Well Harley has kicked the Joker to the curb, lost her squeeze, and is on her way back to Coney Island to get back into her overstuffed routine of managing her gang, working at the hospital, and roller-derbying to pay the bills. “A New Day, a New Fray” pretty much sums up life in the laugh lane for the mistress of mayhem: when she hasn’t got a specific hit job to do, she’s still busting chops on the beach and the street.
One of the great storywriting qualities in this series is that Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti give the action room to breathe; Harley leaps from frying pan to fire and back again, but there’s always some sense of a regular life going on, first of all, and secondly (and perhaps more importantly), part of that regular life is not only about character development and world building, but it’s about setting up the next thing in a way that keeps it from devolving into a lot of exposition later on. A few well-placed flashbacks here will eliminate the necessity of the villain launching into a “why I’m so evil” monologue later on. And he may still do it for comic effect, but allowing the reader to be five steps ahead of the game actually builds suspense (it’s a good old-fashioned Hitchcockian ploy).
Like this moment: you KNOW what’s coming next and you cringe just waiting for it to happen!
The Road Ahead for Harley
So I think Josh called it in the “Upcoming Comics” article for this week: of all the tiles undergoing shifts for this Afterbirth/Rebirth/Stillbirth event, Harley Quinn is not likely to suffer much of a change. Part of the reason for this is that she’s already sort of outside regular continuity so nothing she’s doing really impacts other storylines (or is impacted in turn by them). The more important thing, however, is that she’s got a really solid team that has consistently made the book a raging success over the past two years (despite what many feel is oversaturation).
And the changes that are coming for Harley are already kind of happening. Like her comic book persona adopting her Suicide Squad bubblegum hairdo. We knew it was coming and there’s been some kvetching, but even though I prefer the black and red locks, it’s kind of amusing to see art imitate art. And as usual, Conner and Palmiotti have a sense of humor about the whole thing:
There are far worse things than a change of hairdo; it’s not like they’ve replaced her with a giant Harley mecha steered by Big Tony for a whole year while Harley suffers amnesia and takes up knitting doilies for orphan children or something ludicrous like that
The hair is fine. And let’s not forget: she started out as a blonde anyway, so really, this is almost a return to form. It’ll be interesting to see whether she bothers wearing a wig for her day job now.
Meanwhile, Between these Pages
The Conner/Palmiotti team serves up the usual welcome mix of gruesome violence, social watch-dogging, just-shy-of-lewd peacocking, and goofballing. This comic manages to pack a lot into its pages, setting up the continuing story of the corrupt mayor’s office, introducing a new villain (what a tool!), and giving Harley plenty of time to pimp her upcoming Gang series, bond with her housemates (I really do love Big Tony; he’s a great character), and reconnect with her derby girls as well. Where other books this overstuffed feel it and plotlines just become a melange of conversations seemingly without purpose, Harley Quinn always manages to unfold with purpose–providing the reader with the confidence that things are happening for a reason even if that reason is just a one-off gag. There’s never any sense of stuff just hanging, unfulfilled, or being pointless filler.
That’s not to say this book doesn’t have its occasional share of filler-type moments. A two-page scene in this particular book between Harley and a beach bum with a metal detector who remarks on the bodaciousness of her bubble-bum is really just a two-page screed against thoughtless troglodytes who troll women without any consideration for their behavior. While I completely agree with the sentiment and have had my share of wanting to spout off a similar tirade in similar circumstances, i’m not sure it needed to take up two whole pages of comic real-estate, though i appreciate it getting said at all.
But otherwise, this is just good Harley fun through-and-through. I’m actually kind of excited about this silly new villain who’s maybe the love child of Deadpool and Tim’s Tool Time on meth. We have to wait until the next issue to see him and Haley clash, but given it’s going to be in the derby setting, I’m sure it’ll be a rolling riot!
Chad Hardin and John Timms share art duties on this book, but as with all split art in the Harley books, it works very naturally since Hardin only draws the opening dream sequence (in which we get kangaroos, Little Red Riding Hood, a last glimpse of Harley’s former beau, and other typical dream-sequence oddities), and then Timms takes over for the awake-times. I’ve said in the past that I’ve really enjoyed Timms work in this book and I have to say, it continues to look sharper all the time. In the past he inclined toward very curvy and exaggerated lines on Harley’s face and body, often building her long and tall like a model, with very rounded postures and action. He’s getting some harder lines now and his Harley model feels more and more refined with each book.
At first I had the erroneous idea that the nurse tending to “Wayne” in the hospital was Harley herself (albeit with short hair), so it could be that some of Timms’ supporting characters might use a little more distinguishing in their features (the same is true of the roller girls; they feel a little generic), but overall, I couldn’t be happier with the consistency of the art in this book–absolutely one of the reasons it’s an ongoing pleasure to read.
Be sure to look for the variant covers (no, not the BvS tie-in one, though I guess that’s cool enough), but in addition to the one above featuring Nathan the weenie dog sniffing Harley’s patootie, Amanda Conner drew this fun splash (which I like even better):
- You love the whimsy of pure comic-booky goodness.
- You also love a comic that occasionally has something to actually say about the world we live in (even if it’s in a lovingly warped way).
- You love a comic that combines the elements above with great art, a splash of ultra-violence, and a dash of cutesy (because deep down we all really do love puppies and hamsters and starry-eyed hopefulness).
Harley’s got another spin-off series coming to a comic store near you (and don’t forget her Little Black Book is also concurrently running), but nothing beats the original real deal. This book is just as much fun as a one-off guilty pleasure as it is a long-stretch journey full of fun turns and fabulous fancies. Some weeks I shake my head and wonder at some of the books on my pull list, but this is never one of them!