If you were expecting Harley Quinn & the Suicide Squad’s April Fool’s Special to be your standard, oversized Harley romp… you’re mistaken. While this is very much a Harley Quinn story, chock full of the usual craziness we’ve come to expect from her, this issue also, and more importantly, serves as a Suicide Squad #0 for Rebirth. Oh yeah! This is now way more exciting than I originally thought it would be!
As expected from the title, Harley is front and center here. She’s somewhat on the down and out, is lacking motivation, and isn’t sure the super-villain life is the life for her. So how is she coping with it? She’s eating away her sorrows with a night of binge-watching TV. Her slump fest doesn’t last too long though, as a mysterious figure gives Harley a nudge in a new direction – perhaps she can actually do some good and help people.
Convinced that she became a psychiatrist, then turned to a life of crime so she could help and understand criminals, Harley decides to do just that. She founds her underground help group, Super Villains Anonymous. Since she doesn’t have any clients, the newly reformed Harley hits the streets of Gotham to find new clients – a mission that brings her face to face with Manbat.
The encounter sends Harley on a high energy tumble through the streets of Gotham in a way that only seems fitting for Harley’s delusional grandeur. Once she -successfully- completes her mission with Manbat, Harley dons the persona of Dr. Quinn (and yes, there’s a “Medicine Woman” joke in there). Since word has hit the street about Super Villains Anonymous, Harley starts receiving multiple clients, including the Enchantress, Killer Moth, Ratcatcher, and even her pal, Poison Ivy… and just like that, Harley’s living her dream… figuratively… or maybe literally.
As expected, things only stay sane for a limited time – this is a Harley book after all – before the story takes some unexpected turns. Harley’s new mission brings her up against other villains, and even the Justice League, but the really question marks hangs over Amanda Waller and the Suicide Squad. Waller is far from done with Harley, and she’s not going to let Dr. Quinn’s reformation stop her from reaching her own goals… Goals that lead into Rebirth and give Suicide Squad a decent push of momentum. If you plan on reading Suicide Squad, I highly recommend that you pick up this issue.
I will openly admit that this book has its fair share of ups and downs depending on your taste. Williams does a solid job of navigating this story in a fun way that feels true to Harley Quinn. He even presents a version of Harley that feels like a great combination of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s Harley, with the version that we’ve grown familiar with in continuity in New Suicide Squad. While I personally enjoyed this interpretation, I know others might have some issue with it. If you’re a champion for Conner and Palmiotti’s Harley, then you might feel a little let down because she never fully reaches that level of kookiness that these two have established so well, and the jokes or absurdity might be a slight let-down. Like I stated earlier though, I thoroughly enjoyed this version, and if you’re a Harley fan through and through, you will as well.
The Art: Jim Lee and Sean Galloway contribute art for this issue. Both men deliver great work, however they are drastically different in style. If you just let out a sigh of irritation, take a deep breath because they make it work incredibly well.
If you read comics, then you should be familiar with Jim Lee’s work. He’s a legend, and you get what you expect from his panels. It’s always a pleasure to see his work, and the fact that we get to see so many different characters here – Harley, the Justice League, Joker, Lex, Deathstroke, and various members of the Suicide Squad… it felt pretty magical. He exudes comedy when it’s needed, and makes his panels gruesome during the action. It’s all subtle techniques, but it’s the reason he is Jim Lee.
As for Galloway, his work leans more towards the art that we’re used to seeing from Jeremy Lawson from Teen Titans Go! or even Dustin Nguyen in Lil’ Gotham. Yes, it’s very cartoony, and reminiscent of something you would see in a child’s Saturday morning cartoon, but it works considering the narrative. I don’t want to give anything away, and I don’t feel like I could since it’s up to interpretation as it is, but I found it to be fun.
Breakdowns can be found in the spoiler tag.
The Good: Harley. Harley Quinn is probably one of the more difficult characters to write if you’re going to capture her “accurately.” This is ultimately subjective, but it appears as though there’s a growing trend with the feeling that if you’re writing the character in continuity, then it’s not “correct” to just make her crazy. She’s still a brilliant psychiatrist, and while she’s a little off her rocker, she walks a fine line of sanity and insanity, never fully revealing when she’s actually showing her crazy or just toying with people.
Williams manages to captures numerous shades of Harley really well. We get to see the delusional loon that makes us laugh often for a good chunk of the issue. It’s entertaining and what many of us have come to love about the character.
But he also, rightfully, presents her as a dangerous foe when the Justice League encounter her. Yes, they are the Justice League, and yes, she is just Harley Quinn… The League could easily make quick work of her, and they do, but they don’t view her as a joke. Why? Because she’s not. She’s dangerous, and they know that underestimating that could lead to terrible things. Plus, it’s just nice to see Harley be a total badass from time to time.
Williams doesn’t stop there, he goes even farther by making you genuinely care for, and feel bad for Harley. Waller has been brain washing Harley to get information from her, and it’s the twist in the issue that really makes things interesting! You’re not sure if everything you just read actually happened, or if it’s the work of Amanda Waller… and Harley isn’t sure either. As crazy as she can be, Harley’s always tucked away and protected the big of sanity she has left, even if she does it in secret. So seeing her try to hold on to that sanity and determine what is real or isn’t real as Waller tortures her is heartbreaking. It effects Harley, and there are bound to be some long-term consequences as this book heads into Rebirth. I personally find this exciting.
Waller/ the Squad. The Squad only get a page out of this entire issue, but Waller has some shining moments. She’s the mystery behind everything that’s going on, and she’s working a hard angle. She’s there to collect whatever information she can about potential recruits, and is aiming to build a team that can take down super heroes should they get out of control. It’s basically a complete lift of what we’ll see in the film later this year, but I don’t mind that. For once, it gives this book a purpose and a direction – something that has been lacking for quite some time. Also, Williams’ interpretation of Waller is the closest thing to what Ostrander used to present, and welcome this version with open arms! Plus, you can’t tell me it’s not exciting to see the Squad together (and look at Katana!).
The dream. Is it really a dream? Who knows. What I do know, is that I found it to be really fun. The drastic change in art and tone was a little rough to transition into at first, but I settled quickly. This will completely depend on your taste, but I was a fan of books like Lil Gotham so I enjoy this lighter tone. I also enjoy the juxtaposition of see such juvenile art with slightly more adult subject matters. I thought this was a win.
The Bad: Manbat. No, there’s nothing wrong with Manbat himself, but the entire run through Gotham City as Harley worked to cure Manbat was less than stellar in my opinion. Yes, there were a few laughs, and yes I thoroughly enjoyed Harley’s reaction when it was all said and done, but I found myself wondering “Where, exactly, is this going?” It’s probably what lead to the rough transition into Galloway’s portion of the book. I was already a little unsure if I liked what I was reading, then it took a drastic change. It’s not terrible, but wasn’t my favorite.
- You like the idea of Harley playing therapist to the Gotham’s rogues.
- You want to get a glimpse into Rebirth’s Suicide Squad.
- You’ve missed Ostrander’s version of Amanda Waller.
- Jim Lee on art!
Overall: Harley Quinn and the Suicide Squad’s April Fool’s Special is a wacky romp throughout Gotham City that provides its fair share of laughs. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, you get a twist, followed by another twist, and you’re left with a conclusion that will leave you hungry for Rebirth’s Suicide Squad.