed to hurl bio-degradable garbage bags full of animal feces across the city (and especially at choice targets). It’s disgusting, but funny. If you’re not laughing, you’re definitely reading the wrong book.
Also, as usual, take your time or else read this twice; there are always fun and interesting details in the backgrounds (check out the pawn shop and the app in the DC office). Chad Hardin’s art gets cleaner with every issue. He’s really doing great, expressive figure work throughout the series and Harley’s emotions continue to be larger than life without tipping over completely into toonland.
Alex Sinclair’s colors are fabulously spot-on gorgeous as always. He adheres to the continuity carefully throughout so that when Harley and Tony stop for Italian after their emotional pawn shop encounter, her makeup is still streaked down her face (and she’s got sauce all over her lips). He also paints hot pants on one unfortunate panel where Hardin forgot to indicate a pant-line under her coat. I could complain that Sinclair painted her pants the wrong color, but the fact that he gave her any at all is to be commended!
Finally, I know this is a girlie comment, but I’m gonna say it anyway: I really appreciate that Harley has an actual wardrobe in this comic. Sure, she mostly wears the hot pants and halter or the derby duds, but almost every issue also features some accessory or alternate garb that makes her feel much more like a real person who can get around in everyday life without looking like a court jester. And while most of her outfits show a lot of skin, I’ve still never seen this comic lower itself to weird fan-service shots or making Harley out to be some sex-crazed floozie (looking at you, Assault on Arkham; I’ll take funny flying poop over not-so subtle icky sex calisthenics any day).
It’s a minor nitpick, but Big Bertha Bensonhurts (a goof on the burb of Bensonhurst) struck me as a silly and somewhat mean stereotype. It seems bizarre perhaps, to complain about something being too silly or too vicious in a Harley Quinn comic, but every now and then something strikes me as “easy” or “obvious”. When you have this much crazy in a single book, it just doesn’t seem like there’s ever an excuse for going with the predictable choice and Big Bertha is predictable: brutal, dumb, and ugly (replete with green lips and requisite unsightly “beauty” mark). Worse still, she serves the plot, but in a way that isn’t as well motivated as it might have been:
Big Bertha: she only ever wanted to be loved
I am a longtime dog-owner so the giant hurtling poop-bags didn’t bother me, but again, your amusement with far-flung feces may vary. The bags burst on contact and we’re treated to a sort of sludgy explosion that looks more like chocolate ice cream than actual excrement, still, the gross-out factor may overwhelm some. In one panel, a guy gets it all in the face.
Also, there’s the violence:
There are stabbings, there are punches, Bertha Bensonhurts is pancaked by Harley’s mallet. And though we don’t quite see it in all its gruesome glory, Harley dispatches one assassin by catapulting him into a “Kubert’s Ketchup” airplane propeller. The resulting splortch of red looks like ketchup, but it ain’t.
Most of the savagery is implied/off-panel, but it’s prevalent throughout and you see a lot of bloodshed, so if you’re not cool with carnage, be forewarned.
- You’ve ever wanted to express your contempt for society’s institutions by lobbing poop at them (and can therefore live out that fantasy vicariously through Harley’s Scatapult).
- You want to see Harley return to the roller-derby rink (it’s been a while).
- Make it mean! is your motto.
- Yet another hilarious jab at Didio and his “Gnu 52” is worth the cover price (this one made me laugh out loud).
Conner and Palmiotti are in fine form with this mad melange: you get pawn shop mayhem, derby destruction, rooftop poo-flinging lunacy, and all-out assassin obliteration. I’m always amazed (and delighted) at how much random insanity the creative team manages to pack into a single issue and the brutal black humor is something for which I confess a fondness. I just don’t recommend you read this while eating.