The opening page of “Can’t Fight City Hall…or Can You?”shows an awesome retro-style intro in which a giant Joker’s hand grasps Harley, Madame Macabre, Mason, and Poison Ivy, while others fly around a cosmic background, with the panel is flanked by character portraits. If you ever read comics in the olden days or have had occasion to pick up decades-old back issues, this throwback opener will spark some sweet nostalgia. .

The bad news this opener is about as honest about the actual content in this comic as those old openers were back in the day. The good news is that it feels intentional and that helps soften the blow a little. What blow, you say?

Well the fact that we ended on a cliffhanger last month that set Harley Quinn up to plotting a jail break at Arkham, the cover that shows Harley against a background full of familiar Arkham rogues, and the solicit that reads:

“Harley’s got an endangered friend to save, but there’s just one problem: she’s got to get through Arkham Asylum first! Unsurprisingly, Harley’s not eager to set foot in the site of some of her darkest hours…and she definitely isn’t ready to face a certain someone who’s laughing at the end of a dark hallway…”

Yeah, that ain’t the book we got, though. While we do get to see the inside of the asylum briefly at the end of this comic, the focus of the action here is Harley dealing with the mayor’s office and the subsequent legion of hitmen the mayor’s lackey send after her.

It’s a great book. It’s funny. It’s weird. It has lots of borderline inappropriate humor about boobs and horny dogs.  But it’s still just set-up for Harley’s journey to Arkham and that makes it a little disappointing. One does not simply tease the Joker and then not serve the Joker!  Fortunately we do see him, so it’s not a bust, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I feel like all those crazy Star Wars fans who desperately wanted to see Luke Skywalker and got…well, you know (for the record I was way okay with that–it was awesome).

Harley Quinn‘s surprise was not awesome.  But let it be a measure of my investment in this title that:

  1. I’m still excited about the eventuality of the Joker’s full appearance.
  2. I enjoyed the heck out of this book anyway.

The Story

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Oh that Harley: she’s such a classy gal

Harley goes to the mayor’s office to see if she can’t pull some strings to fetch Mason out of Arkham. The Mayor isn’t sympathetic because, after all, Mason killed his son in a bar fight. In a curious show of moral fibre, the Mayor refuses to be blackmailed by Harley. Of course he’s not so averse to letting his henchman Cecil dirty his hands with a bona fide hit–just so long as he doesn’t know about it.

The hit team that shows up to Harley’s Coney Island digs is led by a Hulk Hogan wannabe and a team of buff looking commando-types. But Harley sees them coming and puts her whole team into action, including Sy Borgman and Zena Bendamova, who gleefully takes out her share of the baddies.

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KNNCHH says letterer Tom Napolitano: that’s the sound a crushed head makes!

Harley wants them “winged” so she can interrogate them, but a good percentage lose their heads (quite literally) as the violence escalates. The leftovers are made to turn on one another and then everybody but Hogan gets a free ride on a scatapult.  The comic closes with Mason making friends at Arkham. He can’t see his cellmate neighbor, but the typeface telegraphs the voice one panel before we see our old friend Mistah J. And he looks like he’s looking forward to Harley’s visit.

One of the things I continue to love about this book is how purposeful the characters and environment are. Harley’s been playing cat-and-mouse with the Mayor for some time, so the scene of her shoving her way into his office is absolutely organic. The scatapult has been around for more than 15 issues. Characters like Big Tony and Goat Boy don’t always get much panel time, but we see them consistently in Harley’s life. Mike the Rooster is new, but he’s already randomly hilarious just for existing. Stuff doesn’t just conveniently pop up and then disappear in this book. You always have a sense of the continuity of people and things. That’s not always the case in other comics.

Couple of other things to call out especially in this issue: Chad Hardin’s work is wonderful as always: from his goofy cat and dog costumes to Cecil’s mangled corpse, everything is imbued with lively personality. Meanwhile Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti stuff this one with a barrage of gags from page one to the last. As always, Harley Quinn is always worth a second and third read, and because it’s so well-written, I suspect it will hold up well to the test of time.

Recommended If…

  • An action-packed shoot-out with Hulk Hogan and plenty of expendable thugs would brighten your dull day.
  • You want to watch Conner and Palmiotti challenge standards of good taste.
  • You’re in it for the build-up to next month’s Arkham encounter.

Overall

This is a fun issue of Harley Quinn but the timing feels unfortunate. With Harley on the verge of returning to Arkham since she last saw the Joker more than two years ago, this feels like a digression following the appetizer that may be tasty, but gets in the way of the main course. Yes, it’s salad. Very tasty and nicely accoutered, but salad nonetheless. Enjoy a small portion, but come back next month for the steak and potatoes that are sure to follow!

SCORE: 8/10