Sometimes in the past I have criticized a book for not having enough plot, for just being a series of scenes that doesn’t always move things forward in a satisfying way.  And sometimes that’s exactly what’s called for. I mean, what else do you do with a zombie apocalypse on Coney Island except indulge in the tropes of that particular genre?

In “Coney Island of the Damned”, Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti completely give this book over to one long madcap melee in which Harley almost single-handedly takes down half the population of her own neighborhood in an attempt to contain a virus that’s been spread through an alien contamination of the city’s hot dogs.

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And of course she enjoys it!

I’ve never been a fan of the zombie genre, but I do have a macabre sense of humor–and I like comic book violence (and I ain’t afraid to admit it). It makes sense for Harley to tackle this problem because it’s precisely the sort of ridiculous scenario that she can make the most of.

The gang’s all here (literally Harley’s Gang, along with Big Tony, Goatboy, Jimm, etc.), but Harley shines as she accidentally flings herself into the jaws of the flesh-hungry crowd. Her double-teaming effort with Red Tool was abruptly cut short–also literally–when she lopped off Tool’s arm once he was bitten. The opening sequence of this issue shows Harley and the gang scatapulting Red Tool off to the hospital (I’m sure he’ll be just fine).

From there, we’re served up one giant helping after another of pure Harley mayhem: almost immediately after they’ve holed themselves up, Harley wants to play go-fish with the zombies, and winds up back in the thick of them. It’s a thin excuse to go all Rick Grimes on the ghouls, but that’s what you’re paying your shekels to see here and the team delivers!

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Absolute alliteration abounds! And so much concession-stand food!

Series regulars Chad Hardin and John Timms tag-team on this issue with Hardin on the front half and Timms doing the finishes on the back half. Bret Blevins also lends his talents on layouts, making this book one of the first single regular issues to have this depth of collaborative teamwork.

I’ve already expressed my concern for the artists who are having to crank these stories out twice a month and how that could potentially lead to rushed art or a lot of fill-in-artists. While my concern still stands, I think the collaboration here between Hardin and Timms works, and Blevins’ layouts seem to flow well and provide the artists plenty of room to go big with the action. It’s not entirely seamless, but the transition isn’t jarring either. The fact that Hardin and Timms have worked on Harley before and are familiar to the regular readers also helps.

As mentioned before, the issue is mostly a visual feast of gore and grotesqueries. Conner and Palmiotti don’t hesitate to throw every gross bodily fluid into the mix, and the zombies disintegrate with alarming ease: heads and jaws pop off, limbs are everywhere, and guts slosh all over. It’s just gross enough to be enjoyably squicky without being so real you want to hurl, even as Harley eats concession stand food while fighting off the hoards, licking her fingers all the way. I like comic book carnage because I’m a ghoul at heart, so it doesn’t bother me in the slightest, but if you have a weak stomach, be forewarned.

Thumbs up to a heavy metal reference including one of my all-time favorite singers, Ronnie James Dio. It maybe didn’t entirely occur to me that one of the reasons I enjoy this book so much is that I belong to the same generation at the writers, and therefore their off-the-wall references resonate for me. Jokes like the Olivia Newton-John one, above, might be lost or unfunny for younger readers, but that sort of thing appeals both to my personal sense of humor as well as my cynical nostalgia.

But even if you aren’t part of Generation X, there’s plenty to enjoy among the slaughter: Hardin and Timms outdo themselves with full and half splashes of pure zombie-fighting porn (what else can you call Harley beating back the creatures with their own dismembered limbs?). If you love zombies and insane combat sequences with a lot of moving parts, you’ll find much to appreciate here.

Recommended If…

  • You find decapitations, amputations, and eviscerations hilarious.
  • You want to see Harley get really creative with her weaponry.
  • You need something mindlessly entertaining (I’m convinced that’s what the zombie genre is good for, ultimately!).

Overall

The re-read value on this book is in appreciating the depth and craziness of the artwork from Bret Blevins, Chad Hardin, and John Timms on this one. There’s a lot going on in the big splashy action sequences (which constitute the majority of this book), and so many details worth lingering on. Harley Quinn is always a fantastic example of how to make the most of conventional comic book storytelling: the marriage of wit and whimsy in both the writing and the images elevate this book beyond mere eye-candy or fan service, and Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti always seem to find the balance between cheesy treacle and gross-out goodness–without devolving into totally brainless boobery. Long-term consistent quality like this is a rare and marvelous thing.

SCORE: 8/10