Well, here we are in the Rebirth universe and the wonderful, wacky world of Harley Quinn as seen through the lens of the Amanda Connor/Jimmy Palmoitti creative team! I’ve been a long time fan of both creators and have a lot of time for them in general, but their Harley Quinn run in the New 52 REALLY hit a chord with me. The title was one of the shining lights of the whole DC line during this period with a focus on emotive and FUN storytelling that also seeks to pack a lot of action into every single issue. You get bang for your buck with this title and team.
So I was extremely happy to see that Rebirth event and line restructure has not lead to changes in the creative lineup on Harley Quinn as Amanda and Jimmy seem to have plenty of enthusiasm and energy for the character!
Turning to this issue, it begins with a nice scene with Harley and her friend Poison Ivy having a day of pampering and relaxation at a day spa, chatting about life whilst in the hot-tub and on the massage table and catching readers up with their lovely, close relationship. Poison Ivy was a regular feature in the previous book and busy as that character is herself (I recommend readers check out the recent excellent Poison Ivy mini-series), I always enjoy seeing Ivy and Harley interact and help each other out. It’s a great, relaxed example of a very positive same-sex relationship and deep friendship that does include sex and among all the laughs it always leaves my heart a little warmer for the showing. It’s just nice to see a really healthy relationship on the page without a jealous or negative vibe.
Anyway, Poison Ivy is off catching a train, and cut to Harley on stage bringing readers up to date as she gives a presentation that recaps both her origin with Joker all the way through to and her current supporting cast to an audience that consist of a Deadpool parody/tribute “stalker” named Red Tool and a magician.
As readers of the previous run will know and Harley recounts, she has outgrown and moved away from her past abusive relationship with the Joker and left Gotham to live in Coney Island with a motley bunch of stage-show performers that range from goat-boys to midgets to a talking Egg Fu (Eggy), amongst many others, including a Gang of Harleys, a kind of support team she hires to handle her busy life and people in need. Harley is a busy little bee, after all!
Cut from the stage-show presentation to a bizarre zombie outbreak/infection caused by an alien shapeshifting into a cow which is then slaughtered and ground into hotdogs which are consumed en masse down in Harley’s neck of the woods. Suddenly Coney Island is overrun with legion of local zombies! Harley herself is as capable as ever, but she doesn’t enjoy having to fight the zombified locals, exclaiming “It’s Ben the mailman’s fill-in while he’s on VACATION!”, acknowledging one of her most endearing and recognizable traits, “okay I admit it! I get too close to everyone!” She has a big heart which is partly why we love her.
It’s nice to see Red Tool again so soon after his appearance near the end of the last run where he had a creepy but somewhat endearing flirtation with our mischievous lead. He certainly comes in handy in assisting Harley to combat the zombie invasion. Unfortunately for Red Tool, his reappearance may be short-lived after Harley a tad too enthusiastically cuts off his arm after he was bitten by a zombie (“I said there was a CHANCE of infection!” he cries) before ejecting him on her home-built “scatapult” toward the nearest hospital.
Given he has passed out mid-air and not pulling his ripcord as instructed, things look grim for Red Tool as the issue ends…
As I will be handling the Harley Quinn reviews for the foreseeable future, I would like to make the point from the outset that this is a broad, fun series that aims to be entertaining. I’m a firm believer that this combined with the long lasting popularity of Harley is what has blasted this book up the sales charts and kept it there. This is a very stable creative team that consistently delivers and rather than get too fixated on my personal rating I want to encourage all readers with half an interest to grab a copy and check it out.
This is also great example of a good, very accessible comic title hitting shelves at the same time as the lead character has come to a very mainstream prominence as the Suicide Squad movie hits cinemas worldwide, with Harley Quinn extremely prominent in the marketing. The art by Chad Hardin is slick and skews towards a stylized cartoon style which highlights and helps the comedic potential in the book.
As befits a #1, this issue itself feels very new reader friendly as Harley manages to do her backstory and set up forward motion (with Coney Island burning down around her) as Rebirth kicks off and probably looks to relocate Harley again. For a character that is always quite fluid, essentially a restless, inquisitive spirit, such change feels warranted and I look forward to what the future holds.