Harley Quinn gets to play Ghostbusters with Zatanna in Harley’s latest Black Book adventure courtesy of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, with new Harley Quinn artist Joseph Michael Linsner on art duties and colors shopped out to Hi-Fi.
“Dispirited Spirits” is a pretty densely packed oversized issue that combines the fun tropes of the ghost story, demonic soul-stealing, and a quirky superhero team-up that parodies horror films, horror comedies, and (as usual with Conner/Palmiotti books) DC Comics itself (and more specifically DC Publisher, Dan Didio).
The nicest thing about the size of these issues is that the writers have the space to develop really interesting fully-realized one-shots where Harley’s interactions with her team-up hero actually can make some kind of organic sense. In this one, Zatanna is a great fit as a sideshow act for her Wax Museum/Burlesque; her presence there is motivated in a really simple, but effective way, and the manner in which she and Harley end up battling the ghosts (or, more precisely the demon who is terrorizing the ghosts) makes perfect sense in the usual Harley-esque way.
It’s especially fun to see Harley bond so quickly with Zatanna, even as she deliberately butchers her name in almost every instance (because how can you not? It’s so much fun!).
Reading this honestly took me back to my earliest days of comics when I was a total Ghost Rider fanatic. The premise of that book was always demons and soul-bartering (this was long before Hellblazer came along and really set a new standard). In those days you had the much campier scenarios (Son of Satan also comes to mind). This book embraces that kind of old-school camp as only Harley Quinn could. We’ve got a trio of carny ghosts being evicted from their Hellgate carnival ride home being tormented by a demon and looking for a place to hide. Harley’s old building is naturally the best location, but unfortunately Harley can see and hear the ghosts and her initial reaction is less than cordial.
Being Harley, of course, she goes after them with a shotgun, which disturbs her legitimate invited guests, the (questionably) super team of the London Legion of Superheroes. This rag tag group includes such charming characters as the profoundly profane Tiffany Terror, Pub Crawler (a real prince of puke), Big Bad Ben (powers uncertain), and the amazonian Double Decker. Since Harley’s first Black Book adventure, this quintet has featured in this book as a part of the supporting cast with varying degrees of success. In this particular issue, they feel a little more miss than hit, but it does seem like there’s a long-term plan being laid out with them so hopefully their role in the book will eventually coalesce.
In the meantime they aren’t that distracting from the main event, which, of course, is Harley’s partnership with Zatanna as they commune with the dead carnies to figure out what the trouble is, and then cross over to the spirit world in order to deal with it.
Or should I say “him”: folks prepare to meet Nad Oidid!
Lots of silly side gags throughout the book to enjoy including the ghost of Harley’s beaver (and no end to the beaver jokes, naturally), references to Ghostbusters, inside jokes, and more white rabbits than you can stuff back into a hat.
I loved Linsner’s art generally; it’s a good match for this content, though I feel like his Harley was oddly off-model. She’s got shorter pigtails, rounder facial features, and rather ugly hands throughout the book. Linsner also tends to draw clothes like they’re cellophane, so everything seems to cling too much. Also, the character of Betty (one of the ghosts) is supposed to be a heavily tattooed girl, but a number of panels omit her tattoos. This was oddly distracting.
That said, Zatanna looks amazing and all the demons and creatures are very nicely designed and rendered.
- You love a supernatural tale with a big helping of parody silliness.
- You like to meet strange and interesting new characters (i really wanted the ghosts to stick around, but I guess it’s true that Harley’s really already got a crowded house).
- If you’re a fan of Zatanna, she looks great in this!
Another fabulous read from Conner and Palmiotti’s Little Black Book! This issue feels siller and has fewer stakes than their of the last two books, but I thoroughly enjoyed the change of pace. The London Legion subplot doesn’t quite work in this instance, but the charming old-fashioned ghosts and Zatanna more than make up for it. New Harley artist Joseph Michael Linsner (who has mostly done cover work and his own independent series up until now) is a strong addition to the Harley artists stable despite some irregularities. And ultimately this is another fun one-shot for those of you who like Harley in small doses or just want something fun-and-done for a lazy afternoon.