Appropriately titled “Time off for Bad Behavior” or “We are Outta Here!”, Harley Quinn no. 34 brings an end to the long-running successful collaboration between husband and wife team Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. It’s been three years and probably at least 100 comic books bringing Harley into her own through this flagship series as well as spin-offs like the Gang of Harleys and the Harley/Power Girl team-up, and it’s been an unprecedented good time so far as I’m concerned.

Rarely does a book get to enjoy a lengthy stretch of consistency like this one, with a regular rotation of great artists and two writers who put out book after book that hit high notes in both humor and horror (often in the same panels). On top of which the stories always had heart–for the saps like me who need to justify reading all this violence by knowing there’s an underlying goodness in the intent of it all.  That’s a mighty tall order, but Conner and Palmiotti met it, week after week (even upping the output when the series went to a bimonthly schedule last year).

The book isn’t ending. That needs to be made clear. Though we’re seeing the departure of this creative team, Harley will persist in her ongoing series with Frank Tieri taking up the reins as the sole writer and Inaki Miranda coming on as the regular new artist. You can read the original announcement of the changeover and the reasoning behind it in The Washington Post.

So how do our departing team members choose to wrap it up? And how successful are they?

With Mason gone and the mayoral run behind her, Harley decides to take a break from the chaos of the city and road trip down to Florida to visit her family. It’s clear she’s making a break from the Wax Museum and her scatapult, and all of her friends–one that we don’t know if it will be permanent at this point.

It feels final, but could always be undone, I suppose

There’s a lot that happens in a compact space. Harley spends “quality” time with her folks (and her crazy brothers), she finds Bud & Lou in a hyena sanctuary (ridiculous, but who cares: it’s Bud & Lou!). If you don’t recall or didn’t know, the Joker infected the hyenas with rabies back during Snyder’s Death of the Family run. A little retconning fixes that quick (though the continuity has never been much of a concern for this title). Not sure how I feel about being teased that Harley will take up with her hyena babies (or the babies of those babies, whom she names Ricky and Lucy (after the Ricardos). But it doesn’t happen. At least for now.  The possibility of it happening in the future, though, is a nice potential set up. At least we know now that they are alive and well in this world.

Babies!

Things then go a bit off the rails as Harley crashes the home of her own creative team, bursting in on Conner and Palmiotti (whom we have seen before in this series–in dream sequences and in the Comic-Con special issue), and raging at them for a litany of “crimes” committed against her character (things like having a consistent, ongoing supporting cast, setting the story in Coney Island, endless costume changes). Part of me worries this is their way of setting up that all of those things will be obliterated going forward and that makes me sad. They’re foundation on which all the crazy stuff can hang with any kind of stability. If this book turns into yet another endless road-tripping adventure-a-day format, I will be very disappointed.

After terrorizing Conner and Palmiotti, Harley finally settles out to sea with Poison Ivy for a sunset hurrah. It’s a nice visual to end this creative team’s run, but it doesn’t answer those nagging questions. What about Red Tool? Are the Gang of Harleys to be permanently disbanded? Is this just going to be a Harley & Ivy book now?

I’m curious where Tieri intends to take the story, but also a bit trepidatious. I really liked this book for what it was. It was different from Harley’s presence in Suicide Squad and that was a really good thing. If the intention is to marry the continuity in a new way, that could be good, but if it means fundamentally changing this character from who she’s been in this book for three years, that may be a bad move. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens!

I am sorry that Chad Hardin didn’t make more of an appearance on the art for this last installment by Conner and Palmiotti–just because he was the first to bring it all to life–but we do get two pages out of him (the assault on said departing team), and his work blends nicely with long-time contributor John Timms, who draws the rest of the book.

Lots of great variety in the environments in this one, from the karaoke bar to jail to the Quinzel’s suburban home. The mood shifts throughout the book and Timms captures the essence each time beautifully. There’s something great about the more chaotic action juxtaposed with the more bucolic homefront stuff that reminds us of the best this book has offered: quiet moments of heartfelt domesticity between all the lunacy of Harley’s carnival life.

Recommended If…

  • Harley & Ivy road trip with hijinks for those of you who never can get enough of that.
  • The retconning of Bud & Lou: who could ever object to bringing the babies back to life?
  • You know you would enjoy a meta-moment the likes of which we probably haven’t seen since the days of Animal Man.

Overall

After more than 60 Harley Quinn comics and countless other tie-ins and special features and spin-offs, it’s time to say goodbye to Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s run writing for the Princess of Pandemonium. It’s hard to imagine this book without their wit and good humor and willingness to chop bodies up into little pieces whenever things felt like they may get too tame, but all things–even great things–must come to an end. This book goes out in a blaze of chaotic storytelling that wraps up a number of small loose threads, reintroduces Bud & Lou, and then launches into complete meta in its own self-roasting, criticizing the very attributes that made this book such a worthy read week after week after week. I’m going to miss this creative team and I’ll be honest, I’m nervous about what may be coming next, but it was a glorious ride while it lasted. This final book takes it out with more style than substance, but I think that’s just as Harley would have wanted it.

SCORE: 8/10