Welcome to the conclusion of the Gang of Harleys six-issue saga. This is the fun part where we get to look at the finale issue and all of its crazy Harley-esque weirdness, but also at the series as a whole to see whether the story holds up over the half-year that we’ve spent with it.

The short answer is that this series will read much better in trade than it did as an issue-by-issue series. To be honest, with so much Harley on the market, it’s easy to forget details or get distracted by the Mistress of Mayhem’s other adventures when there’s so much time in between books–and that can water the overall impact. Especially if, like many comic book devotees, you’re actually reading a whole slate full of comics every month.

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Still and all, we get lots of THIS!

I like these one-off adventures generally. I really enjoyed the last romp that Harley took with Power Girl.  This series too had a lot of promise. But I admit it fell a little flat for me. And these are the reasons why:

  • There’s nothing wrong with a simple plot, but this one was maybe too simple to warrant a spin-off. It’s not a game-changer for the gang itself, so I’m questioning why it needed to be its own series instead of being a part of the regular adventures–maybe especially now that it has implications for the regular series, which I certainly did not see coming.
  • Those implications: I have mixed feelings about the way this series ends. The primary threat is neutralized and there’s a return to status quo for Harley and her Gang. Again, there’s no shift in power dynamic or change in the roster or any other earth-shattering revelation to come out of this adventure for our heroes and that feels like a bit of a letdown.  And yet the ramifications for the villain are huge, particularly if you’ve been following Harley’s journey into independence (and likely kvetching about it along the way).
  • Lastly, I am puzzled by the moral canvas that writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Frank Tieri are working with here. I am (and always will be) a big advocate of exploring the many shades of gray between hero and villain, but as I mentioned last time, Harley Sinn is a bit of a conundrum. Not that she’s heroic in the least: she’s an awful blemish on the face of humanity. But Harley’s compassion for her compels me to ask the same question I always ask when people die to the right and die to the left and somehow all of that is perfectly okay–and then the writers go and make an exception for the evil one who’s orchestrated the whole mess to begin with. Why does Sinn deserve Harley’s extra consideration.

To the point of that last bullet, I surprise myself. I don’t routinely root for the villains in stories, but I do often empathize with them. And I love redemption stories perhaps most of all. The more wicked the villain, the more wonderful the redemption, I say. But then I grew up with these two as models for my nascent notions of storytellings, so I’m a sucker for a hard luck case (and have defended even the Joker from time to time):

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We’re not bad, we’re just misunderstood!

But I don’t feel any of those things for Sinn and I’m not sure if it’s because we didn’t really get to spend quality time with her or if it’s just that she shows no desire to change even after Harley has extended fairness to her. Or maybe it’s just that nasty haircut. I don’t know. But I’m not feeling it. And so I seriously question why Harley does (and if the answer is: “she’s crazy” that’s not enough–even crazy needs to have some logic.

There are a lot of things that are successful about this short-run series: spending quality time with the Gang, getting to know their personalities a little better;witnessing the birth of a heavy nemesis for Harley who isn’t merely an assassin or a ghoul, but a woman with a personal vendetta for which she will stop at nothing; the usual wacky constructs like robots and Jokerfish and monster goats; seeing almost the whole of the Harley cast in action (I loved the inclusion of Captain “Not-Popeye” Strong here!); and a good balance of both the Gang and Harley getting in on the action throughout (independently and as a team).

Mauricet’s art hasn’t been a favorite of mine, I admit. The main problem for me is that Harley’s expressions lack mischief. Everything else is mostly fabulous, though his figure work can occasionally get a little lanky and long-legged-looking. But without nailing the titular heroine, I think it puts the whole book a little bit off. That said, I love the insane Dr. Seussian quality of Harley’s hair in this issue particularly–it just trails on out for days in those pigtails!

This issue has some surprises and the ending was a bit of a head-scratching shocker (no spoilers here: go peek for yourself!). But it’s weighed down by the conundrum of Harley’s determination to help Sinn (a futile effort, it might be).  And as the conclusion of this overall story, I think it lacks a good punch for the Gang itself. Even Hannaquinn’s arc (she was grievously injured in the last issue), is dispensed with on the return boat trip without much to-do.

She’s fine, by the way.

I was actually concerned about her, so frankly, the ease with which this was tied up might have miffed me a little.

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Everyone deserves a second chance–except these guys

Overall, I give the whole run a solid 7. It’s a fun story and if you’re in the mood for a one-off graphic novel to read on a plane trip, it’s fun as a grab-and-go. But for all its dark themes it actually feels like it lacks true gravitas. Had it ended a little stronger, I would have bumped it up, but I feel like too many things didn’t happen that maybe should have and I remain puzzled by Harley’s empathetic connection with Sinn, which is never really developed or explained. Maybe we’re just supposed to make assumptions based on what we know of Harley’s own life. But again, for me that just wasn’t enough. Still, I give this issue a boost just for its unexpected ending!

Recommended If…

  • You’ve been reading all along: you’ll want to complete the series!
  • You know it’s fun to watch Harley and Sinn trash one another (should I really be so gleeful at all this violence? Hey, I’m not judging myself.)
  • You want to see who makes a surprise appearance at the end (it’s not Batman, that’s for sure!)

Overall

Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys calls it a wrap, finally defeating Sinn and her Island of horrors with an assist from offshore and more. Palmiotti and Tieri seem to have tried out a lot of ideas with this limited run, some of which were successful and some of them maybe less so, but the finale will certainly have people talking when Sinn is taken under the tutelage of one the baddest of the bad (and worst of the worst!). This series makes for a solid one-off read, but this particular issue will likely set serious implications in motion for Harley’s future happiness: stay tuned to her regular series title as I’m sure there is more to come!

SCORE: 7.5/10