If you haven’t been reading Harley Quinn, but are curious about this series, this is a pretty great jumping on point. “Demental Overload” begins a new arc and looks like it might be establishing a new direction for the Mistress of Mayhem. In this issue, Harley comes face to face with her competing goals and, acknowledging that there are only so many hours in a day and she can only spread herself so thin, she enlists Poison Ivy’s help to recruit her very own dirty dozen.

Chad Hardin does most of the art for this outing, though John Timms steps in for pages 10-12 and 15. In the past guest artists have been employed to fill-in on dream sequences and other hallucinations or fantasies; here Timms’ pages follow the storyline. But it works because he’s handling the scenes that introduce some young new hopefuls who are certain to make Harley’s dream team.

This book specifically introduces Antonia, Shona, and Carlita–three women a bit down on their luck and looking for new direction.

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Harley’s “Colors of Benetton” team will feature one feisty Latina!

The Good

This issue is mostly wind-up, and yet a lot happens between the pages: Harley rescues some people from arsonist Tinderbox, Shona takes a baseball bat to some overprivileged diners, Carlita drops a would-be thief off a rooftop, and Harley romps around with Ivy in their nighties and manages to make amends with Mason over their botched dinner date from late issue.

And sprinkled throughout is Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s usual tongue-in-cheek humor: everything from newspapers satirizing movie events, to Harley literally referring back to her team-up event “two issues ago…between panels” when she’s tipsy. I wonder if the announced Power Girl and Harley Quinn mini-series intends to tell a new story or to build on all the stuff that must have happened between those panels–we’ll have to wait until the summer to see!  In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for the environment details, newspaper and TV headlines, etc. As always, this creative teams leaves you lots of goodies to root out over multiple reads.

As a random costuming note (which is something I seem to do a lot with this comic–and with Harley in general), I want to add that I really liked seeing her in long pants instead of the hot pants for a change. She never stops being sexy when she’s not showing skin and hot pants just never feel practical, even in the silliest of comics.

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Harley improvises in a tight situation

The Bad Nitpicks

I have just a couple of really minor nitpicks.

Harley’s reconciliation with Mason was a rather easy given she’s been agonizing about him for the last two issues. I was hoping they might become embittered mortal enemies, but clearly they’ll have a second shot at a first date, so we’re not done with Mason Macabre yet. That said, I loved how Ivy ripped his floral offering out of his hands and dashed it away like a ER patient in a trauma unit.

Artwise, while the Hardin-Timms hand off works well because of the change of scene, the second time Timms steps in from Shona to Carlita, I felt like it wasn’t clearly obvious enough that we weren’t picking up with Shona’s story but instead moving on to a different character. On second read, it tracks just fine, but I feel like Timms’ execution of the two characters could have used even more differentiation.

Part of the curiosity here is the balance of how these supporting characters are introduced. Antonia and Carlita have one page to set their story up, but Shona has three. My over-thinking brain then wonders whether Shona is proportionally more important than the other two girls (as clearly the three are proportionally more important than the remainder who are shown only in single panels at the end).

The Ugly

Tinderbox’s face may be a bit barf-worthy for those with sensitivities. I got distracted by the coloring in his final panel.

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It reminds me of ye olden days when comics used to color blood black so as to get around the censors. Harley Quinn has never shied from gore (even to the extreme), so this was a curious choice.

Also: somebody needs to explain Carlita’s tampon insult to me because I don’t get it.

Recommended If…

  • You’ve been thinking of picking up Harley Quinn but just didn’t know where to start.
  • You like street-level action in your comic books.
  • You enjoy the Harley and Ivy dynamic (plenty of that here!)

Overall

Despite being mostly set up for a new arc, this book delivers a lot of action between new character introductions and quite a bit of talking. The art absolutely delivers a great script and just as we’ve come to expect, this is an issue full of word and sight gags. Pick up this book for a change of pace from dark Gotham stories: if you like fun in your reading, you shouldn’t be disappointed.

SCORE: 8.5/10