What better way to kick off this new era in the Harley Quinn series than by just going full batshoes crazy in a new arc that promises us lots of Man-Bat serum, crazy transformation hijinx and Harley being a little more than usual off-key.

“Batter Up” (Part One), serves no softball in Harley Quinn no. 35, and does us one better: it demonstrates to the fans that new writer Frank Tieri is not immediately jettisoning Harley’s life up until now as I previously feared he might. Instead, he brings Harley right back to her Coney Island home and brings all of Harley’s colleagues into play. While this does leave the cynical part of me suspicious that the end game of this arc may yet be to snuff them all conveniently out, I’m happy to ride the wave on this, a pretty strong opening for the storyline.

There’s some goofiness here that may yet be explained (and some of which won’t, but we’ve forgiven lots of goofy in this comic along the way). Perhaps the most bizarre bit (and I’m dropping this under a cut because it’s a major reveal) is:

Spoiler
We open the book with Big-T Tony having a barfight (and winning by a mile). Improbable, but whatever. It’s nothing compared to what happens later when he transforms into–you guess it–a giant bat.

Now I don’t typically tend to speculate in my reviews, but I’m almost certain Tony has been roped into Francine Langstrom’s weird Bat-domination plot, and that he’s not been a Man-Bat all this time. But for now we don’t get all the details about what’s going on with this, so we’ll just let it ride. Normally I’d say this is potentially one step too crazy if Tony hasn’t been dragged into the scheme, but I have more faith that it’ll pan out.

Harley’s still in a funk, which is a little frustrating because I felt like we ended the last issue with her and Ivy in a place where she’d found a bit of peace with it all. And maybe her funk isn’t actually that serious, but it sure comes off like real depression and not just Harley being mopey. I elaborate on this below when I discuss the art.

Nevertheless she’s drawn out of her funk in almost Scooby-Doo mystery style with the appearance of this crazy Bat thing.  You should know up front, by the way, that she herself does not turn into a Bat, so I’m gonna call caloney on the cover for this one. It captures the spirit of the story, but it either spoils something yet to come or it’s really pushing it on the selling something that ain’t in the package. It’s a nice cover, but it’s not an accurate one.

Just as this is not really a “talk” Harley. Nope.

Once the bats are introduced, there’s a logical leap to thinking that Kirk Langstrom is somehow behind this (though we don’t really actually know what “this” even is yet, aside from giant scary bats menacing people). Harley puts the full team to investigate, which takes the Gang of Harleys to Arkham Asylum to basically verify that Kirk Langstrom is incarcerated and incapacitated.

Why the doctors at Arkham would be answering questions and giving out private information about patients stretches credulity in ways even I’m having a hard time with, but again, in the spirit of just rolling with the goofiness, I have to say it’s highly entertaining to just see who else is in Arkham and running commentary along the walk-through. For all those tiny little cameos, the illogic of it is almost worth it.

Three strikes and you’re out, Harl!

Inaki Miranda’s art is very nice, but too heavily inked for my tastes (he inks his own pencils). This also drags down the lighter moments throughout. We are going from a pretty light-lined series of predecessors on this book who absolutely toed the edge between bubble-gum pop and comical fountains of gushing blood, but the style was part of what made it palatable. If we’re in for a grittier landscape, is the violence going to be less amusing? We shall see.

I mostly noticed that the scene in which Harley is moping and feeling sorry for herself came off rather heavy instead of silly and self-effacing as Timms or Hardin might have rendered it. That made Harley, in turn, more dangerous in her self-indulgence, and consequently (for me anyway) a lot less likable. Some of the pages also end up looking muddy (like the bar scene where where is a lot of heavy contrast, use of silhouettes).

Also, it doesn’t help that colorist Jeremiah Skipper uses a lot of dark colors, sometimes further obscuring the linework. I like the continuity of the jewel-tone palette, but it might need a lighter touch if there’s going to be so much black on the page.

Recommended If…

  • You’re ready to see what a new writing and art team can do with the Harley narrative.
  • You’re a fan of Kirk Langstrom and the whole Man-bat mythos (who isn’t?)
  • You’re looking for something slightly weird and a bit dark for your pull-list.

Overall

Frank Tieri and Inaki Miranda kick off an all-new era for Harley Quinn, and they come out literally and figuratively swinging in a Man-Bat story arc called “Batter Up”! We haven’t had a Harley book with a heavier horror theme in a good while and the Langstroms are always great to be featured as villain (or anti-heroes as the case may be–we don’t know for sure what the story is here yet). The art feels a little heavy for a book that continues to rely on a certain amount of potty humor, but Tieri comfortably makes this transition without overturning the applecart of what his predecessors left behind. That alone is a nice achievement and it’ll be exciting to see where this book goes from here!

SCORE: 7/10