It’s been 16 issues since Harley Quinn and Sy Borgman defeated the Russian villain Zena Bendemova in an avenging rampage that left a trail of bodies, including Zena’s own–impaled by the horn of a rhinoceros. I remember that issue with special fondness because it was the first review I ever wrote for Batman News (it was my “audition piece”).

Harley’s gone through a lot of subtle changes since then. She took a wide left turn away from being a psychopathic villain and went into straight-up anti-hero territory. For a while there it looked like she was going soft. But lately Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner have upped the aggressive antics for Harley and she has been reflecting more of her sadistic self in recent issues. Personally, I like seeing the edge firmly back in place: Harley is best when she’s unhinged and it looks from the direction this book is taking us, that this is a trait that may be back to stay.

If you haven’t been reading this series, this is a good place to jump in as we begin a new arc with “Sy Borgman and Harley Quinn Must Die!”.

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Lots of blam blam blam fooosh ka-boom in this issue!

The Good

Even if you didn’t read issue No. 6 (to which this has ties), you learn all you need to know within the first few pages of this comic. Harley is returning from her adventures in LA, after probably maxxing out Floyd Lawton’s credit cards, to find the usual sort of chaos and calamity back at home. Sy Borgman’s old nemesis Zena Bendemova has been put back together by her creepy grandson Erik and is now also a cyborg. The inclusion of a tearful taxidermied head on Erik’s bedroom wall is both sad and funny. That’s the critter, of course, who did Grandma in.

Harley is waylaid after being abducted from the airport (without her knowing it) by a gang of Russian skirts with a lot of firepower who nevertheless can’t hit the broadside of a barn. Lots of killing and maiming ensues as Harley is in no mood to put up with this.

Meanwhile, in a plot thread that’s sure to become prominent in the next few issues, Mason Macabre is calling home to whine to his mother about his treatment in prison. Naturally there’s a prison break on the horizon and the February solicitations have more to reveal on that matter if you want some spoilers.

Harley’s gang has been whittled down a bit to the standouts here. It’ll be interesting to see how they do in the coming issues–whether we’ll continue to see atrophy in the ranks for one reason or another, or if the group is here to stay. I’ve grown to like some of the gang members: Harvey Quinn and Harley Queens are two of my favorite.

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Nice touch connecting these parakeets back into the story.

Look for the variants (there are two). The best of the bunch is Amanda Conner, Paul Mounts, and Spike Brandt’s Looney Tunes variant showing Harley giving an “Innnterresssting maaahnnster” a very “innnterresssting haaair-do!”

The Less Fabulous

Little nitpicks here.

Chad Hardin is back on art duties and his storytelling is as sharp as ever, even with the futziest of details–like a dozen parakeets alighting on Harley’s rifle (above), but he does have some uncharacteristic rushed moments throughout the book. Like the stock-looking image of the Kennedy airport, and some slightly-off anatomics in the final pages.  This team has been pumping out books like crazy though, so I can’t imagine that the pace is conducive to perfect work on every page. And sometimes you have to sacrifice a panel or two to make the whole book work quickly enough to get to press.

And I’ve beat this particular horse before, but I’ll say it again: Conner and Palmiotti have gone to great lengths to assert Harley’s independence from the Joker and show her as a self-aware survivor of emotional and physical abuse. They club that baby seal once again in this book, clearly gearing up to the inevitable reunion between the two. I am excited to see the Joker make his first actual (non-imaginary) appearance in this book, but feel trepidatious about how it might be played. I’m putting my faith in the writers, though. They did a phenomenal job with the Future’s End issue in which Harley and the Joker were reunited on a deserted island.

The Bad

There’s a reference in here in which Harley’s beaver asks if she wants them to build her a bell tower as she arms herself to fire at the construction workers who snot off to her. I dunno, maybe it’s ‘cause I’m from Texas, but even though it’s a funny line, it feels a bit in bad taste. It’s a Harley comic, so I guess that’s okay, but I admit I kind of cringed.

Recommended If…

  • You want to get in at the start of a storyline that’s going to reunite Harley with her old boyfriend–yeah, that guy.
  • You enjoy seeing Mason Macabre getting the snot beat out of him as much as I do.
  • Harley Unhinged is the way you like to see Daddy’s Li’l Monster portrayed.

Overall

Harley begins a new arc with plenty of objects in motion. As usual, all the stops have been pulled as Harley’s myriad life complications clash: multiple abductions, prison boyfriend woes, and the terrible need for pancakes in the morning. Harley’s got it all under control, though, with her usual murderous glee. How is it that she and the Joker aren’t still a perfect pair?

SCORE: 9/10