This month’s outing, “Insurance Waivers” is another big helping of what you should by now expect from Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Justin Gray. Both predictable in its rhythm and completely off-the-wall in its actual content, Harley Quinn and Power Girl is like a bag of Cheetos: utterly delightful and so very tasty irrespective of any possible nutritional value.
The value of this, of course, is going to depend on your personal tastes.
Because I get it. Some of you have expressed Harley fatigue and for some tastes, a little Harley goes a long way. Even I admit that occasionally it’s all a bit too much. And yet it’s the kind of excess I’m inclined to like: a strange mix of silly, violent, and suggestive that’s ultimately harmless and provides genuine laughs.
The big event for the mid-series book: Harley and Power Girl finally meet Vartox who is under the evil spell of Oreth Odeox and, of course, immediately sets out to destroy his own would-be rescuers.
Harley’s team never fails to bring the crazy. Every time I think the story will turn left, it veers off to the right in some absurd and welcome way. And yes, that usually involves some kind of psychedelic interlude. The saving grace is that these interludes are fun and often bounce the characters through a landscape rife with pop culture references and fourth-wall-breaking asides. The other saving grace is that these interludes are brief, keeping them effective and dissipating back into whatever counts for sobriety for Harley before wearing out their welcome.
This issue’s interlude? A Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas daytrip compliments of some far out bong-blown starflower pollen that Chancellor Groovicus Mellow decided to spark up after thinking everyone was killed only moments before a deadly toilet explosion.
Yes, a toilet explosion. But don’t worry, the exploding toilet is actually an important plot point.
But first, HQ and Peej take a little trip
I haven’t said much about Chancellor Mellow, but he’s been a fun character since issue No. 1, providing some background on the planet, Vartox, and Odeox’s evil plans. But he’s not just useful, he’s funny too. He reminds me (because of his ridiculous half-chomped afro) of Michael D. Robert’s Roscoe in Ice Pirates (1984). Don’t know if there is an intentional connection, but that’s one heck of an absurdly funny movie, so I mean it as a compliment. In fact, this whole series feels more and more like a child of that film, so if you like the base silly humor here, I recommend you go watch that silly movie.
Not right this moment, though. Let me finish telling you a handful more good things about this issue:
- The XGF clan (Vartox’s ex-girlfriends who have banded together to rescue him), don’t get in the way of letting Harley and Power Girl keep front and center.
- Despite the cluttered cast (which is becoming legion) and the crazy asides, the fabric of the story isn’t suffering for it or feeling unraveled.
- Paul Mounts!
- Did I mention Paul Mounts? He’s the colorist who makes this book look like Candyland: it shines, it gleams, it explodes with rainbows of delight. And yet he keeps it from being just a melange of eyenoise. The surface of the desolate planet is appropriately gloomy and the beautiful nebulas of the sky never compete with the foreground action.
Lastly, let’s talk about the artists who worked on this issue because there are three of them: Stephane Roux (who has been carrying most of the series so far and doing an amazing job of it), Moritat (who contributes the pollen-induced high full of curling smoke panels and one super-hot convertible), and then there’s Elliot Fernandez (who concludes the book with Power Girl’s first fight against Vartox himself). That’s a lot of collaboration for a 22-pager, but this book reads like a well-oiled engine with all pistons at full thrust.
Yeah, I sort of felt like I had to get a double-entendre in here somewhere.
Throughout, each artist brings really nice moments to the book, whether it’s through creative angles, goofy facial expressions, or just well choreographed action that’s fun to follow (I love how Vartox flings Power Girl over his shoulder). Honestly, on first read I was only vaguely aware that the artist had changed in the drug-sequence (and mostly because I simply expected it to happen there).
If it’s a Harley Plan, it’s going to be whacked
Take Two Tokes and Call Me in the Morning
This is the part when I reflect that this book is intended for a 12+ audience and so there are things in here that people might find squicky. I always feel like the writers (and artists) keep the Harley Quinn books from devolving into obscenity and I really appreciate that about this book, so this stuff is minor, but I’m calling it out for the sensitive crowd.
The book is clearly parodying the 1974 cult classic Zardoz, which I’ve been assuming you are all familiar with, but if you’re not, here’s the lowdown: this science-fiction low-budget film was an examination of what becomes of the human race when people acquire immortality. While that doesn’t sound like a bad premise, unfortunately the answer is that they spend a lot of energy on sex and violence (not necessarily at the same time, but whatever floats the boat). The most infamous thing about this movie is that it cast Sean Connery as a headhunter named Zed, who spends the movie running around in costumes that, well, let’s just say, aren’t terribly flattering.
Vartox in slave-Leia gear vs. Zed in a red diaper harness
Harley Quinn and Power Girl has a different premise, but Vartox’s fallen world of pleasure is reminiscent of Zardoz’s speculative future–with additional shades of Barbarella (1968) thrown in for good measure.
So yeah: the opening double-page splash is rife with visual innuendo (as is the ship that our fearless duo uses for space travel). Additionally, the sex gags are everywhere and all of the characters are more or less objectified (hey, it’s at least consistent, right?). That said, nothing crosses the line (to my thinking), and it’s all in good fun.
I have one quibble with this book.
Power Girl is doing most of the heavy-lifting when it comes to the bigger end of the fight and that’s great. I enjoy seeing her working hard at their objective even when Harley’s spouting nonsense and being distracted (or just generally smashing things up for fun). However: Power Girl feels like she’s in a position of reacting to Harley most of the time and I’d like to see the two work more as a team instead. That might not be in the cards given Harley’s nature, but stranger things have happened.
Either way, I’m invested in this to the end (even mostly knowing how it’s all going to play out). The book ends on a good cliffhanger and now we have to wait a month to see where this goes next!
- You love crazy old science fiction movies and the parodies they have spawned.
- Power Girl is your choice for date night!
- You actually like Harley Quinn. I have a feeling that if you’re in for a penny you’re in for a pound with this book. Otherwise, with the mini-series half-through it’s likely if you haven’t been reading you’ll either catch it in the collected edition or skip it altogether (unless something I can say here will convince you to pick this up).
This book gets funnier the more you read and reflect on it, and the art team is top-notch. For sheer old-fashioned comic entertainment, this really can’t be beat. Okay, so it’s full of sophomoric sex gags and giant phalluses, but it’s not over-gross and it always keeps things light and lively. Harley and Power Girl might yet make a good team if they can work together better, but I doubt Peej will ever be comfortable doing things the “Harley Way”.