With the last chapter closed (for now) on Harley’s life, she’s launching herself into an all-new adventure here. We still have the ongoing development of Madison’s imported vampires, but they continue to occupy a backburner in favor of some other-worldly Harley-style crazy, the caliber of which we’ve come to expect from writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti.

One of the things I continue to appreciate in this series is how layered the story is. What may have felt like a one-and-done encounter seven issues ago suddenly raises its head to reveal itself as the foundation for a whole new plotline. In this case, a change adventure in the subterranean network of tunnels beneath Madame Macabre’s wax museum turned up a variety of mysterious doors. In a subsequent more recent adventure, Harley and Red Tool busted open one of those doors to blow off some steam. It might have felt a little like a black bean moment: one minute Harley is agonizing over what to do about the Joker and the next she and Red Tool and blasting up a gelatinous thing they’ve unleashed behind a chained up door.

Well it turns out that the chained up door held more than just a big gooey creature–it’s infested with giant ant creatures and their deadly god-egg. It’s about what you would expect from an issue titled: “Nether Regions Part One: Ants and the Pantsless”.

Electrified ant-creatures, no less!

I confess I have a low tolerance for these kinds of stories. I’m not interested in science fiction for the most part and while I enjoy supernatural elements in my comics, I always approach these interstellar/interdimensional adventures were some measure of trepidation.

To their credit, Conner and Palmiotti always make it entertaining and I enjoyed this book in spite of my biases, just as I have enjoyed similar silliness in the past (like the romp through the galaxy with Power Girl).  It’s also clear that Conner and Palmiotti have a soft spot for these flights of fancy, so they are part-and-parcel of Harley’s world here and that’s probably not going to change.

So now we have to deal with Zorcrom, who hatches out of the ant egg and, of course, immediately starts taking over the planet. Because gods never hatch and are like: oh hey, nice place you got here! How can I help you solve your energy crisis or end world hunger? No…they just like to dominate and destroy.

And in Zorcrom’s case, he’s not even particular about who he kills as his own worshipper ants flee in terror from his mangling claws. Yes, this guy is quite the charmer!

And he’s bulletproof, of course

We’re having a special guest to help Harley deal with this matter–which, as you can imagine is completely over her head. But she’s the one who caused this mess, as usual, so we’re about to launch into a team-up situation not unlike the previous Power Girl outing, with a character of Conner and Palmiotti’s own creation. You’ll have to read the book to find out, but here’s a hint: she’s Terra-riffically angry with Harley for breaching that locked door!

The art is making a little nervous. Lots of guest hands in the mix lately, which is not bad: we’re seeing some new artists with varying styles who could potentially perhaps join the team more long-term. But I feel like it’s also been forever since Chad Hardin was doing the full book and I miss his aesthetic. John Timms has been great in recent issues, but I feel less sanguine about newcomer Khari Evans, who draws most of this book (with an assist from John Timms on 5 pages).

Evans characters feel a little heavy-handed: too heavily lined and sometimes a bit bloated. Her Harley lacks a certain softness and her facial expressions especially feel a bit unflattering–same with Harley Harley throughout. I also feel like Zorcrom isn’t very interesting design-wise. He looks like something that walked out of the still of Pan’s Labyrinth, and maybe he’s supposed to, but his spindly white over-muscled body and his rudimentary face don’t particularly inspire fear. He’s just not an awesome villain–and it doesn’t help that he’s got a silly name.

On the other hand, Evans opens the book with a really nice splash of Harley and Harlem on a motorcycle, and the action throughout tracks nicely–she especially handles a bit of comical business about Harlem being spattered with dead bug juice throughout successive frames without it being awkward or cluttered. Evans has solid storytelling chops.

One last note about the final page in which Harley and our guest hero strike very exaggerated superhero poses: I can’t tell if it’s meant to be a parody (surely it must!). But there’s just enough doubt to make me look at it with a rather jaundiced eye.

Recommended If…

  • The wilder the better!
  • You’re a fan of seeing Harley cross over and team up with other original creations/resurrections/reimagined DC heroes from Conner and Palmiotti.
  • You like crazy gods mad with power!

Overall

Despite the kind of storyline I typically would turn my nose on, this is as delightful a read as Harley Quinn almost always is. It suffers a little from being a launchpad for a new arc, deviding its energy between long-range setup for a future storyline as well as exposition for the current one, but it also introduces a fun new team-up in the spirit of the previous Power Girl adventure. The art is a bit of a weak point, but not because it’s bad–it’s just not quite what we’re used to seeing here perhaps.

SCORE: 7.5/10