Who better to spend your Valentine’s Day with than Harley Quinn, right? If there’s one character in the DCU that is giddy hearts and abundant arrows personified, it’s the Mad Love Maven herself. Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti bring us a tale of unrequited (but not wholly unconsummated) love in this holiday special that has Harley winning none other than Bruce Wayne at an animal charity date auction. Of course the premise is ridiculous and ridiculous is part of what makes it so fabulous.
The Valentine’s Day special is a single story titled “Just Batty Over You”, but it has its fantasy moments (like all the Harley specials do). Harley’s beaver even calls them out for us to acknowledge that it helps the main storyline artist (in this case Jonathan Timms) finish the book on time. The dream sequence artists are Ben Caldwell and Aaron Campbell. Additionally, there is a robbery scene (pages 15-17) drawn by Thony Silas. This isn’t a dream sequence, but Silas’ art is a fairly good match for Timms so even though the change is noticeable, it’s not distracting. It helps that Harley has a pair of goggles on the whole time so you don’t get that disorienting sense of the character going off-model suddenly.
Also notable: for the first time ever to my recollection, Paul Mounts is on interior colors for this one (with regular Harley colorist Alex Sinclair trading in for cover duty). The palette and technique Mounts uses is very similar to Sinclair (vibrant dark colors and luminous shading for the skintones). Hi-Fi does colors through Batman’s dream sequence where the inks are heavier and call for less subtlety, and Ben Caldwell does colors for Harley’s Dream Sequence, which is the most appreciably different style and palette in the book: reminiscent of Darwyn Cooke, with mostly flat bright shades leaning into pinks and fuchsias.
Dream courtesy of Saturday morning cartoons
So enough about what’s in the book, how is the book?
Timms continues to bring a his own flair for drama to Harley’s look and actions. His expressions for Harley are much more stylized than regular artist Chad Hardin, but he always captures that mercurial edge between silly and sinister, often suggesting for Harley a potentially darker mindset. Even in the early scene in which she is plotting her escapade, there’s something wicked about the tilt of her eyebrows and the twist of her smile without it tipping over fully into malevolence. She actually does go almost full-blown scary at the end when she is confronted by Batman, which was very interesting to see (and will no doubt make those “Harley is evil” fans pleased).
And how about that Batman!
Here I was worried he might not show!
This is the first time the caped crusader has officially appeared in a Harley Quinn comic (hard to believe 14 issues and this many specials in). Timms does a great job capturing both broody Batman and somewhat less broody Bruce Wayne. The encounter does raise all kinds of questions about all of Harley’s murderous activities and Batman’s tacit approval of her Robin-Hooding, but in a book this fun logic and reality are killjoys; you either laugh and roll with it, or maybe you should stick to material that takes itself more seriously.
Even so, I’ve criticized previous Harley specials for being a little too light on substance, but this book gets no such complaints from me. This is a full story with hilariously awful villains (The Carp and Sea-Robin–they’re not even trying). And even though the dreams are mostly diversionary, they are still amusing and rife with Freudian (and Jungian) grist.
A couple of favorite random bits:
- Ben Campbell’s polo pony in Harley’s dream sequence is styled very like Samson, the horse in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty.
- Bruce Wayne is covered in band-aids. Draw your own conclusions.
- The name of their boat is the “SS Fledermaus” (remember, this is Harley’s Dream).
- In Batman’s dream, the list of girlfriends is pretty hilarious (and looks to be complete!).
- And there’s this:
Eat your heart out, Carrie Kelly!
Also look for the cameo by Poison Ivy, the best getaway truck ever, and a sweet and lovely scene with a squeaky beluga whale.
Lastly, props to John J. Hill, letterer, for the Bat thought-bubbles. They are awesome.
Timm’s consistency with the costuming could use some improvement (Harley’s dress and jewelry vary panel to panel). It’s a minor but a persistent weak spot in his otherwise wonderful renders. It doesn’t help that Mounts colors things inconsistently as well (though I don’t envy the job; I can never remember what parts are supposed to be black and what parts are supposed to be red).
I was hoping we might get some explanation about the woman at the auction who looks like she’s bludgeoned to death right in front of the crowd (to no real reaction or consequence), but as that didn’t happen, I have to log that moment here as an inexplicable black bean in an otherwise creamy good soup.
- You like it when the good guys win and the bad guys lose and the good bad guys have a shot at reform.
- You want some Valentine’s Day mush to share with your sweetie (Batman-style).
- You want to see Batman’s debut in Harley Quinn.
Like most of the Harley Quinn specials to date, this is a fun diversion that takes Harley through multiple adventures within the context of a single goal, but I would say this one rises above the rest with a lot of humor, a lot of heart, a lot of Harley hammer action, and even some mushy smooching. But don’t let the smooching scare you. Now can we get a bona fide Harley/Batman team up?