Writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti invoke the spirit of British 80s sensation Frankie Goes to Hollywood in this issue titled “Relax, Undo it!”. Among the lyrics for the original song (called “Relax”) is a verse that intones: “Live those dreams/Scheme those schemes” which probably sums up Harley’s joie de vivre pretty well. The title may be a play on the song and a reference to the vacation that is at the center of this story, but it might also hint at a more subtle suggestion: the unraveling of some of Harley’s hopes.
The “warning” label on the cover of this issue seems to set up some shocking content. But either I’ve become immune to Harley’s shock value or maybe this one over-promises too much.
Boy Harl’s looking buff these days!
So Harley takes Ivy to the Bahamas where old ally Sy Borgman has retired with former mortal enemy Zena Bendamova to a gated nudist resort. There really doesn’t seem much of a point to either the visit with Sy or the fact of it being a nudist resort: this is mostly an excuse for Harley and Ivy to hang out for some girl-time that at the very least isn’t sickeningly about shopping and selfies.
There is a plot here (at least in Harley’s head). She wants Ivy to come live with her on Coney Island and the two have been sort of circling the inevitability of having to make a decision about it. What I like about this issue is that a decision is certainly made.
We occasionally get some very bald-faced honesty and genuine emotion in this comic. Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti excel at turning what can easily be a dismissable gag story full of boobs and hamsters in blenders, and turn it on its ear with very real human moments. For some people, I imagine the stakes of Ivy becoming a more permanent part of Harley’s world are considerable.
Not so much for me.
Harley’s life is already packed with wonderfully interesting and spectacularly zany characters. While I understand that there’s an appeal to dragging Ivy into this mix, ultimately outside of a Gotham Sirens scenario, the two just don’t mix well. I’d much rather see the time and energy spent on Harley developing her relationships with people like Tony or Eggie or even Goatboy, and navigating this bizarre thing she’s got going on with Red Tool, then falling back on a relationship that’s been hashed over so much after so many years. I like Ivy’s guest appearances, but I don’t see a place for her in these pages regularly.
And perhaps this issue is about addressing that expectation in much the same way as recent issues have addressed Harley’s lingering but definitely past relationship with the Joker. As a demarcation, a line in sand, a nail in a coffin. And I can appreciate it on that level.
As for that Joker:
He’ll haunt her always
Yeah, he’s going to turn up again, of course. You know it’s coming. It’s always going to be the case that he’s circling out there like a buzzard waiting for its mark to keel over dead (if not do the killing himself). The writers have been teasing these flashbacks and reminders for a while. Let’s see where it’s going.
Meanwhile, there’s a full team doing art duty on this book in a mix of three distinct styles that nonetheless work flawlessly together. Chad Hardin is on the main art, which is the basic throughline of the story: Harley and Ivy and their getaway vacation. Andrew Robinson provides the flashback to Harley’s days at Arkham with the Joker, and his painterly style is an excellent match for Jill Thompson’s similarly Arkham-related flashback in issue No. 6. I love that editorial and the creators are looking this closely at the art direction to make these moments consistent.
The third style, which actually opens this issue up, is handled by Bret Blevins, who draws a dream sequence in a manner reminiscent of Bruce Timm’s work on Batman: the Animated Series. Blevins also did breakdowns for pages 18-20. Again, all this collaboration is well worth noting because the book comes off completely seamless where in other hands it might feel like a disjointed melange.
- You have been keeping an eye on the developing subplot between Harley and the Joker.
- You enjoy those erotic overtures between Harley and Ivy. It ain’t my thing, but some people are into it!
- You relish the sort of slice-of-life one-offs that this series does so well between its main arcs.
I definitely like these somewhat quieter moments between the big arcs, but I’m not a fan of Harley and Ivy, so my enjoyment of this particular adventure was tempered by that bias. Even so, there’s the usual funny (and occasionally perverse) humor to buoy the story along, and the subplot of Harley’s past with the Joker coming back to haunt her continues to develop. Just seeing Dr. Quinn and Mistah J sparring across a table is entertaining enough for me, and it was good to have this transition so that Harley can grow her mohawk out! Sy Borgman and Zena Bendamova feel a bit played out to me at this point, but I’m glad they’re still in the stable of Harley’s supporting cast: Conner and Palmiotti always have such interesting ways of tying things together in Harley’s world, so no doubt these two won’t be disappearing completely any time soon–and they may yet serve in interesting, fresh ways.