“Be Careful Whatcha Wish For…” is the ominous title of this latest boxcar ratcheting down the rails as part of the HarleyTrain, but we’ll have to wait until June to see how Harley’s scheme actually plays out. For now she’s just building her team after putting out an advertisement last issue with a call for the toughest, most kick-buttest crime fighters available.

Here we get to see Antonia, Shona, Carlita, the Quints, and others that were introduced last time actually meet Harley and comment on her beaver. That beaver gag…one day it’s going to wear out its welcome, but for now the writers are still managing to keep it fresh. Harley also buys a second building (the Dreamin’ Seaman) to house these new hires, and sets about doing some remodeling. That probably doesn’t sound very exciting, but this is a Harley Quinn comic, so rest assured she could probably have a thrilling adventure watching paint peel.

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Ivy’s not so hot on this scheme, but Harley’s got her head in her stomach

The Good

You can always count on a Harley Quinn comic to be funny, irreverent, and over-the-top. Here, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti are in top form taking Harley from inception to instigation of her plan to populate Coney Island with like-minded mirror images of her particular sensibility of justice. One of the things I really appreciate about the writing in this book is that it manages to juggle so many characters and situations simultaneously. Despite the hiring of the Harley Gang being the central focus, we don’t lose sight of the rest of Harley’s friends and life: her job at the senior center, her relationship with Tony, her goo-goo eyes for Mason, her friendship with Eggy and Madame Macabre. This is a book that really knows how to cram a lot in between the pages very naturally without it turning into a muddled mess.

Helping that clarity is the wonderful art of regular series artist Chad Hardin, with a 4-page assist from John Timms. These two artists’ styles work very well together and even though Timms tends to go lighter on the environment details, it’s never to the point of distraction. His sequence of Harley shopping for beds and linens showcases his ability to capture Harley at her most adorable nuttiest.  I also really love how Harley’s new building, the “Dreamin’ Seaman” is transformed over a number of wide-angle panels from a derelict slum hotel on the verge of the wrecking ball to something that’s actually charming and livable.

Despite four and a half pages of interviews, the schtick never gets old. If you’ve ever been a hiring supervisor or manager you’ll appreciate the kinds of crazy things people say to tank their own job prospects. Harley, of course, has only one means of discernment when it comes to hiring, so out go the lights and last ones standing get the gig. Would it have been more entertaining to see the battle of the wanna-be Harleys rather than a full-page meta-moment in which John  J. Hill, “abused letterer” laments the insane tasks he’s put to in the service of this book? I’m going to say no. Even though I am not a huge fan of overt breaking of the fourth wall, if there has just been a brawl, my eyes would have cruised over it quickly to get to the expected end (you can pretty tell who’s going to make the team already based on the interviews). Instead, the moment pulled me up short and I paid attention to the page: not just sad John J. Hill chained to his desk (with a WHAKO tablet, not less), but to the lettering that filled the background as well. It was a nice moment to appreciate how much a really good letterer integrates the sound effects so well into a page that we often register them automatically without actually noticing them.

And speaking of things you might gloss over, pay attention to the details. As always, there are plenty of surprises going on behind the immediate action.

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Erica Zhang and I have a lot in common.

The Bad Not Great

Harley Quinn already has a substantial cast of characters (some of which, like Goat-Boy, haven’t really been fully explored). Adding a dirty dozen as diverse and zany as this feels a bit distracting to me. My hope is that we get a good solid arc out of this concept, but that the enterprise collapses under its own silliness and the scale gets pared back again. This is a personal preference, however, as I’m generally not a big fan of “team” books.

We’re also veering well of the rails from where this series began. Change is good, but Harley’s appeal for me is in her unique brand of lunacy. I feel there’s a potential danger of introducing too many crazies into the mix at the risk of watering down the cocktail. That said, I am enjoying this set up and looking forward to things blowing up when we return to this series in June.

No Ugly

This book is suspiciously free of gratuitous violence. While a number of the interviewees express plenty of violent thoughts, the massive fight is shrouded in dark and FX lettering. Harley even prevents herself from bludgeoning some people in the theater in the opening scene. Is Harley going soft? Or is this just the quiet before the storm? I’m thinking the latter and we’ll be seeing plenty of ghoulish hijinx when the series returns post-Convergence.

Recommended If…

  • You enjoy fun character-building through funny mini-monologues and awesome art.
  • You want to be ready for the Gang of Harleys when they leap into action two months from now.

Overall

Another chapter of setting the stage toward Harley’s imminent gang, all branded with her iconic red and black diamonds, and ready to maim and kill in the service of world harmony. This issue is a lot talkier than the usual Harley Quinn fare, but there’s never a dull moment and plenty of plot progression to keep you engaged. It’s going to be a long break before we pick up where this leaves off, but at least we get a couple of Harley Quinn Convergence issues to tide us over, remind us where the character came from, and, who knows: maybe help us appreciate where she is now?

SCORE: 8/10