(DC Comics, 2013)
Review by Shawn Warner
Written by Jim Palmiotti, Amanda Conner
Artwork by Various
Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti don’t just break the fourth wall in this issue, they obliterate it! However it’s all in good fun and it goes miles in restoring some of the humor that the New 52 re-invention of Harley Quinn has leached from the sometimes silly sidekick of Mistah J. Her inclusion in Suicide Squad never quite worked as a platform for her often zany brand of Lucille Ball meets Mallory Knox characterization. Harley is perhaps one of the most versatile villains in the DCU, like Catwoman and to a lesser degree Poison Ivy, she has one foot on either side of the law likewise she has blurred the line separating criminal behavior and just plain madcap antics. The book Gotham City Sirens showcased all three of these lawless ladies as they shared an apartment and myriad misadventures in Gotham City. I loved that series but unfortunately it came very near the end of DC continuity before the New 52, so like many other fine books it was cast off never to be heard of again. The dynamic shared by these three characters was magic and very fertile ground for some really entertaining and fun stories. The Harley Quinn of that era is closer to the one in this #0 issue than the New 52 version which is closer to the way Bruce Timm had created her to be.
This issue is almost completely without plot but that is not to say it lacks structure or premise, the whole thing is contingent upon Harley’s fantasy of having her own comic book and finding the ideal creative team to work on it. Conner and Palmiotti gear the jokes toward the diehard comic book enthusiasts, poking fun at fellow creators and other industry insiders known only to those of us who live and breathe sequential storytelling. This really worked for me because I think of these characters as belonging to us, not the movie-goers or animated series watchers, but we the comic book reading sub-culture, so all of the inside jokes and references were hugely appreciated.
This was not meant to be an origin issue or even a prequel to the coming monthly series, this issue is all about the art and boy does it deliver in a very big way! The list of creators contributing to this issue reads like a roll call of the industry’s current best and brightest, some of the stand outs include; Becky Cloonan, her cartoony style works extremely well with her homicidal rock-n-roll star Harley who turns her guns on her own band, Dan Panosian does a great “Madmen” send-up, Bruce Timm’s “Mad Love” reference is priceless, Charlie Adlard turns in one of my personal favorite pages as does Adam Hughes and the question of whether or not he can maintain a monthly schedule, Tradd Moore does a beautifully rendered “Thelma and Louise” homage, Dave Johnson’s page is bursting with kinetic energy, contest winner, Jeremy Roberts’ work looks promisingly solid, Sam Keith’s page is amazing and Darwyn Cooke pulls out all the stops as he includes Conner and Palmiotti as characters in the final page before series artist Chad Hardin takes over to do a little bit of set up for the first issue of the new series. Apparently a former patient at Arkham Asylum of Dr. Harleen Quinzel has died and left a four story building in Coney Island to her. This building promises to be the setting of many screwball escapades and comedic capers.
Hardin’s art is dynamic with a gritty sensibility and realistic take on anatomy. His rendition of Harley is edgy and streetwise; her hair looks a bit dirty and stringy giving her an unsavory air. This is enhanced by her choice of wardrobe which includes very short shorts, knee pads and a padded leather jacket all in her signature red and black giving her the overall look of a roller-derby girl from Hell. Hardin looks to be a reasonable substitute for Amanda Conner, who was once rumored to be handling the art duties on this book.
Harley Quinn #0 is by no means mandatory reading to follow the upcoming series but it is loads of fun, visually it hits like Harley’s hammer, of course there is no actual narrative to follow but that lack of plot is more than made up for by the seventeen tremendous artists who stunningly render Harley’s daft exploits. This is truly $2.99 well spent for the artwork alone, so if you can fit it into your weekly comic book budget I highly recommend picking this one up. I look forward to the first issue of this series and expect an entertaining and engrossing story from Conner and Palmiotti with visually vibrant artwork by Chad Hardin. Until next time, see you at the comic book store. (4/5)
Follow Shawn Warner on Twitter: @shawnwarner629