Are you ready to get into the Holiday spirit or are you feeling Grinchy? Either way, let Harley Quinn help. With the usual mad mix of sweet and slightly disturbing, this month’s Holiday Special has something for both the young-at-heart and  the hard-hearted.

For the first time for a Harley Quinn special, this issue doesn’t have a throughline; instead it’s three distinct stories, each told by a different artist. The results are entertaining, but I’m always a little sad to see an issue without Chad Hardin and somehow this just flew by too quickly!

“Bad Toy”

The first story, drawn by Mauricet has Harley and Tony trying to rehome litters born from Harley’s menagerie (remember to fix your pets responsibly!). While the idea of dumping helpless kittens and puppies on unsuspecting grocery shoppers is a little bit horrifying, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti do try to assuage any fears by demonstrating that they are giving the animals to people who clearly like pets and will do right by them (and in one gratifying instance, Harley gives a stick of lit dynamite to a cretin who clearly would not make a good owner).  Later, Harley goes to check on one of the drop-offs to find a family in desperate need of some Dr. Quinzel-style therapy (and yes it involves an axe). At 19 pages, this is the longest story in the book and probably could have been a stand-alone issue.

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“Get Yer Cheer Outta My Ear”

Brandt Peters pencils the second story which revolves around a “humbug” that takes up residency in Harley’s ear, driving her insane (more so than usual) by humming Christmas songs. This is the shortest story of the bunch but also could have been still shorter. The opening felt long and it’s essentially a single gag schtick (Yiddish intended), so eight pages felt long for it. Peters’ work is both weird and interesting. It works in this setting, but I’m not sure how I would feel about it if he were a regular featured artist. Because the characters here are so utterly cute (Harley looks like one of the Beatrix dolls), it’s hard to imagine reconciling this with the darker stuff. For a kid’s book, it could work, however. I will just always wonder about marketing a character like Harley to pre-teens.

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“K!llin’ T!me”

The last story in the book is rendered by Darwyn Cooke, who has successfully contributed to this title in the past. Here he tackles a tale in which Harley, offended at the sight of a gray hair on her head, goes out in a mad dither to put a stop to Father Time and all this aging business. Naturally, she’s making stuff up as she goes along and getting everything wrong in the process, but this one wraps up with unexpected sweetness. Cooke really fills the environment with lots of fun visual details and gags throughout–really capturing the spirit of the regular series even though his art is a radical departure from Hardin, Roux, and Timms (who, though all unique, are closer to a “house style” rather than a cartoon). Props, especially, to the final panel in which Harley blithely enters the New Year in total self-deluded bliss while the world otherwise crashes down around her.

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The Good

It’s always fun to have some short just-for-fun stories to break up the heaviness of some of the other weekly titles. It’s also fun to have more than one story and to see such wildly varying art styles within one book. With Conner and Palmiotti penning the scripts, we get stories that are keeping within the continuity that they have created and we get to see some of the regular supporting cast members (particularly Tony).

There are two pin ups from Billy Tucci and Hi-Fi and both of them are kind of fun (one of Harley in her New 52 garb puckering up under mistletoe, and another of her in her bombshell outfit celebrating the New Year with a confetti gun). These are both rendered in somewhat old-style pin-up fashion, which is to say they accentuate Harley’s sex appeal.

And don’t forget to look for Amanda Conner’s variant cover which has Harley giving Father Time an elbow to the chin while tussling with Baby New Year. A cover so good, you’ll want to pick up both!

The Bad

Less a fault of the book and more about my hopes and expectations for a holiday special: I really was hoping for some other cameos from other characters. Given our holiday book options are slim, it would have been thrilling to have seen more than just a single panel of Poison Ivy. This book has avoided any cross-contamination in the regular DCU aside from Poison Ivy so far, but I’d like to see in the new year that we might have more mix n’ match. We know Bruce Wayne makes an appearance in the Valentine’s Special come February, so there’s cause for hope!

The Ugly

The second and third story are blissfully uninterrupted by ads, but the opening story has five ads. Five! There are literally ads on every other page for three pages straight, plus two more. This, in addition to four more ads in the remainder of the book along with the usual DC Access stuff. That’s ten full pages of non-content. While the book definitely gives you more bang for your extra two bucks (the first story alone is almost a full comic), this just struck me as way too much for the $4.99 price tag.

Oh, and just so you know: there is also a lot of pink barfing going on in the first story. The sight of the dog licking it up caught me off guard and about did me in. It’s not that disgusting, but consider yourself warned.

Recommended If…

  • It’s time to deck the halls (and deck some other things as well!)
  • A double-shot of Harley Quinn makes this month extra special!
  • You just like some feel-good shorts to disperse some of the gloom pervasive in other Bat-related titles.

Overall

Three stories is just not enough in this holiday special that feels like it could have spent a little more time celebrating the season. It is otherwise touching and touched in the head (as a Harley Quinn comic should be). Feels pricey, but to be honest, I love it for Amanda Conner’s covers alone (colors by Paul Mounts [presents] and Alex Sinclair [New Year’s]).  Darwyn Cooke’s detailing in “K!llin’ T!me” is the standout of the artwork, but all three stories have their own particular charms. As with previous Harley Specials, I’m hoping this is the first of many holiday books to come!

SCORE: 7/10