It’s been a hot minute since we’ve gotten an issue of Harley Quinn & the Birds of Prey, but this issue definitely delivers and is a blast to read!
When it was announced that Harley Quinn & the Birds of Prey would reunite Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti with Harley, I was excited! I enjoyed their run quite a bit, and the attempts to write Harley in a similar fashion since then have failed to match what Conner and Palmiotti created. So, while I used to get a bit of Harley fatigue during their run, I’ve since grown to appreciate their work for how entertaining it truly is. But, would Harley Quinn & the Birds of Prey live up to what came before it? Well, it depends on how you view comics and story structure.
The first issue took its time setting up the story – which is needed but definitely results in nothing overly spectacular. Harley is late on her mortgage payments, and she, unfortunately, had a mortgage loan from a company that is run by the mob. Since she is late, her mob lenders decided to send her a message by burning her place down with all of her friends and allies inside. Thankfully, they all got out safe, but the act forced her to return to Gotham to seek revenge. If you know Harley, then you know that Harley returning to Gotham comes with a lot of baggage, and is sure to create a conflict between her and the Joker… Which it does.
The second issue shifted gears to focus on Harley and Joker, while also bringing Montoya and the Birds into play. Overall, the issue had some great moments, but there were also some pages that just dragged (Specifically the pages with Harley and the bubble girl… I seriously can’t remember her name). So, going into this issue, I really hoped that the pace would increase and we would dive deeper into the conflict, resulting in a fun, action-packed, wacky, vulgar romp… And that’s exactly what happens!
The previous issue ended with Harley stealing all of the loot from Joker’s vault. It’s loot that not only belongs to the Joker, but most of Gotham’s greatest villains as well. But where is Harley keeping all of this treasure? Well, it’s at Wayne Manor, of course!
The opening pages of this issue feature Harley waking up in the mansion, completely unaware of where she is, as Alfred tends to Bernie, her stuffed beaver, and cooks her breakfast. Every page these two share together is an absolute joy to read. Between Alfred’s dry wit, and Harley’s lovable insanity, I found myself smiling from ear to ear through every page. Is it absurd? Yes. Does it contain juvenile humor? Yes. But, it’s a hell of a lot of fun, and that’s not something I can say about most new comics these days!
With the ball in her court, Harley takes advantage of her current situation and calls the media to reveal that she has all of the stolen goods from Joker’s vault, and intends to return them to their rightful owners. Honorable, right? Well, this is Harley, so there’s a reward involved. But hey, at least she’s doing the “right thing.”
The news report catches the attention of Gotham’s greatest villains at Arkham Asylum. Once the rogues learn of the news, they turn on Joker until he executes a plan to break everyone out of the madhouse. While breaking villains out of Arkham is definitely a “been there, done that” scenario, this interpretation is actually a lot of fun. There’s one scene in particular where a random criminal joins the likes of Joker, Clayface, Penguin, Riddler, and others. It’s a vulgar scene, but I laughed my way through it!
As Gotham’s rogues prepare to take Harley down, Harley goes after the mortgage lenders that destroyed her home. That plan is quickly interrupted by a number of assassins for hire, Riddler, Two-Face, and more, considering the Joker put a bounty on Harley. From here on out, the issue is all-out chaos, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun!
As the rogues all make their moves on Harley, Montoya and the Birds of Prey step in to try and prevent collateral damage… And yeah, sure, they’re there to help Harley as well. Why not? They’re not the only people coming to Harley’s aide though. Red Tool makes his grand appearance after lurking in the background for the past two issues. Everything that follows is brutal but completely hilarious. We’ve got nail guns, Montoya slugging it out with grunts, and Harley and Red Tool insulting Clayface’s appearance… Which really does beg the question, “How does Clayface wipe his butt?” The world wants to know!
By the end of the issue, one plot point is mostly wrapped up, while another is taking a bit of a personal turn. There’s still one issue left, but this chapter made a lot of headway in paying off various plot points that were established in the first two issues. As entertaining as the plot is though, I really come into this book looking forward to spending time with these interpretations of these characters. Conner and Palmiotti manage to make me laugh, and laugh a lot. I’m not talking about a chuckle here and there, I’m talking full-on, guttural laugh.
These two really have created something special – both in the script and visually – and I really wish DC would just let them have an ongoing series of stories in this “universe.” More than ever, I think publishers need to take their successes – especially those that side-step current continuity – and just create a small, imprint for those stories. They’re doing it with Sean Gordon Murphy, and they should do it with Harley here. Keep it Black Label. Keep it raunchy. And keep it fun! Seriously, this book is a blast, and if you don’t mind cussing and potty humor, then you need to be reading Harley Quinn & the Birds of Prey.
While the script is a blast, I want to take a moment to praise Conner specifically on her art. The look of her art is very stylized and light. There’s a cartoony nature to her work, and it plays so well into the “adult humor” found in the book. It almost creates a bit of tongue-in-cheek nature that winks at you every step of the way. Needless to say, I love it.
Connor knows how to play up the performances of the character, and isn’t afraid to lay into the humor when it’s required. But beyond that, when there’s action, the artwork shifts right into some stellar fight scenes. Yes, there are typically jokes written in, but the mere execution is done so well that you feel like you’re getting the best of both worlds – the violence and the humor.
What these two are going for isn’t easy, and Conner, especially, has a difficult job in executing this well, but she does it and she makes it look easy! I have a blast when I read Conner and Palmiotti’s take on Harley, and I don’t think readers fully appreciate the gift of these two creators!
Support great work. Go get this book!
- If you read Conner and Palmiotti’s Harley Quinn, then you need to be reading this.
- It’s Harley, mostly uncensored, taking on the Joker!
- This issue asks the big question! Does Clayface wipe?
Harley Quinn & the Birds of Prey #3 is a hilariously fun romp that delivers from start to finish. The action lands. The jokes land. And the plot is quite engaging from start to finish. Is this the best Harley Quinn story that Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti have created? Possibly.