Overview: In Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey: The Hunt for Harley, Harley Quinn has her problems. She lost her hotel, and things are on the rocks with her lady love, Poison Ivy. Harley does have a plan to make things right, but it requires her to return to Gotham and face her one-time lover, Joker.
Editor’s Note: This collected edition includes all four issues of the Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey miniseries that had its first issue released in February 2020 with the final issue releasing in February 2021. This review focuses on the story as a whole rather than the individual issues that made up the miniseries.
Synopsis (spoilers ahead): This story in Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey: The Hunt for Harley takes place within the continuity of the previous Harley Quinn ongoing series, and we get to see some of the quirky characters we’ve met there.
The story opens with things not going the way Harley likes. Due to a selfish and foolish decision of not dropping the anchor on their boat during their island vacation, Harley’s lady love, Poison Ivy is angry with her. Due to failing to pay the mortgage to a disreputable mortgage company, the Defeo Agency, the agents torched the building, leaving Harley’s gang of Harleys homeless and forced to shack with Quinn in her apartment building. Worst of all, the crew would have been burned alive if it was not for Big Tony. Big Tony, who was serving as the hotel manager, got beaten to a pulp for Harley’s failure to pay the mortgage and now is in the hospital. She has to make things right, pay the mortgage and gain revenge for the pain the unsavory company has caused. Harley decides to go back to Gotham, not a popular decision with her crew. First, she has some things to take care of in town first.
Her first line of business is to visit the local thugs or mortgage agents. The gang launches the sign to the Dreamin’ Seaman Hotel into the offices, killing two agents. Harley enters the office with a baseball bat embellished with nails and kills the rest of the agents. She then blows up the offices, all captured on cameras that transmit the live feed to Gotham’s main office. The thugs in Gotham, however, are not the only ones in the main office. In the ceiling watching is the Huntress, Helena Bertinelli.
With that small piece of business over, Harley now travels to Gotham by train. She is surprised to find Harlem Harley and Red Tool on the train as well. They will not allow Harley to travel to Gotham alone. Harley, however, separates their car from the rest of the train, leaving Harlem and Tool behind, but for how long? Harley’s trip to Gotham is not a secret either, the conductor is on the Joker’s payroll, and he contacts his boss, to tell him that Harley is on the way.
The agency now has some thugs on the train to stop Harley before getting to Gotham. Harley, despite her best actions, is not alone; Huntress and Cassandra Cain are also on the train. The three of them engage the thugs and kill all of them before they can arrive in Gotham. Once they arrive in Gotham, they are met with a furious Renee Montoya, who wants Harley to return home.
Renee, the Birds, and Harley enjoy breakfast at a local diner. Harley tells the girls her story, and Renee is furious; either Harley leaves Gotham, or she will detain her. Harley does want to use the restroom first. Renee calls the cops, but Harley escapes the bathroom by blowing one of the toilets out. Before she leaves, she writes some addresses on the mirror. Atlee from below the earth has helped Harley escape, and Harley enlists her help to steal back the Joker’s stolen loot. She is not entirely honest with Atlee about what and why she is doing this.
Cassandra visits Barbara Gordon, who is suffering from a broken leg. Cass sees her so she can suit up, the Birds of Prey are going into action.
Joker is not the only one with help, Harley Sinn, the frenemy of Harley Quinn, has hooked up with the Joker, but first, she has to change her wardrobe. The police and the Birds raid the addresses Harley left. They are addresses to Joker’s various hideouts, and operations and the raids yield lots of arrests. Joker and Sinn, however, escape by helicopter. Their copter is tracked by the Birds and Renee, and the Birds move in. After a fight, they subdue and arrest Joker. He is loaded into an ambulance for a trip to Arkham.
Atlee and Harley break into Joker’s vault, where he has stored all of his loot and the loot and collections of the other rogues in Arkham. Joker is alerted to the invasion by his automated security and knows immediately that it is Harley Quinn.
After a fight with Joker’s robot defenders, the ladies escape with the loot and stash it in an abandoned shack. Atlee returns home, and Harley unknowingly finds herself on the grounds of Wayne Manor. Good thing, too, because she is exhausted.
In Arkham, the thugs learn that their “property” was stolen and immediately blame Joker, but Joker insists that Harley Quinn is to blame.
Alfred makes breakfast for Harley fully aware that this is a dangerous situation. Harley soon realizes that she is in Wayne Manor and enlists the help of the Wayne butler. Meanwhile, Ivy is not answering Harley’s calls.
Renee, however, is still trying to track down the elusive Harley Quinn, She gets a call and finds that Harley is announcing the finding of the stolen loot and that she is returning it for the reward money, enough to rebuild the burned-out hotel. Renee is not the only one to see the report. The inmates of Arkham also learn of this development and, with the help of Joker, stage a jailbreak.
