If you haven’t been reading Harley Quinn for some staggeringly inconceivable reason, this issue might be the one to make you a regular reader. Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti pull off some of their boldest, most insane antics as Harley meets the unambiguously red and black Deadpool analog Red Tool!

Last issue we were left with some backstory on Red Tool’s origin and the promise of a cataclysm between the two crazies and here in “Tool Boxed In” Conner and Palmiotti pull out all the stops. I’m no fan of Deadpool, but I am a big fan of parody and seeing this send-up of the man in red and black is funny and weirdly charming. And as a bonus, Red Tool isn’t just treated as some throwaway carbon-copy. He’s been given some depth of character and is certainly a formidable foe for Harley.

Foe or Beau?

Red Tool’s got the hots for Harley. There’s no mistaking that. Now, there was some discussion from the last issue that it was a little creepy that this “old guy” was after young Harley, but given that this is comicbook land (and a liberal place it is), I’m not going to worry about the creep factor. What’s more interesting to me is that Red Tool is essentially Harley’s Mason/Joker rebound fella (though she doesn’t quite know it just yet).

And he’s completely psychotic, so it’s kind of a match made in heaven.
Naturally, of course, Harley hates him right out of the gate and the resultant sparks in the roller rink constitute some of the best and bloodiest action this series has brought forth (compliments of John Timms). Possibly my favorite moment in the whole book involves a whole bucketfull of swords and other sharp thingies converted into projectiles for the pleasure of the blood-thirsty crowd who gets more than what they paid for on this particular demolition derby.

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Red Tool, Dead Tool, it’s all part of the same Dead Pool

All This and More

Not only is this comic a feast for the fiends who enjoy a bit of the ol’ ultraviolence, but it further develops an ongoing subplot about corruption in the Mayor’s office including collusion with the Chief of Police. So all those bystanders who perish in the derby don’t just die in vain (well, most of them do, but there’s a point beyond that).

Also, we get to learn more about Red Tool’s intentions once he manages to subdue Harley and haul her away to–no, not his secret lair–the high-flying carriage of Coney’s Wonder Wheel. There he and Harley have their “first date” as they share some french fries, talk about their hopes and dreams, and Red Tool attempts to share his multi-media presentation on why he’s the Black and Red antihero he is today. Hint: the presentation doesn’t go so well and Harley does a lot of spitting.

Once again, Timms does a fabulous job conveying Harley’s loony facial expressions from rage to outrage to face-stuffing satisfaction. And the physical action (and humor) throughout the book is top notch. It’s also nice to get to spend some time with Harley’s roller derby girls as they’ve been sidelined for what seems like a good long while due to the “Gang” and Harley’s regular residents taking more center stage. Maybe sooner than later we’ll be seeing Harley in her role as counselor again given we’re about due for that persona to cycle back into the mix as well.

Special kudos to letterer Dave Sharpe for a book chock-full of not only crazy special effects sounds rendered especially special, but for a whole book full of Red Tool’s tool-shaped dialogue balloons (gears and hammers and saw blades galore). This is a book full of lovely page designs and style choices within those page designs that offer the best that comics has to give in terms of sheer visual storytelling. Every element lends itself to this insane world that Harley occupies and all of it feels perfectly organic in its insanity.

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I want to marry this blow-out Wonder Wheel panel

I keep hearing people saying they’ve got Harley fatigue or that the Harley thing has been beaten to death or that there’s just too much Harley. I was a bona fide skeptic when I asked to take up this book to review for this site, but I’ve been long-since won over by the clever writing, the emphasis on fun comic-booky goodness, the slapstick gore, and Harley’s sweet cruelty and tough love. She’s developed into a character I root for even if she isn’t strictly one of the good guys, and that’s more than I can say for some of the alleged “heroes” in the DC universe.

Recommended If…

  • You like the violence. Come on, just admit it. You like the violence.
  • You’ve ever played Harley vs. Deadpool (or Harley loves Deadpool).
  • Aggressive alliteration is always the answer!
  • You’ve never picked up a Harley Quinn book even though you know you really really want to.

Overall

This book hits all the right notes, including ones you didn’t even know you wanted to hear. And if things weren’t crazy enough in this issue, it ends with a cliff-hanger you’ll want to return to. Can Red Tool out-crazy the Mistress of Madness? I for one am looking forward to finding out!

SCORE: 10/10