Harley Quinn is back! After a very disconcerting one-off during Villains Month transformed Harley from demented little scamp into a dissociative mass-child killer, the past few months have been full of anticipation and trepidation for the launch of Harley’s first full-time series in the 52. Would she be the earnest but comical vixen Dini and Timm made us we fall in love with on BTAS, or would she get the full ‘New 52’ spell of bleakness cast on her?
There’s no way to recap this in a cohesive way. For those who missed the solicitation, this special #0 issue was a ‘try-out’ of sorts… not for the character, but for the artists. Of course, that isn’t the case, but it is the perfect way to set the tone for Harley Quinn.
The narrative follows Harley as she thumbs through comics in a storage locker full of fresh-enough food, booze and toys. She wants to be one of the admired and beloved comic characters, but wonders how she’d be drawn. Then, the dramatic fourth wall drops as a new word balloon appears, and the writer begins talking to Harley.
From then on, Harley bounces around like a pinball between single-page stories told by each artist. The dialogue is mostly between Harley and the writer, Conner. Each page is chopped full of inside jokes about the artists, and Harley weighs in at every turn.
On the final two pages, Harley is picked up by a mysterious lawyer named Robert Coachman, who informs here that she’s been bequeathed a four-story building in Coney Island. On the last panel, Conner promises to stop breaking the fourth wall.
I. Loved. This. Book. The concept is great, the humor is vibrant, and the characterization is spot on for what I like about Harley. The inside jokes are often easy to get for the outsider, or easily explained by a Google search (for instance, I had zero idea that Conner’s spouse is co-writer and artist Jimmy Palmiotti!). Every single incarnation of the art is well done, and I believe the book benefits from the fact that every artist only had one page. It kept things focus and distinctive.
Since the New 52 launched, DC has been lacking characters like Harley. When written up to the standards of Dini and Timm, she’s that perfect touchstone who can lighten up the characters (good or bad) around her. She has no maniacal goal, no malicious intent and no nemesis.
That’s what makes the character so enigmatic: she’s not full of pathos, she’s full of an earnest desire to be loved… in a truly demented way.
Harley Quinn #0:
Reviewed by Benjamin Scott