The Birds investigate the Defeo Agency and discover that they are being watched by Defeo. Worst yet, there is a mark on Harley as well. All the killers in Gotham are going to be gunning for her. They rush to join Renee and Harley. Renee is now realizing what Harley’s game is. Their lunch is interrupted by gunfire, but Red Tool jumps in to save the day. The three repel the killers and escape to police headquarters. They find the station empty, and the Arkham escapees have invaded the station and locked all of the cops in the jail cells. Renee, Harley, and Red Tool have the fight of their lives. The Birds of Prey arrive, and the fight escalates, allowing Harley to escape and pay Benny, the owner of the Defeo Agency, a visit. She torches his house and meets Benny outside. He thinks his family was inside, but Harley tells him that they were not and convinces him to change his life. Now Harley has to find a way to repair her relationship with Ivy. She arrives at her apartment, but Joker is already there and has captured Ivy and her man-eating plant.
The Birds, Renee, and Red Tool finish the fight and realize that Harley is gone. Harley now faces off with Joker and learns that Harley Sinn is helping him. The evil pair capture and torture her. Harley is able to knock Sinn out the window and presumably kills her. Joker continues his torture of Harley as Poison Ivy wakes up. The Birds, cops, and Red Tool all race to Ivy’s apartment and arrive just as Ivy is able to free herself, see Harley severely injured, and throw Joker out of the window. He lands on top of Sinn, who landed on the roof of a police cruiser, and the Birds and allies make it to the apartment as Harley slips into unconsciousness. Harley wakes up to find herself in the afterlife, and God and Satan argue about who should take her. They finally decide to send her back to earth, and she wakes up in the hospital to find Ivy with her at her bedside. The two make up, and with Renee, the Birds, and Barbara nurse her back to health. Power Girl arrives to take them home to Brooklyn, the hotel has been rebuilt, and everyone is having a party celebrating their win.
Analysis: Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey: The Hunt for Harley presents an interesting story, to say the least. It retains the quirky writing and characterizations of the characters I remembered in the original Harley Quinn run, but by being a Black Label release, it was a lot edgier. More on that later.
Harley is characterized as the hero of this story. It really is not a Birds of Prey story as much it is a Harley Quinn story. She actually drives the action as the story progresses, and the Birds appear to be the muscle for both her and the police in this story. Harley is depicted as a sympathetic character with criminal quirks. There is no glossing that she used to be Joker’s girlfriend, even Joker admitting that to himself, but she has moved on. Harley is depicted as having a heart of gold but definitely not someone to be messed with. She is quick to gain fatal revenge, but when it comes to her lady love Poison Ivy, she is at a loss as to what she needs to do. When faced with Ivy being in danger, she does not put up much of a fight, and she is easily subdued. She is able to get rid of Harley Sinn quickly, but she has to allow herself to be tortured by the Joker.
Ivy is also characterized as being a kind of hero with some quirks. She is much more strait-laced than her clown counterpart, but she too has a heart of gold. She is shown with criminal tendencies in how she chooses to feed her man-eating plant, by feeding it men, but she truly cares for Harley despite being angry with her. I think she just wants to teach Harley a lesson, but when held to the fire, she too will kill for her lady love.
I am disappointed that this story is light on the Birds of Prey. Despite them being on the right side of the law, they too are depicted as being killers in their own right. Fortunately, they do not end up killing everyone in their fights. One scene shows Cassandra fighting Penguin with a Katana, and she just ends up cutting off his pants and boxers. Nothing is shown, but it does lead to some laughs, which is needed with all the bloodshed in this story.
I am also disappointed at how the police are depicted. To put it bluntly, they are idiots. How was an entire precinct of cops placed into jail cells without more of a fight? I understand that these are Arkham inmates here, but this is the Gotham City Police Department, which has a lot of experience dealing with these criminals. To be honest, these inmates are not depicted as being too bright either. For example, Harley is able to out riddle Riddler; I don’t think even Batman does that to him, but Harley, who is a Ph.D., is able to easily do this to the master riddle teller.
I like the characterizations of Harley and Ivy, but the police and the Birds, not so much. I did enjoy the writing in Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey: The Hunt for Harley. It is intelligent, and there are fun surprises along the way. I thought it was original how Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner wrote Harley out of the diner, and it was appropriate to introduce Atlee in this segment. I do find it interesting that Harley was not willing to accept the help of her close friends, but those that could be considered acquaintances, she had no problem in getting their help. It could have something to do with her not wanting to risk further injuries to those she was closest to as well as it being easier to be less than honest with the characters she does end up relying on who do not know her that well.
The art in Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey: The Hunt for Harley is graphic. Amanda Conner maintains the cartoony style of the original series and basically places Renee Montoya and the Birds in this style. Their depictions do fit in with this style, and they look like their designs fit in with the bright cartoony style of this artist. The style is fun, but I feel it is a little too graphic.
The violence here is ratcheted up in the body count as well as the blood and method of kills. In addition to people being eaten by plants, we have beheadings as well as graphic beatings showing busted-up faces and bodies among other methods. From a sexual perspective, nothing is shown, but there are a lot of strategically placed objects. One of the more comical scenes is in the afterlife where Harley is shown nude, only covered with appropriately placed purple and pink clouds that she tries to brush off but are fortunately never able to be dissipated. With that said, I usually do like this, but here it is used more for laughs than direct sexual titillation. The art is good, but sometimes it is over the top with the violence and sexuality.
Editor’s Note: DC Comics provided TBU with copies of the original issues as they released, but not of this new edition. You can find this collected edition and help support TBU in the process by purchasing this edition digitally either through Comixology or Amazon, or as a physical copy in a hardcover form at Amazon.