Boy are you in store for a treat from the Harley Quinn HQ this week!  Not only does this comic get us back on the ground and out of the giant insects and flying demi-gods business, but those of you who love Harley’s original incarnation from Paul Dini will have the thrill of seeing Bret Blevins bring her back in the start of a bonus story that’s going to run through this comic.

But first let’s talk about all the great things going on in Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s “Red Meat” (part one). There’s been a lot of set up leading into this storyline: Madison hiring cannibals from England, questionable involvement from the Mayor and the Chief of Police. And meanwhile, Harley Sinn is still gunning for her hired hit out in Arizona and she’s just realized who precisely her target is. Naturally, she’s not about to simply follow through on the job when there’s any chance she can leverage some hostages for something more.

And if that’s not quite enough to pack in, Harley’s parents are now coming for a visit (an announcement which has Red Tool all hilariously a-flutter in true Romeo fashion), and Harley and her at-home gang, have decided to pull a sting operation to find out who’s haunting the homeless.

Like you ever thought that would work out well

John Timms is on art for this front piece (with Marc Deering lending a hand on some of the inks) and there are many wildly great moments. The whole first nine-panel sequence is a brilliant montage of the gruesome goings-ons in Harley’s neck of the woods as the hired cannibals munch their way through the local homeless population. And later, in the most unlikeliest of scenarios, Harley’s gang is on stakeout, undercover in costumes that do absolutely nothing whatsoever to make them not stand out like giant throbbing sore thumbs. It’s one of the funniest purely visual gags I’ve seen in this book–and it’s so very simple.

There’s an interesting semi-digression that happens while they’re on stakeout as they talk about the problem of the homeless and Harley goes straight into Doctor Quinn mode. These “teaching moments” also stand out like sore thumbs, but purposefully so, and this is a nice one. It’s nice both in terms of reminding us that Harley has that training and can use it, but also because it’s an important message well-worth relaying about an often invisible vulnerable population of human beings that deserve our respect and consideration–and especially compassion.

It might feel like a bit of a fly in the ointment for some of you, but In a weird way, this book does a much better job (in spite of its crazies and cannibals) than another book in the DC stable that is essentially using the same theme/circumstance to tell its own story.

And I recommend this book. Strongly!

The bonus story “Harley Loves Joker”, as mentioned, is co-authored by Dini and Palmiotti, with art from Bret Blevins (and inks from Jay Bone). This story leaps right out of the cartoon series and Blevins does an admirable job in the place of original artist Bruce Timm. This is a very recognizable style, after all, so getting it right is what’s going to sell it for a lot of fans.

Yep: looks right to me!

This story is perhaps a little more mature than the cartoon was, but Harley’s attempts to get romantic with her Puddin’ all turn out pretty much as you would expect them to. The characterizations here are refreshingly throwback and even the Joker’s mistreatment of Harley is innocuous enough to not cause offense to those who are sensitive to the violent dynamics of this relationship–for now!

It’s also a delight to see Bud and Lou again (curse you, Death of the Family for killing off Harley’s babies).  And just all the gimicky goofball fun that went with these two:

It’s the Jokermobile!

The story isn’t anything mind-blowing at this point, but these are characters you just want to spend time with–they’re fun and funny and there’s plenty of gross-out gags, innuendo, and comic violence to entertain even the most jaded 12 year-old (and us jaded 12+ readers too!).

Recommended If…

  • Come for the cannibalism, stay for the Joker!
  • It’s Paul Dini’s triumphant return: how can you not buy this?
  • You want to see Red Tool in coveralls–because yeah, that’s going to hide his identity with that mask and all.

Overall

This books manages to pack in a lot value into its limited pages: between the further adventures of Harley Quinn on Coney Island and the bonus story of her early wacky adventures with the Joker (in true BtAS-style), old Harley meets new and they certainly make a great duo. A book to bring home and read with great relish!

SCORE: 9/10