Old Lady Harley #1 review

Old Lady Harley is a 5 issue miniseries spinning out of Harley Quinn #42 (which can be read as a one-shot prologue to the miniseries but probably isn’t strictly required reading). Essentially, the idea is that this is the future DC Universe, which has turned into a post-apocalyptic landscape, similar to—you guessed it—Marvel’s Old Man Logan. Some parts are ruled by villains, and other parts by heroes; for example, Power Girl is America’s president. Now, the question is, of course, if this series is actually worth your time? So, let’s have a look.

This issue is a very quick read, because not a whole lot happens in terms of plot-development. The basic premise is that Harley hears about Joker still being alive, and so she decides to go look for him in Gotham, together with Red Tool. While this comic could have been a fun adventure through the futuristic streets of Gotham, the story really gets bogged down by a lot of forced jokes, pop culture references (that, with one exception, maybe shouldn’t be relevant anymore in this future timeline), and random battles. The result is that there are a ton of word balloons to read, most of which don’t serve character- or plot-progression, and some scenes in the comic simply don’t go anywhere. An example of a scene that has those forced jokes and which doesn’t lead anywhere is right at the start of the issue. After some helpful exposition to introduce new readers to this universe, an entire page is dedicated to a scene starring Condiment King in a commercial for a cafeteria. Outside we see a horde of zombies that wants to break into the cafeteria. Meanwhile, Condiment King is promoting…eyeballsa new snack (yeah, I have no idea), and then feeds one to a zombie. And that’s it. This doesn’t appear to set up an upcoming scene or plot point. It’s just kind of there, and for some reason we have to get through this first in order to get to the story proper.

Something else that I find a bit questionable is Harley’s flashback scene. I’m not sure that, based on what I see here, I buy the idea of Harley falling to the dark side because she kills Penguin. First of all, Harley has a very violent past with the Joker. She killed people in cold blood and took joy in it—a recent issue of the Harley Quinn main series actually confirms this and states that she misses that time. But what really makes me question the flashback is that the creative team barely spends any time developing these events. What’s lacking here is context. Maybe the creative team is planning on revisiting this flashback to explain exactly what was going on then, but I’m skeptical. In my opinion, this scene would have been much stronger and better if the team had decided to focus on this seemingly pivotal moment in Harley’s arc, rather than spending so much time cracking forced jokes that never land with me. I think this is a missed opportunity, because this is where the creative team could have crafted compelling, emotional material that not only sets up an upcoming plot point, but also creates a sense of urgency/a good reason why Harley wants to track down Joker.

Other than this there isn’t a whole lot to say. Harley and Red Tool spent a lot of time fighting random monsters, stealing cars to travel to Gotham, and by the time they finally make it to Gotham, they discover that there is a curfew. It seems that Batman is ruling over the city with an iron fist, which probably stems from his obsession to protect innocent people. But this has been done really well before and the concept, in my opinion, doesn’t need rehashing. Perhaps, had the creative team focused more on the actual search for the Joker in Gotham instead of trying to be funny, I might’ve enjoyed this book. Right now, however, I’m afraid I don’t see any reason to read this one.

Artwork for this series is crafted by Inaki Miranda (artist) and Eva de la Cruz (colorist). If there’s any fun to be had reading this issue, it’s in the art! The artists render a consistent world filled with energetic, animated action that explodes of the page. Although I think the fights with the monsters, from a story perspective, are very random and distract from the actual plot, I must admit that the way the monsters are drawn is very cool. We see giant squibs and enormous dragon-like reptiles, amongst other creatures. The outfits that the characters wear also look great, befitting of a post-apocalyptic/Mad Max themed version of the DCU. We can see the travel stains and tatters on their outfits, and yet the combined look of all these costumes makes for a colorful, crazy show starring a cast of equally crazy characters. Lastly, Gotham City—although not the present day version—still very much feels like Gotham. The neon lights glow in the dark and the city seems like an urban maze, and the Bat symbol is everywhere, like it’s haunting Harley and Red Tool as they travel the streets. I would’ve liked it if the artists had preserved some of the Gothic aesthetics of Gotham, but the futuristic look is still pretty cool.

Recommended if…

  • You enjoyed Harley Quinn #42 and want to see more of that world
  • You don’t mind that the book is 90% jokes and 10% plot
  • You’re just here for the imaginative, dynamic artwork

Overall: I’m afraid I ended up rather bored, reading this issue. The creative team spends more time filling panels with word balloons of silly jokes, than actual plot progression, and that’s why they lose me halfway through. Add to this that the plot doesn’t seem to start in earnest until page 16 (of a 20 page comic book!), and all I can say is, either skip this one altogether or at least take a wait-and-see approach in case this series does pick up in #2.

Score: 4/10