Issue No. 9: “Some Nerd Rage with your Birdcage?” explores what happens when Harley incites yet another riot in the performance space of her own building and is subsequently arrested by a cop. The cop turns out to be a creepy stalker named Ed who was teased at the end of issue No. 8, and who wants to keep Harley locked up in a golden cage in a lair built as a shrine in her honor. Yep, that Harley Quinn she really knows how to attract the weirdos.
John Timms lends his pencils and inks for the first time in the regular book for this zany outing with most everyone’s favorite psycho queen of the clowns. Timms previously did a sequence for the Harley Quinn Invades Comic Con special and was one of the two artists for that book whom I thought really nailed the style and character in a way that complements the tone set in the principal series. His work here is also very good: he seems to have fun exploring Harley’s expressions, though overall she’s a little restrained compared to Chad Hardin’s work. Sufficiently so that when Timms does go for a “broad” emotion, it stands out. His gestures are very good, however, and there is some delightful body language on display particularly throughout the scene in Ed’s lair.
One of the really fun things about Harley Quinn as a character is that she can go from one crazy thing to the next without a hitch and sometimes that involves a complete 180 in her personality as well. In this issue she rockets from almost-timid newbie burlesque actress to a woman scorned to damsel in distress to compassionate psychiatrist to a woman scorned (again!) and back to roller-derby girl all in span of 20 pages. And really, all that happens in 18 pages because the first two pages of the book don’t involve her directly (yet).
Some of the best moments:
- Harley flips out on stage when she’s told to kiss her on-stage partner like she would her ex-boyfriend. This is what starts the riot.
- Harley has a hilarious monologue while being read her Miranda rights that involves pillows, cheeseburgers, and yet another one of those sneaky little references to characters of other worlds.
- Ed lives in the Bates Psycho house.
- Ed killed a cop to steal his uniform and he’s stashed the body in his basement “with my long boxes.” I laughed out loud at that one.
- Harley talks the killer into letting her go and giving himself up for treatment. It’s actually kind of sweet.
- The three comic store geeks trapped in Ed’s basement are wearing Batman, Superman, and Green Lantern T-shirts.
I have to mention Paul Mounts’ colors here once again: some stunning work with Harley’s sparkly suit and some lovely nighttime and bridge/river backgrounds. As always, his work brings a lot of depth and since Timms’ work is a little more on the cartoony side, it really keeps the art from looking like cell animation.
Oh Harley, I miss him too
I mentioned above about the first two pages of the book not involving Harley. Typically this sort of set-up for things to come happens at the end of a book, but the structure is inverted a little so that we can leave off on a promise of Harley entering the arena of the Skate Club. But I confess it was a little frustrating to have a teaser that is clearly preliminary to some larger plot about which we’ll discover more in another issue down the line:
While I enjoyed Timms’ work overall, there’s some wanting in consistency throughout. Harley’s burlesque costume is especially problematic as the design keeps changing from page to page and even starts out with a skirt that we never see her actually lose. His panels also lose a lot of detail and readability the smaller they get. One sequence during the burlesque riot has Harley kicking everyone in the audience, but the action lacks a dynamism due to some flat artwork.
Also, perhaps Timms doesn’t have the feel for the absurd quite yet. I found the burlesque costumes in general really lacked a truly wacky sexy quality and looked more like a high school play costumes (I’m referring to the astronaut and the space alien suit). I had a similar reaction to Ed’s lair later on in the comic: other than the cage, all the mementos seemed pretty run of the mill. I think Chad Hardin has me spoiled for looking for secondary picture gags and goofiness in the backgrounds.
But any artist is going to have a tough act to follow here and I think overall the work is solid; Timms is a good addition to this team!
Interestingly, this issue is relatively free of the more extreme violence we’ve seen previously, though it’s hard to tell if that’s a deliberate choice. One moment involving a pizza-cutter might have looked very different in another artist’s hands.
It is safe to eat while reading this issue; even Harley’s seemingly insatiable appetite is hilariously highlighted
- You’re on the prowl for a somewhat mindless good time that manages to mix a sexy stage show with a compassionate response to a kidnapping without any of it seeming too jarring or weird.
- Reverse Stockholm Syndrome sounds like it would make an interesting storyline.
- You like to see some sexist comic geeks get their comeuppance.
I really love this book! And yet rating it gets harder as it goes on because I find myself holding it up to the standard set by its best issues. This is a good solid issue with a lot of funny material and some of that genuine heart that makes Harley so appealing as a character. But it does wobble a bit in the art department and while it the story is fun, it feels comparatively inconsequential. Hopefully we’ll see Ed again and in retrospect this issue may then have more weight. For now, enjoy it just for the kicks!