Since Harley Quinn debuted in her own new book after a controversial art contest back in 2013, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti have written her series, spin offs including the Little Black Book series, a six-issue mini with Power Girl, a Gang of Harleys and more. We’ve seen a rotation of artists and various colorists, but the writing’s been exclusively shouldered by this dynamic duo for years now.
It was about time they caught a break.
“Master of Her Domain” is a one-shot interlude slightly divorced from the ongoing action of the regular series, but it fits fairly neatly into where we left off in the book. This time Harley squares off against the Penguin on an issue of Eminent Domain. Penguin wants to build an Iceberg Lounge on Coney Island and he begins the process of evicting all the tenants. The particulars of how he managed this are immaterial: he’s a gangster and presumably has lots of connections.
It’s Harley to the rescue, of course, as it’s been well-established at this point that she will defend her turf against interlopers no matter what the odds. And things definitely get quite odd from here.
Who’s he kidding with that knife and fork?
I always love the Penguin as a villain in the Batbooks because he straddles that line of supervillain and just plain thug: he’s a criminal to be sure, but of the more grounded gangster variety in spite of his weird penguiny predilections. And as we see Harley continue to tackle more interesting issues of political corruption, he fits right into this world in a way I feel is much better suited to Harley herself than, say, the extra-terrestrial exploits of Power Girl and the like. Their dynamic here is terrible and wonderful–they have a history which Tieri exploits well.
And Penguin is more than prepared for any opposition to his plan. But instead of the usual goons that the Penguin brings in as muscle, Cobblepot has acquired some bizarrely oversized beefcake mutant penguins to bring the neighborhood to heel. To make matters both creepier and even more hilarious, they are enormous, doughy, and completely naked! And then, to make matters even more ludicrous, we get to see these penguins doing hilarious and awful things that range from the ridiculous to the Grand Guignol.
Eleonora Carlini outdoes herself in this too-brief montage that lends itself to broad and rather surreal interpretation.
Those things are ridiculous! I want one!
Which brings us to Carlini’s art overall. If you follow my Batgirl reviews, you know that Carlini is one of my favorite Batgirl artists, but I have to admit I feel like she makes for a dubious match on Harley, unfortunately. With Harley’s tiny button nose and sometimes vague or general emotional expressions, she feels slightly out of character or off-model and I don’t like the bikini-style cut to what are usually represented more as hot pants. Carlini does an amazing job with the Penguin (and the penguins), but Harley herself seems to lack the requisite wacky factor. The same problem holds true late in the book when a certain someone makes an appearance and seems altogether too straight, too serious, and too “hinged” in both his appearance and behavior. But again, props to Carlini on the Penguin, who is delightfully grotesque; so it’s a mixed bag here.
And speaking of the end, it all boils down to this:
- You want to see what Harley does in the hands of a new writer in her own book!
- You enjoy Oswald Cobblepot as a legend in the villainy department.
- Machote mutant penguins bullying all of Coney Island: it’s pure home run!
Frank Tieri and Eleonora Carlini take over writing and art duties for this one-shot interlude about Harley tangling with the Penguin over a question of Eminent Domain. It’s a fun story, but the resolution lacks that little something extra and stretches credulity in a way even a Harley Quinn book can’t pull off. The good news is we’re not meant to take this too seriously, so just kick up your flip-flops, have a good read, and imagine Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner on a beach somewhere getting a well-deserved rest!