When the title of this issue is called “Not Kansas” you have to be prepared to not only leave Coney Island, but the world as we know it. Last we saw our newly formed not-so-dynamic duo of Harley Quinn and Power Girl, they were about to get into fisticuffs in a shopping mall with the Clock King and the Sportsmaster (two decidedly lowball DCU crooks who have been mostly buried for the last couple of decades for pretty solid reasons–I mean look at them: they’re kind of ridiculous).
But ridiculous is one of the things that Harley Quinn does best every month, so they fit right into this absurd landscape. Except that we’re not going to spend but a couple of pages in this landscape because Clock King has a surprise waiting for our superhero team: an Infinity Ring that transports them into another dimension. In this instance it’s a spaced-out dimension full of insane things that talk, a quadruple-breasted queen of slaves with an equally insane name, and a despotic galactic overlord who likes to the play his weaponized pipe organ.
I seriously want to record a brainstorming session at chez Conner and Palmiotti. Clearly anything goes and they somehow make it work!
Clock King and Sportsmaster: a perfectly picked pair!
If you’re already on board with Harley and her hijinks, you’ll get more of the same: funny references from the obvious (Star Trek) to the obscure (is “Manos” a deliberate callback to the cult film or just an easy rhyme? I’m thinking it’s pretty deliberate on both fronts); and a wacky cosmic rocket ride where (as always) anything goes.
This is another successful outing, too, for John Timms, whose work on this book continues to impress. Here he has a lot to play with and does a nice job with a variety of aliens and an evil ring-obsessed despot that needs to look vaguely familiar without being too much of a rip-off. Timms works best when he can work broad–his characters and their body dynamics are more stylized than regular series artist Chad Hardin (who nicely provides the bookend pages of this tale). And this is one story where broad works best given the scenario.
Where Hardin’s Harley can look every bit at home in a realistic setting as she can in the land of the looniest toons, Timms excels on the cartoony side of things. Power Girl’s earnest determination, the King Pug’s mood swings from vicious to lovable, the jaded affectations of Manos’ annoyed children, and Harley herself all have a bright, animated quality that has me wondering when DC will start exploiting this series for actual cartoon fun. I personally think that dropping this into a G-rating to appeal to a younger audience would do harm rather than good–Harley needs a hard edge. But it could be developed for the teen+ crowd.
What do you all think? Is marketing a Harley cartoon asking for trouble? Sales suggest there’s an audience to support it, but with most regular superhero series geared for that younger crowd (unlike the animated “movies”), would it work or would it just be courting a PR nightmare?
In terms of this particular comic book issue, we see some of that hard edge I mentioned, but this excursion is played for camp through and through.
Also noteworthy: the final page!
Is this one of those books that just goes too far afield? Is it a bit disappointing not to see Harley and double-D “PeeGee” take on some third-rate villains at the shopping mall? Is the talking pizza and the king pug dog and the not-so-subtle joking at Marvel’s expense all a bit thick? Probably so on all counts.
But you know what? I was much amused and delighted and I laughed out loud at least a couple of times, which makes it all okay in my book. I don’t typically enjoy superheroes in space or inter-dimensional travel or digressions of this kind in general, but everything in this book just worked. I wouldn’t want it to be like this all the time, but an occasional jaunt into this brand of insanity once in a while can be a riotous diversion.
Gatekeeper Pizza the Horta Hutt protects the realm of Manos the Hands of Infinity Fate.
There’s definitely lots of casual killing in this book–and references to Space Hitler–though none of it is particularly graphic. One guy gets annihilated so that only the bottom portion of his leg (shoe intact) remains, but it was honestly hard to notice, so no worries for the squeamish. And Power Girl does put up an objection to the killing, but it’s more of light scolding than honest horror.
- You don’t mind a cosmic interlude away from Coney Island.
- Nonsensical talking pug dogs and a deadly organist are comic book gold!
- You just can’t get enough parodying of a certain comic competitor’s infinity-loving megalomaniac.
Sometimes I enjoy Harley Quinn in spite of myself. From the moment Harley and Power Girl stepped through the portal across time and space, every fibre of my being was bracing for a disappointing disaster, but Conner and Palmiotti pulled me in, hooked me with the Pizza Horta, had me cracking up at the 45 apathetic children of Manos, and rooting for this bizarre interstellar duo to trounce the galactic ringmaster with a dose of his own power. And at the end of the ride, Clock King and Sportsmaster are still waiting for their comeuppance, so it’s all in good fun and I’m looking forward to doing it again in December!