Harley Quinn #38 review

The “Angry Bird” arc continues, but this time without much in the way of actual angry birds.  We know that Oswald Cobblepot is still pulling the strings from behind the scenes, but for the moment the focus is on the first wave of goony D-list villains he’s shopped in from Gotham to start wreaking havoc on Coney Island. Alas, no giant penguins this go-round, but we do get to see Sy Borg in a string speedo, so you can thank Frank Tieri for that.

You can also thank Tieri for an introduction that not only spends way too much time on Sy’s speedo, but also introduces Mr. Freeze as a threat, only to kind of drop him along the way in favor of developing the larger picture of what’s going on. I honestly don’t know how I feel about Mr. Freeze being lumped together with the likes of King Tut and Zebraman. There’s also the matter of Killer Croc and Killer Moth who are making their way toward their own mysterious agenda (though maybe Killer Croc is really the one gone rogue–it’s not entirely clear yet). Croc feels like the heart of this story, so I’m looking forward to some payoff with how Tieri’s introduced him and the hints of his carnival background.

The real challenge it seems, will be how Tieri balances multiple storylines and multiple major villains. I love that he’s using all of Harley’s supporting cast throughout this story, but it always makes me nervous when there’s this much cabbage going into the soup pot. A couple of major villains is great for a team-up, but a whole crew of them makes it messy as defining their motivations for working with one another can be rather complex.

How is this even a fight, really?

Harley, meanwhile, is still in a state of disconnect from her buddies, though she’s got a brawl of her own in the making when she’s set upon by a gang of mask-and-suit-wearing gorillas. They’re ridiculous and their hold-up at the Empire State Building seems like a bizarre bit of pointlessness, but it’s still entertaining–and hopefully there will be some connection here to what’s going on in New York overall.

To be honest, the whole issue feels like filler with big flashy villain reveals even though none of them do anything particularly noteworthy (did we really need nearly a half page full-length Condiment King?). It’s fun, but it doesn’t really serve the story much and the pattern repeats with Mr. Freeze and the Gorilla Gang. Despite the cluttered amount of chaos here, the story is pretty thin thus far.

Mirka Andolfo shares the book with Eleonora Carlini, with Carlini getting to zero in her talents on rendering a Killer Croc that actually looks wonderfully threatening (poor Killer Moth!). She also closes out the book on a high note with a big splashy page of all the crazies cutting loose on Coney Island.

Am I a bad person for wanting to see Harley get flung?

I love Carlini’s work, but here it does highlight some essential weaknesses in Andolfo’s renderings, particularly with regard to the rather empty backgrounds and wide-angle paneling that never quite seems to make the best use of the space. There are also, with Andolfo, some of the usual action-clarity issues previously mentioned: sometimes it’s just not clear what’s happening in a panel, or the dramatic effect is lost because of the positioning.

In one particular moment, one of Harley’s attackers is clobbered by Red Tool, but not only is the clobbering sort of ambiguous, but the reveal is slightly confusing. I had to read the page several times to makes sure I understood what was being conveyed as the images alone were insufficient to track through. That said, I did enjoy Andolfo’s Gorilla Gang (the characters work with her stringy sort of anatomy, unlike Mr. Freeze, who was just too thin and rubbery-looking to seem like much of a credible threat). And despite still not liking Harley’s new hair-do, her expressions throughout this book seemed stronger: less child-like but without losing any mischievousness.

Recommended If…

  • You love a panoply of pandemonium in the form of wacky throwback villains! And lots of gorillas. A whole gang of them, in fact.
  • Killer Croc is your main man.
  • You just like total mayhem in general.


Harley is still separated from her gang, though they are definitely keeping tabs on her. And they’re going to need to reconcile their differences sooner than later if they want to save Harley’s Coney Island home. Penguin’s plan to bring in a string of Gotham baddies looks to be entering the first stage of deployment, even if it’s the D-list crew who’s on deck first. Say what you will about old-fashioned theme-villains, they fit right into Harley’s world: everything from talking gorillas to egg-headed maniacs. This book is mostly one big brawl on top of another with not a lot of plot development, but it’s fun for what it brings to the ring.

SCORE: 6.5/10