Once again this book surprises me with a twist I could have never predicted. And may I also say that Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti manage to pack more into 14 pages of this book than many other books still running at 22.

Not only do I never feel robbed on the main storylines, but we continue to get the fun additional ongoing story about Harley and the Joker as well!  Even though this comic isn’t any bigger than any other regular issue on the shelves today, it sure feels like it!

The reason is simple: One of my favorite things about Conner and Palmiotti as storytellers is that they know how to write a tight script that packs the most action without sacrificing the narrative thrust.

Characters don’t stop in the middle of the story to have long drawn-out battles for the sake of making lots of stuff blow up. Instead, the explosions are always integral to the momentum and part and parcel of the development. In this issue, for example Harley’s BatFoe from the future gives her an electric shock in the midst of their brawling. It’s cool and funny, but it also serves a purpose later on when Harley uses that skill to turn it on her attacker in an attempt to incapacitate her.

With mixed results.

In this issue we also get a little peek into what’s happening with Harley Sinn and her two captives (the Macabres), and also a reminder that Harley’s family is coming to visit.

But the biggest development moment involves the rather world-shattering reveal that Red Tool isn’t exactly what we expect. Not that I’m sure we expected anything more than his parody self up against Harley only to fall in love with him. But if you have back issues of Harley, you might want to dig them up because our buddy RT has taken a much farther journey to get to this issue than any of us might have imagined.

Spoiler

Art by Chad Hardin

That’s him–that’s our Red Tool–back in issue No. 3 (2014), long before his alter-ego persona was ever even introduced (in issue No. 27).

Now I’ve always appreciated that Harley Quinn has demonstrated an uncanny continuity throughout its run. Conner and Palmiotti let nothing go to waste: characters and incidents and even locales resurface time and again throughout the book, which has always given it a Quixote-like flow.  And I don’t just mean Harley herself chasing windmills in true crazy-lass-fashion, I’m talking about Miguel “Quixote” de Cervantes himself, good-and-proper–as an author of a labyrinthine tale full of curious callbacks and reversals and revelations.

My one question/qualm resides over the manner in which the BatFan Champion is convinced to cool her jets. The more I think about it, the more Red Tool’s method of convincing her of his story doesn’t quite make sense (particularly where concerns the fate of said BatFan’s alleged ancestor). Maybe what he proves is that the future is not yet written, but it seems to me a strange and not terribly convincing method of doing so.

John Timms handles the introduction and conclusion of the story, while Joseph Michael Linsner again gives us everything in the middle where concerns the BatFan and Red Tool.  And again, I love everything about Timms, but struggle a little with Linsner. His backgrounds/environments are sometimes amazing (BatFan and RT walking through the neighborhood) and sometimes not so much (his sketchy skylines feel a tad lazy). And his characters still feel a bit off-model. In this issue, it’s Red Tool who suffers most. He looks small and even a bit scrawny. RT is a huge man, and has always been drawn with a great big barrel chest. Linsner draws him as squinkly as Spiderman!

It’s a small complaint, though. This book is as entertaining as it is colorful (thanks to Alex Sinclair and Jeremiah Skipper).

Harley Loves Joker

Is it me or is the Joker behaving a little bit…out of character in this great add-on story from Paul Dini and Jimmy Palmiotti? Should we be suspicious? Am I starting to read too much into things? Because he’s been awfully understanding, and downright kindly to Harley lately and why shouldn’t that set off warning bells? Either something is not quite what it seems in this world, or we’re all being set up for one big catastrophic betrayal.

Which makes it all the more delicious!

This tag-along Joker.Harley story continues to prove itself more than mere filler in the back pages of an already good book. Harley shines as she takes initiative this go-round in acting on an opportunity to score a new hideout for their gang.

And if I haven’t already said a dozen times how happy I am to see Bud and Lou rounding out this family, well make that one dozen plus one. There aren’t enough pages here, but it’s a good rule of thumb to leave your audience wanting more and I definitely want more.

Of all of it: every crazy bit

Bret Blevins (pencils) and J. Bone (inks) make the most of the physical comedy in this issue, with Harley and the Joker beating the snot out of a punk blackmail photographer as they argue over Joker getting up to trouble every time Harley’s out the door. And Harley pulls no punches throughout this short installment with an essential balance of violence and glee. Blevins especially makes all of her worst behavior seem completely normal (and even necessary!).

Recommended If…

  • You adore insane continuity; this certainly takes the cake for long-term set-up for a storyline.
  • You’re a fan of Red Tool and welcome more reasons to just love him!
  • You adore “Harley Loves Joker”. Because a.) why wouldn’t you? And b.) this is the only place you’re going to find it!

Overall

Come for the carnage stay for the cuddles. Harley’s got big trouble on her horizon as a convergence of family, past problems, and future follies threaten to undermine what little might be left of her sanity.  Meanwhile, the Palmiotti/Dini “Joker Loves Harley” feature of this week’s issue is the whole reason a cult of Joker & Harley even exists in the world today. Even with both of these stories only being half the pages of a full book, the buck/bang ratio on Harley Quinn seems incapable of disappointing.

SCORE: 9/10