“Off the Leash” is Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner’s epilogue to the “Vote Harley” storyline and brings a whole new level of grim to what’s already been a pretty violent arc. On the one hand, I feel like we’re at long last seeing horrid characters get their overdue comeuppance, and on the other hand, I still feel a pang of worry that these events are going to mark this world going forward with a darkness that may be a shade blacker than the happy-go-lucky Harley we’ve had until now.
For me personally, I was glad to resolve the problem of Mayor DePerto and Madison Berkowitz once and for all. These characters have been fun foils, but thorns in Harley’s side for what feels like forever. Scrubbing them from the narrative really does change Harley’s world–she’s been battling these two endlessly. It does wipe the slate clean for whatever’s coming next. We have a couple of loose threads here and there (like Red Tool and his time-traveling co-hort), but otherwise we’re drawing a shade on a large part of Harley’s life.
What shade? This comic hides nothing!
If you thought the last issue of Harley Quinn was brutal, strap yourself in, because this one doesn’t bother with any scene cut-aways or mere reaction shots. The bad guys don’t get the courtesy of not having their bits and pieces splattering off-panel. And, as you can well imagine, Harley isn’t fooling around now that Mason is dead.
There’s a wee bit of a trick she pulls that’s maybe too far-fetched even for this book, but barring that, the violence is very real and apropos of the mood, there’s no giggling and goofiness about it (some snark, but it’s all pretty raw). So much so that finding panels to share for the purpose of this review was actually a bit of a challenge. If the scene wasn’t a spoiler, fraught with carnage, or sporting some language too colorful for the average viewer, it was a scarcity.
In case it’s not obvious (SPOILERS), Harley gets her revenge and then some, bringing Madame Macabre in case she has something to say about the mayor offing her son (she does).
Straight up that’s all this issue is: one long bloody turnaround that leaves the characters (and the reader too, I think) wrung out and a bit undone.
Harley’s not laughing now
John Timms handles the emotional turbulence throughout this issue beautifully. Between Harley’s snarling snark and scenes in which we see how overwhelmed she is by everything that’s happened, there’s a really lovely balance between the screaming and the silence. He makes the most of both some very affecting wordless panels as well as those moments where Harley is fully chaos incarnate.
If I had to quibble artwise, I would only pick on two small details: Madam Macabre looked strangely youthful all of the sudden–almost even petite, whereas until now she’s always been a statuesque mature woman. That threw me off, especially because you would think Timms would take advantage of her powerful physique when she ought to look her most threatening. Also, the final splash page where Harley and her gang leave the house with Mason’s body just completely didn’t work for me. For the second time this week (see Batgirl), we have a woman doing something that just looks impossible (and ought to be physically very difficult). Women just can’t carry men easily. Women have a whole different center of gravity and carrying a person is awkward even when that person doesn’t outweigh you by a hundred pounds of literal dead weight. Making it even more awkward, you have Red Tool (someone who probably could carry Mason more comfortably), just following along. Not a great choice, I thought. Even if Harley has some degree of “super” strength, it just looks silly and kind of shaved off the emotional edge that could have been there.
- You like to see politicians and their thralls get what’s coming to them.
- Revenge closure is the best kind.
- You enjoy an emotional roller coaster.
This is a rough book to read, but probably a necessary one as it brings closure to a long-standing rivalry in Harley’s life which has now brought her some serious grief with potential lasting implications. For those of you who love Harley at either end of being at her most violent and/or at her most vulnerable, this is a book you probably shouldn’t skip. Conner and Palmiotti consistently know how to manage both pacing and tone to keep a book from imploding with too much melodrama, so while objectively this may be “a bit much”, emotionally it hits a lot of very satisfying notes.