“Butt Maiming & Mind Gaming” may be my favorite title for a Harley comic yet. Writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti bring Harley back to Coney Island for more bizarre dream sequences, more psychotherapy with Frank Frank, more roller derby, and more momentum towards Harley’s inevitable tet a tet with her old purple pants wearing beau.
The book opens up with a heavy nod to the 1939 classic motion picture of The Wizard of Oz. This includes a black and white tornado (replete with flying cow) and the Joker cast in the role of nasty Miss Gulch. Once we cross over into the color sequence, we find the house has landed on Batman, Poison Ivy is Glenda the good Witch, and then unfortunately things get wrapped up on the road to the Emerald City real fast. It might have been fun to see more of who would have been cast as what in Harley’s dream, but the sequence is just a teaser opener–it’s not the story, so we move on to Frank Frank, to whom Harley puzzles out a need for some tension relief.
And what better tension-relief can there be than bashing heads in at the roller derby!
Big Bertha is back! At least briefly
Conner and Palmiotti manage to pack this one full of delightful characters and moments that are pure Harley: from Harley negotiating a lifetime of free pizza to derby mayhem, the story moves fast and covers lots of ground. The derby fight has some unexpected twists, including Harley’s nutty butt being saved by an unlikely admirer (or perhaps a likely one–and it isn’t Red Tool!).
And as if all that wasn’t grand enough, in one of the trippiest moments we’ve had in a Harley comic since the scratch n’ sniff issue, Harley enters a dream realm due to a concussed state. Here she first experiences some cathartic D-Day-style violence before lapsing into a hallucinogenic chopstick fueled malaise. Her eating bits of frothy ether with Poison Ivy calls to mind some hookah-smoking opium den or a flat full of bohemians dropping acid. The visuals become increasingly complex–they really are quite sublime–and hats off to Michael Kaluta for stepping in to provide them. Kaluta hasn’t done any work on Harley before, but he’s no stranger to the biz: a Will Eisner award hall-of-famer whose work has graced many a DC title over a career that has spanned more than 45 years!
For his 4-page dream sequence alone, this book is well worth the cover price.
This is the least trippiest moment: you really have to see it to believe it
Brandon Peterson provides the art for the rest of the book, including that opening Wizard of Oz homage, and though he’s also new to Harley, the book feels like it’s resting in good hands. I would have liked to see more variations in Harley’s expressions (particularly in the opening–she seems to be stuck in a shocked, shouting face through the whole dream). That one niggling criticism aside, Peterson handles Harley’s world with aplomb, including picking up on Big Bertha, who we haven’t seen in years at this point.
Alex Sinclair does all the colors across the board, once again bringing a nice continuity to the work of disparate artists. And extra thumbs up to his handling of Kaluta’s intricacies–there are so many ways in which a less attentive colorist might have made a mudslog of the more delicate details.
- You love to see a master at the craft. This really applies to the whole creative team, but it’s a particular joy to see Kaluta’s work shine here.
- Harley is finally confronted by her soap-necklace stalker–it doesn’t happen until the end of the book, but this is a great lead-in if you’re interested in seeing Harley’s reunion with Mistah J.
- Roller derby hijinx! Who doesn’t love that?
This is again one of those transition stories as Harley returns to Coney Island and tries to pick up where she left off before her vacation with Ivy. I love these slice-of-life/every day adventures in comics, so this is just my cup of tea for a cold winter day. Add in some outstanding (and fun) dream sequences, and the promise of a visit from the Joker, and I’m all in! It’s only a little bit of a shame we’ll be interrupted by a holiday special before we see what happens next–but then the holidays are always fun with Harley too!