“Harleywood” features more than the usual share of surprises with John Timms filling in for regular series artist Chad Hardin, and a script that feels not only way-scaled back in terms of goofiness compared to Harley Quinn’s Road Trip special, but has a body count higher than the last half-dozen comics put together.

Harley has agreed to help one of the nurses at the senior home where she works recover her daughter who has been kidnapped by a cult in Los Angeles. Harley’s taken the job even though the desperate mom had agreed to hire another bounty hunter. I won’t spoil it here, but if you know Harley’s history with Suicide Squad, I’m pretty sure you can guess who that other hunter might be. Harley lands in California and immediately starts hacking a swath through to find the daughter (and picking up a sidekick along the way).

If fewer talking beavers and more psychotic overkill executions are what you’ve been hoping for from the start, this is what you’ve been waiting for.

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Plus, fantasy fun for the whole DC family!

Bright Lights

This book features more guest stars in the first two pages than your average TV show hitting its fourth-season slump. Yes, of course it’s a dream sequence, but it’s still fun to play spot the character (and the scene provides a few inside joke chuckles–like the inclusion of Jonah Hex, a character for whom Harley writer Jimmy Palmiotti used to pen). And if you’re like me and missed the Joker in Harley’s Road Trip hallucinations, you won’t be disappointed here (more on that in a minute).

For the first time in what seems like a long while Harley is brutal. She has a moment about trying to do good, but writers Amanda Conner and Palmiotti have nailed the dichotomy of Harley’s intention vs. her behavior. Her complete disconnect between what’s good and what’s bad is pitch perfect this go-round.

John Timms is a great match for the energy of this book: his Harley isn’t necessarily a sexbomb and she’s not entirely “cute” either. Timms can give her the psychotic madwoman expression when called on to do so, while still embracing her child-like mannerisms. While some of his perspective and anatomy seems to get away from him (look at Harley’s fight with the party thugs) and some of his backgrounds lack a little detail (the reveal of the chateau feels less spectacular than Harley’s reaction to it), Timms nevertheless makes the book move. He also has a solid grasp of the absurd. The blubbery party host is hilariously grotesque, and the cowboy is a strange mix of The Man in the Yellow Hat and Midnight Cowboy Joe Buck.

I tried to figure out if this sidekick character was more specifically a reference to something, but came up blank (can anyone fill?). Regardless, he’s fun while he lasts, and gives Harley the necessary sounding board for her lunatic plotting.

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This encounter is really happening and it’s kind of awesome

Big City

I don’t have complaints about this book so much as really big questions. Up until this point I feel like Conner and Palmiotti have done everything possible to keep this book in a vague place continuity-wise. It never flat-out rejected regular DC continuity, but it also refused to explicitly agree with it. It flirted a tiny bit with the New 52 in its Future’s End issue, but even that could be easily dismissed.

This issue, however, pops the lid a bit on the possibility that there is actual continuity underpinning these solo adventures. The first is minor: John Timms draws the Joker in Endgame style. This is the first time the Joker has appeared in this book looking anything like his “New 52” counterpart. Harley’s fantasies have always shown a Joker more in line with the usual “classic” hair and costume (even when he was missing his face). This could just be a moment of editorial oversight, but I couldn’t help feel like the choice was more deliberate.

The bigger connection comes in the form of the introduction of Harley’s competition, and I’m dropping this under the cut because I haven’t seen it spoiled anywhere online yet:

Spoiler
Enter Deadshot.

Harley and Deadshot have a history from her Suicide Squad days, something which has never been referenced in this book at all–until now. While the book isn’t specific about how they know each other, it’s clear that there is a relationship between them.

Nothing is set in stone here. Batman is still Batman in this book, after all, evinced by the fact that the Road Trip special is in continuity with this book and he actually appeared there in Gotham with Poison Ivy. But my curiosity is definitely piqued as to what revelations may come in the next issue.

Recommended If…

  • You think there’s too wide a characterization gap between Suicide Squad Harley and Harley Quinn Harley. There is no gap in this book.
  • You wanted the Road Trip special to be part of the regular continuity (it is).
  • You’re a big fan of dudes with the laser-sights in place of their eyeballs.

Overall

Harley Quinn (mostly) on a solo mission, so fixed on the prize that everyone else is pretty much disposable is a scenario straight out of Nostalgia City. If you yearned for Gotham City Sirens after reading Harley’s Road Trip special, this book will fulfill some fantasies of Harley returning to her psychotic brain-bashing roots. Pull up a splash guard and enjoy this one!

SCORE: 9/10