Harley Quinn #1
Written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Art by Chad Hardin and Alex Sinclair
Lettering by Dave Sharpe
Published by DC Comics
'Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
A few scant days before her big screen debut in Suicide Squad, the eponymous Harley Quinn enters DC's "Rebirth" era with Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and Chad Hardin’s Harley Quinn #1. Long-time Harley writers Conner and Palmiotti fuse cringe-worthy farce with a genuinely funny tale of zombies fueled by extraterrestrially-tainted hot dogs in this new reader-friendly introductory issue.
Palmiotti and Conner cut a fine balance between the manic, legitimately dangerous super-villain and hokey damsel that Harley Quinn often flirts between, equally happy slicing off limbs as she is making endless terrible double entendres whilst MC-ing for a burlesque/freakshow. Palmiotti and Conner are fond of Harley’s sexuality and penchant for violence, but it’s her “Looney Tune in the real world” quality that really makes her shine, as shown best by Red Tool’s climactic journey through the sky thanks to Harley’s cat poo-eliminating device, the Scatapult. The two writers have an efficient way with storytelling, recapping Harley’s life in a tight and readable eight panels before switching focus to a doomed alien teenager who shape-shifts into a cow headed straight for the slaughterhouse…
As the issue’s plot gains momentum, Harley’s latest partner-in-crime, Red Tool, hogs much of the issue’s focus. Less of a Deadpool parody and more of a straight analogue, you’re often left wondering Palmiotti and Conner’s intentions behind the character. Apart from his appearance and the aurally similar name, Red Tool’s parody is a subtle one, only really eliciting an appreciative smirk when we find out the nature of Red Tool’s healing ability. He doesn’t have one. It’s also with Red Tool that Dave Sharpe’s imaginative lettering snares the spotlight, with an array of tool-shaped word balloons that hammer home ‘Tool’s handy gimmick.
Make no mistake about it, Harley Quinn #1 is a very pretty comic book. Chad Hardin’s broad and immediately identifiable character designs loudly communicate Conner and Palmiotti’s spectrum of emotion, whilst always grounding them in well-rendered backgrounds that offer a real sense of space. Hardin is also heavily in sync with the wacky tone of the book, loading the space behind Harley and company with Easter eggs; the whole Scooby gang’s lurking in the background here somewhere! Scenes of Harley, Ivy and company lounging around a spa in next to nothing are drawn about as tastefully as they could be, and they’re heavily front-loaded, as if Conner and Palmiotti felt they had a remit for bare skin they felt obligated to fulfill. As is expected from a brand-new first issue, Conner and Palmiotti regurgitate Harley’s origin for the uninitiated, giving Hardin a much-welcomed excuse to draw the Joker; less a grimy madman and more a smooth-talking, rubber-faced loon. Colorist Alex Sinclair matches the issue’s loudness with a bright palette of primary colors that emphasize Harley’s signature white, black and red, giving a cartoony issue and equally cartoony set of hues.
Although there’s nothing here to convert the unconvinced into fully-fledged Harleyholics, Harley Quinn #1 is a fun and dynamic comedy book with bright and attractive artwork. Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti have been holding firm with Harley Quinn for a long time now, and their grip is in no danger of loosening any time soon.