Harley Quinn is quite the commodity. You can’t even look at anything being produced with a DC logo on it and not see her pasty face. But however much some franchise fans are complaining that it’s exhausting, there’s just no denying that the flagship Harley Quinn comic book continues to be one of the most consistent and solidly produced books on the stands right now–thanks to the incomparable team of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti.
“Surprise, Surprise” continues Harley’s botched birthday bash, finally reclaiming all of its comic book real estate from the “Harley Love Joker” second-feature. In an interesting way (and perhaps brilliant marketing maneuver), the book seems suddenly flush with “extra” content.
And it will please many of you to know that a lot of that content is seriously over-the-top violent.
You want mayhem? Harley brings it!
In an attempt to wipe Harley off the face of the earth, Madison Berkowitz has hired more than two dirty dozen assassins to crash her Birthday bash–bad news for them since Harley is not about to have her birthday ruined by a bunch of armed-to-the-teeth party poopers. So with a little assist from Ivy and Catwoman, she takes out the lot of them, leaving one for questioning.
The bulk of this comic is focused on the action–between last issue and this one, we get every gory detail of each and every one of the 19 men she takes down (6 escape). Turns out the UNCONQUERABLE 25 are not only conquerable, but they roll over like doggies looking for belly-scratches, given the right torture threats incentives.
And while I’m still a little sad that Red Tool and Big Tony and Eggy have all taken a back seat for the Ivy and Catwoman, I have to say I really love the care with which Conner and Palmiotti orchestrate all this chaos; there are literally dozens of characters in this comic, but the action never gets confusing and we’re never left to ask that annoying question of “what’s so-and-so” doing while all this is going on–because we always know.
And into this menagerie, the writers manage to introduce yet more characters, some of whom will no doubt play an important part in events-to-come. And it looks like there’s going to be some major life changes coming for Harley as both her viciousness and her local popularity continue to blossom. Really, she never does learn about taking too much on her shoulders–but it will be interesting to see how her supporting cast…errr…supports her going forward!
Just your average day blowing up the neighborhood!
A big part of the success of this character management means hats off to John Timms, who renders his pages carefully for maximum impact, but also maximum coherence. There’s plenty to gape at here between the violence and sheer physicality of the characters and events, and each “shot” is framed well to track movement and capture all the critical expressions. The example above is a simple proof of Timms’ skill at juggling multiple lines. That missile coming in is a pilot who dove out of his helicopter three pages previously. Conner and Palmiotti juggle Harley’s birthday event with the aftermath and the comic bounces back and forth in time, but you never lose the continuity because it’s always clear what’s happening from one scene to the next because of the care with which Timms renders the action and environments, and also these throughline gags. We already know that the pilot ends up in their custody, all beat to heck. It’s an awesome comedic standard that we get to anticipate how he got there and then see the follow-through.
One small note about a minor error in this book: the split up of coloring duties between Alex Sinclair and Hi-Fi unfortunately resulted in a tanning accident for Harley Sinn in her final scene. She’s supposed to have the same white pasty bleached flesh as Harley herself (and she does early on in the book when she’s making her escape from the basement), but she winds up with a Coppertone do-over that’s glaringly off.
- You like the killing. There’s so much killing.
- You want to shake a stick at more Gotham Sirens than you can shake a stick at.
- You just want to appreciate a book with fantastic art, fantastic lettering (again from Dave Sharpe!), and a fantastic pile-up of story twists and turns.
Harley’s literal birthday bash continues with mayhem aplenty! And Harley is narrowing her scope on the target marked “Madison Berkowitz”. Just as soon as she takes care of Madison’s assassination nation. I look forward to this book every two weeks and it never disappoints. I am the last person I would have expected to be a fan of Harley’s hi-jinx, but I love the balance here between the goody-two-shoes that she thinks she is and the horror of her in reality. If you can get past the fact that she destroys her neighborhood every other book, not only without repercussions but attaining at this point a vigilante-hero status among the residents, this comic is hands-down a bang-for-buck bargain. There’s a reason she’s this popular, people!