Oh ye of little faith, I say unto myself. I had serious doubts about this arc (and not just because Harley shaved her head for it). But Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti pulled off something quite new with this three-parter.
“Undercover Punker Part 3: Satin Underground” took a story that began almost flippantly, grew into a bit of intrigue that seemed still borderline throwaway, and finally matured into a story not only worthy of Harley Quinn herself, but one that grounds Harley’s nutso universe in the real DC world in a very non-cartoony, very flesh and blood way.
And how did it accomplish this? With a combination of the introduction of the underground club owner (whose name was dropped last issue if any of you were paying attention), and John Timms’ brilliant art which manages to skirt the edges of, well, edginess: something between the typical Harley burlesque and Gotham grit.
Pengie isn’t pleased!
Last we left Harley, she was going underground with a couple of members of the terrorist gang who killed her favorite mailman, essentially hired to do so by the mayor’s office (working with the chief of police). She’s managed to pull off being a punk rocker (albeit a pretty bad one), and gotten into the good graces of senator’s son and Purple Satin leader Billy Blood.
The descend into the dungeon of a very exclusive cosplay club where people “get their freak on” by dressing up as heroes and villains. The dungeon specifically is for acting out fantasies of being incarcerated in Arkham . For Harley it’s a little trip down memory lane and a constant reminder of the carved soap heart Purple Satin member Jelly wears around her neck–stolen from a package originally mailed to to Harley.
The ruse can’t last forever, of course. Particuarly not under Cobblepot’s eagle eyes. He pegs Harley immediately and tips off Billy. Although Billy confronts Harley with her duplicitous dealings, how it all goes down was full of fun surprises. All along the way, Timms renders some crazy caterwauling: the elasticity of his characters makes the violence both graphic and funny, but he has a real knack for ensuring we take it seriously when the stakes matter.
Yeah, Billo was never going to need that nose again anyway
Really, that’s one of the beauties of this book overall: it has its moments of utter eye-rolling absurdity (which was most of the hilarious subplot involving Red Tool, Big Tony, and Eggy busting the case wide open with a warehouse full of stolen goods), but it always knows when bring on the heavy and this episode got very heavy indeed (and I’m not just commenting on the Penguin’s body mass!). While nothing especially earth-shattering comes of Harley’s inevitable run-in with Gotham’s “fowlest” felon, they square off in a way that lets you know both sides mean business and this isn’t some revisionist Cobblepot out of a cartoon AU.
I loved seeing Harley’s usual world full of horse piss gags (okay, I didn’t love the horse piss gag, but I’m talking about the world in general) run smack up against the reality of the Gotham she’s trying so hard to leave behind, but which is always going to stick to the bottom of her shoe in some fashion.
That’s what this book is about and Conner and Palmiotti work that motiff in with glorious grace amidst drunk pong, Arkham BDSM, and even a kinda tasteless joke about David Bowie.
- You’re a fan of The Penguin; he’s an absolute delight here!
- Shenanigans from Harley’s band crew: Tool, T, and…uh, Egg.
- Big close for a story that started out rather unassuming–never underestimate this team!
I felt tentative about how this particular plot would play out, but Conner and Palmiotti do. not. disappoint. While I feel like a little bit of the humor throughout the arc went over the line, the story itself has been one of Harley’s best adventures. Props to the whole team with a special shoutout to artist John Timms who tackled some crazy crowd stuff from punk mobs to cosplay clans, and to colorist Alex Sinclair (with an assist from Hi-Fi) for so much attention to all those tiny details (tattoos! costumes! dense panels and backgrounds!). This is a book made by people who clearly love Harley and the quality of the work shows it!