While last month’s introduction to DC’s new Harley Quinn series took readers through a cavalcade of various dream-like scenarios, writers Amanda Connor and Jimmy Palmiotti do their best to ground this first issue in a more tangible narrative, though it is not without its quirks. Instead of disembodied voices of the writers interacting with Harley, for instance, there’s dialogue coming from a taxidermied beaver (no, seriously). Not all of Connor and Palmiotti’s ideas are solid as of this first real issue, but a firm handle on the character is certainly there. Harley’s more prone to cartoon-esque violence than fourth-wall breaking quips, and her status as just a skanky sidekick is nothing more than a fleeting thought at this point. This is definitely Harley Quinn being allowed to be Harley Quinn, and readers expecting a brash anti-hero should be overly satisfied with this title’s zany execution.
That being said, Harley Quinn #1 certainly is not going to everyone’s cup of poison-laced tea. Calling her a morally ambiguous protagonist is putting it lightly, and even after all of the wackiness she gets up to in this issue, it’s impossible to classify her as either a hero or a villain. In just her ride up to Coney Island to claim her new apartment, she saves a dog from its abusive owner and beheads an assassin hired to kill her, all the while committing at least a dozen murders with stray bullets and fiery multiple-car pileups. Connor and Palmiotti walk a dangerous tightrope in their characterization of Harley, balancing a child-like innocence–singing Sound of Music tunes, for example—with the actions a complete loon, like, oh I don’t know, conversing with a stuffed mammal. It’s such a stark and unexpected contrast that it works, at least for the time being. I’m not entirely convinced this book needs that beaver though.
Much like the off-the-wall ideas of Connor and Palmiotti, Chad Hardin’s art is mostly on the up-and-up. His level of detail in Harley’s over-stuffed bike as she traverses the highway is incredible, and the little Easter eggs littered throughout each panel offers moments of gratification. Even his page layouts are interesting, as Hardin’s panels are often askew and the book generally lacks the streamline-look of other DC titles, which is a natural fit to a character like this. It’s a wonder that Harley herself doesn’t have a more distinct look as Hardin’s rendition of the character takes on the disappointing resemblance of a typical skinny, leggy, (not to mention busty) model. Not that I’m looking for a 100% body image friendly character in the world of comics, but something better resembling the less-than-traditional hard-edged personality that Connor and Palmiotti are bringing back to the character would be more appreciated.
GNN Comics Grade: NEAR MINT (8/10)