REVIEW: “Harley Quinn” #1

(DC Comics, 2013)

Review by Shawn Warner

Written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Artwork by Chad Hardin
Color Artwork by Alex Sinclair
Lettering by John J. Hill

This book opens with Harley roaring into a new town, the surviving articles of her past bundled up on the back of her chopper and a talking beaver strapped to the front. Topping the jumble of miscellaneous items like a mad queen’s crown is Harley’s old jester cowl, this seems more than a little symbolic as Harley is now finally leaving the wreckage of a mishandled re-vamping behind her and finally finding a home in the New 52 through the capable hands of seasoned writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner and brilliant new artist Chad Hardin. Harley has been treated very unceremoniously since the New 52 re-boot, in former DC continuity she and fellow anti-heroines Catwoman and Poison Ivy headed up their own series, Gotham City Sirens in which they shared an apartment and had monthly misadventures, it was a fun book and good looking to boot. However since the dawn of the New 52 she has been relegated to the Suicide Squad with Image reject Grifter like some D list nobody. That’s not good enough for Ms. Harleen Quinzel, no way!

Enter Palmiotti, Conner and Hardin, a new engaging premise, some new digs in Coney Island, a colorful bunch of fellow malcontents shady enough to be fresh out of a John Waters film and a stunning new artistic direction and you have the ingredients to make Harley Quinn the sensational series she deserves. This creative team has hit the ground running, re-building Harley’s life from the foundation up, she has a new locale, living in Coney Island in the apartment building she just inherited, a new job with the roller derby and new friends but there is someone not quite happy to see Harley alive and well. This issue has set up an intriguing story complete with a shadowy antagonist bent on taking Harley out and is offering a sizable reward to anybody who can get the job done.

Palmiotti is a master storyteller his approach to character development is second to none. He makes Harley impossible not to love. The dialogue in this issue is believable and clever; the humor is intelligent and nuanced never going for the obvious one liner or stale sight gag. Palmiotti and Conner have infused this book with lots of heart; the characters we’ve met so far are quirky but likable. Most of them are tenets in Harley’s building and work downstairs at the freak show. Big Tony, for instance is a short Glenn Danzig clone who walks around in a fish net tank top, then there’s Queenie a giant gypsy woman who works in the show, her co-workers include the goat-faced boy and two-headed man, just your average Coney Island residents.

These co-writers have made Harley as cockeyed an optimist as there ever was; nothing gets the best of her. She has been down and picked herself up, dusted herself off and moved on to bigger and better things. Starting over is the theme that underscores this entire issue which is extremely relevant considering the contemptible treatment Harley has endured thus far in DC Continuity.

Chad Hardin’s artwork is absolutely spectacular. His portrayal of Harley is flamboyant and flashy, from her brightly colored locks to her all over bleached skin; she is the ostentatious new queen of the roller rink with her oversized mallet in place of a scepter. Hardin captures the 50’s pin-up style that has come to define the new Harley Quinn; she is a psychotic Betty Page. His backgrounds are super-detailed and his approached to anatomy is just skewed enough to be called stylized yet maintains a realism that keeps things just this side of cartoony. I love his character design; even the ancillary cast has a ton of personality. Hardin makes dynamic use of panels as well, adding a kinetic sense of design and layout to his pages. Overall this book looks great; Hardin has indelibly put his mark on Harley Quinn for the foreseeable future and after reading this first issue, that future looks exceedingly bright.

This entire creative team has done an exceptional job on this first issue. This book is entertaining and engaging, Fast-paced, humorous and full of action; finally this endearing character has found a suitable home in the New 52. Let’s hope Harley has a long-term lease on her new place.(4.8/5) I really can’t recommend this book highly enough, if you like having fun while looking at amazingly gorgeous art, (and who doesn’t) this book is for you. Now let’s go exploring!

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Follow Shawn Warner on Twitter:  @shawnwarner629

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2 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Harley Quinn” #1

  1. Love this comic – it’s about time they got back to the real Harley. Character wise, Harley is back –costume wise i still don’t like the hooker outfit but i can live with it. And yes, this Hardin guy does a great job. I think i like his Harley even more than Conner’s and almost as much as Timm’s.

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