Last we saw Harley she was going through an emotional transition period following the death of Mason, leading to a literal transition into a screeching Harley-Bat thanks to Francine Langstrom’s bat serum (with which she also infected Big Tony). “Batter Up” (Part Two) wastes no time showing us what a menace a Harley-Bat can be. And this is Harley we’re talking about, so you know we’re already starting off in a bad place.

Harley-Bat is at the fairgrounds wrecking fun for everyone. Frank Tieri wastes no time getting to the action with a combination of horror and gross-out humor within the first couple of pages. Just finish your lunch before reading if you have a sensitive stomach. Also, roller coasters and bat-attacks do not mix!

Harley’s looking mighty sexy these days; the barf is an extra special touch

Last go-round I complained a bit that Spoonsdale had allowed the Gang of Harleys into Arkham Asylum to investigate Kirk Langstrom, whom they found placidly medicated in his cell, just as he was expected to be. Because it’s not Kirk who’s causing the problems, it’s his wife Francine, likewise addicted to the serum and even now joining Harley in her Coney Island rampage.

But first, let’s follow Goat Boy, Red Tool, Big T, Eggy, and “Coach” Holly as they explore Kirk Langstrom’s various secret laboratories. With Kirk. Because Arkham Asylum continues to be the most incompetent lockdown in the galaxy.  Sure, he’s got some little binders on his wrists, but otherwise I guess this colorful crew just checked him out like a library book.

You know I have a high tolerance for the ridiculous in this book, generally, but this just stretches even the most passive credulity once again. Spoonsdale has a tenuous trust with Harley. He barely knows this gang and would you trust a super-villain to a goat, an egg, and a guy in a mask?

Madcap amateur detectives turned loose in lab: chaos ensues

All right, we’ll move on. Despite this silliness, Tieri manages to give us a pretty exciting series of action sequences that also manage to move the story forward. A lot happens in the book: Big T is rescued (and cured!), Kirk Langstrom escapes (of course he does), Francine and Harley duke it out over the fairgrounds, and we are introduced to the arc’s unexpected big bad with promises of more crazy to come.

I’m still not a fan of Inaki Miranda’s art. It’s executed very nicely–make no mistake–some questionable proportions on Tony aside. But is it really right for this book or am I just having a hard time adjusting since it’s just a swing from the previous long-standing Harley Quinn artists? Under lighter hands this story might not feel so heavy and I continue to sense that the tone of Tieri’s writing is battling it out with the images we’re seeing on the page.

There are whole large panels in which the background is just completely black. The use of this negative space is very nice, but again, it’s a massive tonal shift and scenes which might otherwise be a bit more slapstick/light-hearted (I’m thinking of Red Tool, Eggy, etc. in the lab) take on a much more deeply ominous tinge.

The wisecracking is undercut by the grimness of the visuals and the grimness of the visuals feels likewise undercut by the jokes. The balance continues to feel off to me. It doesn’t seem clear to me where we’re supposed to take things seriously, which up until now had never been a problem despite the often violent nature of this book. Tieri’s writing doesn’t straight-up scream horror-comic, but the art does. We’ll have to see, as we move away from the bat storyline, if things lighten up.

All that said, Miranda does a nice job with our surprise villain (love the sharpness of the nose!), and it’s also nice to see Amanda Conner still providing the cover art for the time being.

Recommended If…

  • You really love the Man-Bat mystique and Langstrom’s tragic addiction to the serum.
  • The more bats the better!
  • Harley Quinn just hasn’t been depressing enough in terms of the throughline plots.

Overall

Frank Tieri may yet lay waste to the Coney Island stomping grounds of Harley Quinn’s previous life as falls victim to an evil plot seemingly orchestrated by bat-serum-crazed Francine Langstrom. But there are big threats in the “wings” and Harley seems to have run out of enthusiasm to deal with any and all of it. Tieri makes great use of the supporting cast in this high-action offering, but it remains to be seen whether they will be with the comic for long. Harley’s on-again, off-again desire to reintegrate after the loss of Mason continues to make this book a bit of an emotional yo-yo; your enjoyment may depend on your patience for the degree of dithering, but the bat-fights at least are absolutely entertaining!

SCORE: 7.5/10