Perhaps ironically titled “There are No Rules”, issue No. 10 tests readers’ expectations of what a Harley Quinn comic book ought to be. Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti left us off two weeks ago with Harley being introduced into the underworld of Skate Club. Here we pick up with Harley’s first bout in the no-holds-barred, kill-or-be-killed arena that’s basically pit gladiators on roller skates.

Meanwhile, in a galaxy far, far away, several Barglefartians agonize over the decision to unleash a monstrosity called “The Fist”.

No I haven’t been drinking, and you’re still reading a review for Harley Quinn issue No. 10. This is really the plot such as it is in this issue. We know from the solicits that Powergirl is about to make a two-issue appearance in these pages, so we need a lead-in to explain where she’s coming from and why these characters will intersect. So yeah: Barglefart (Barglefartia?) has a problem and The Fist is invoked to punch it into the next galaxy.

After this interlude we’re back to Skate Club for the outcome of Harley’s first fight, then off to touch on a few other curious loose bits of story floating around: picking up on that jailbird Mason who’s escaped since last issue, and just spending some time with the derby girls.

What does all this have to do with rules? Well, there are none governing the narrative of this comic book, so if you feel you need structure, a cohesive story, explanations–that sort of thing–you’re pretty much out of luck.

The Good

This book still manages to make me laugh even when it’s absurd, puerile, disgusting, and bewildering. The transition into outer space was handled very well and The Fist’s incongruous arms were delightfully amusing. Despite the weirdness of the introduction of the Barglefartians, they’re clearly treated as a device and ultimately it all works: Powergirl is successfully (and literally) launched in Harley’s direction.

The roller derby sequences provided the real contiguous action through the book and are rendered well by newcomer to the Harley team, Marco Failla. We’re introduced to the “tremendous Tootsie” named Maria Monsterella, the Massapequa Murderer (Harley’s opponent) who is a ridiculous beast but less of a gross stereotype than poor Bensonhurts was last issue.

Lastly, the book ends on a strong note: definitely looking forward to the next issue!

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Things you don’t expect in a comic full of the unexpected!

The Bad

Of all the issues up to this point, this one is the most disjointed. It feels like a filler interlude meant to get us into the Powergirl story while setting up other subplots. Even the art betrays the thinness of the plot with half pages of not particularly warranted large panel shots alternating with more standard compositions crammed with fairly domestic dialogue.

There are whole sequences/conversations in this book (that weren’t happening in outer space) that I was definitely puzzled about:

  • The opening page of Tony saying his goodbyes to Mario. I have a feeling this will tie into the Jailbird Mason storyline, but otherwise its an intensely talky scene that doesn’t immediately go anywhere. Also, I kinda liked Mario, so I’m miffed to see him leave.
  • The post-Skate Club diner scene in which not a lot happens except that they come out and Harley meets Jailbird Mason who helps them put Sy’s scooter in the back of an SUV taxi. Filler?
  • A page of Harley yapping with Mason and the turbaned taxi-driver. I get that this is set-up for whatever’s on the horizon with Mason, but I already dislike him as a character (let alone a “love” interest) and just want him to go away. Maybe it’s because everyone’s fawning all over him and that just incites my gag reflex.
  • Two pages of Harley and the derby girls skinny dipping in the dark ocean and joking about sharks. Nobody gets eaten by one, so I’m not really sure what we’re doing here. Character building for the derby girls, perhaps, but it’s a bit pedestrian given the usual caliber of humor and storytelling.

Failla does generally strong work especially through the derby sequence, but his Harley is scrawny and crabby-looking. She lacks charm and humor throughout and seems more like a gargoyle than goyim (as Sy might say).

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Night of the Harlgoyle

The Ugly

I guess I have to throw this under a cut because it’s a story point people would consider spoilery:

Spoiler
The Massapequa Murderer is blown in half after Harley squirts exploding toothpaste on her stomach and gives it a rub. I gotta say, the violence of this didn’t bother me (though it might be too gruesome for some), but this is the first really really overt sexual sight gag I’ve seen in this book and I found it rather needlessly gross. Or maybe I just have a filthy mind?

I’m looking forward to next month’s Future’s End edition of Harley Quinn (which is not something I can say about any other other Future’s End interruptions), and the return of Chad Hardin. Try as I might to not get hung up or too attached to particular artists (knowing well the vagaries of comic book production), it’s been a hard break. I can’t help but think some of the problems with this issue could have been solved with just a different tone in the art.

Recommended If…

  • You want to see some serious Skate Club action!
  • Powergirl is a favorite and you don’t want to miss any pieces of her arc.

Overall

Hey, they can’t all be gems, right? It pains me to not love a book that I look so forward to reading, but I have to admit this has been my least favorite issue so far. It feels like an uncharacteristic misstep for the otherwise brilliant team of Conner and Palmiotti, and I had to score it accordingly. While still serving up some yuks and a relatively satisfying derby brawl, there were some real detractions. The mix of charm-free art and too many story bricks that are clearly meant to build a bridge but ultimately take you nowhere just had me feeling frustrated with this outing.

SCORE: 6/10