Writer (and cover artist) Steve Pugh brings us a story about Harley Quinn’s reformation and subsequent backslide in this aptly titled “Down the Rabbit Hole” issue.  She’s been selected by Telos to square off against Captain Carrot, but there’s one major problem: Harley’s gone straight and all the crazy’s been leached out of her system.

We open up with the events that lead to her latest brush with rehabilitation: a theft gone sour right at the moment the Dome comes crashing down. Harley subsequently cleans up her act, falls for a cop injured in her last heist, and seems to have her life together (as much as Harley Quinn ever does). It’s her old Gotham Sirens buddies–Catwoman and Poison Ivy–who decide to track her down and make sure she’s up to play the Hunger Games (this is the Convergence title that actually makes a joke reference to the Hunger Games).

The Good

The Convergence formula definitely runs the risk of getting stale (like a 90s combat video game with limited match options), but for this issue, Pugh has introduced the obstacle of Harley’s sanity (which obviously must be done away with if she’s to have a chance against Captain Carrot). While this issue feels more heavily like pure set-up than some of the others, it’s very entertaining.

Like other issues of Convergence, the best thing about this is just the characterizations: sure, Harley’s still a ditz in the New 52, and still violent-minded as all get out, but Pugh restores a bit more of the black and white (or black and red) extremes to her personality, emphasizing that she is mentally ill (which is something that’s virtually ignored in her solo series these days). There’s are a couple of very nice touches here with regard to that: a discussion about goldfishes that telegraphs what’s to come, and a psychotic moment in which she has a post-traumatic reaction to thoughts of the Joker.

It was also nice to see Bud and Lou again! I really wish they would get Harley some new hyenas in the current run. Killing them off in Death of the Family still irks me.

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Harley’s hijinx are no less gory in this retro-tale

The Bad

Artists Phil Winslade and John Dell give us a real mixed bag with this issue. There’s some great compositions with wonderfully off-kilter paneling that conveys the chaos that typically accompanies Harley everywhere she goes, and many of character faces are quite strong. But Harley in costume is rather ugly (with an overly-muscled body that looks heavy rather than lithe like the gymnast she should be). A full-page spread of Catwoman and Ivy fighting a large gang of would-be urban terrorists is also full of awkward postures. Strangely, it’s the action-packed capes and cowls stuff that suffers, while ordinary scenes of Harley in therapy or at home with her man Louie are rendered quite nicely.

I do like the cover, which evokes Guillem March’s Sirens cover from 2009, though I do think Harley’s body is a bit strangely shaped.

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With Harley Quinn is anything ever serious?

Some Additional Notes

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Refer to the back of the book first if you want context, but understanding the story doesn’t really require that you go there.  For this issue’s “origin” I thought it was interesting that they pulled bits and pieces of Harley’s history from all over the place–including the New 52. Go figure. Other bits of useless information and mindless digressions:

  • Captain Carrot has a son named Lucky. Lucky’s mother is one of Zatanna’s rabbits. I don’t even want to know why this mess was cooked up.
  • Neither Phil Winslade, nor inker John Dell have any previous connection to any of these characters. The closest I could find was that Winslade did art for Jimmy Palmiotti’s Jonah Hex run (Palmiotti being one of the current writers of Harley Quinn).
  • There’s no hint of where the Joker might be in this world. In Harley’s last solo outing before the New 52 began, his whereabouts were similarly ambiguous with relation to her. In fact, that’s still the case in the New 52 (with the exception of their brief interaction during the Death of the Family storyline), which goes to show how long the DC editors have been trying to drive a wedge between the two.

Recommended If…

  • You’re not a fan of New 52 Harley Quinn and you want to see her completely whacked out and pummeling people with a mallet again.
  • You love the Catwoman/Poison Ivy/Harley Quinn triad.
  • You need a bit of silly among all these heavy death-match Convergence issues.

Overall

I enjoyed this a lot despite the fact that I wasn’t a fan of the art. Harley, Catwoman, and Ivy in their old costumes certainly brings back memories and even though Gotham City Sirens was a bit hit-and-miss, it was a series with untapped potential. Seeing these villainesses pull it together (despite the fact that their friendship ended badly) is a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to seeing how silly this can get once Harley confronts her rabbity foe!

SCORE: 8/10