Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Harley Quinn: Road Trip Special #1 Review and *SPOILERS

Written By: Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti
Art By: Bret Blevins, Moritat, Flaviano Armentaro, Pasquale Qualand, Jed Dougherty, Mike Manley, Paul Mounts
Cover Price: $5.99
Release Date: September 9, 2015

On a Hellway to High

*Non Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*

It may be after Labor Day, but we’ll allow our favorite roller derby girl with the porcelain complexion to wear white anyway—mainly because she frightens the crap out of us! Summer hijinx continue with one last caper for Harley Quinn and her buddies Poison Ivy and Catwoman as they travel cross-country in a classic Airstream trailer with a dead body in tow! There’s indecency, violence, and drug use in this special oversized issue that’s timed perfectly to welcome kids back for a new school year. Is this comic like cutting Study Hall to make out or having Myron Shneebly for a lab partner? Read on and find out!

Explain It!:

Harley Quinn, in her guise as psychiatrist to the elderly Dr. Harleen Quinzell, gets a phone call from her mom with some bad news: her beloved Uncle Lou has died. Mama Quinzell asks Harley to go to Los Angeles and get her Uncle Lou’s ashes to be buried next to his wife Alice’s ashes in a New York cemetery. I’m no mortician, but I thought one of the reasons people got cremated was to avoid having to pay for a burial plot and maintenance. I guess when you got it, you got it, and Uncle Lou had a classic aluminum Airstream trailer that he’s left to Harley, and which she will also need to drive from Los Angeles to the East Coast. Harley figures this is a great opportunity for an all-gal road trip with her best buds Pamela Isley aka Poison Ivy and Selena Kyle aka Catwoman. Around now is when your brain should come to the realization that this is Harley continuity, and nothing from the current DCU applies.

Both of Harley’s angels have their own reasons to enjoin this trip: Selena wants to retrieve an expensive necklace from fellow burglar Darkwolf, and Poison Ivy has a crush on Harley Quinn. And possibly Selena Kyle. And probably that cute girl bartender at the Branded Hotel in Downtown LA, where Selena’s booked them a room. While Harley and Pamela party away at the hotel’s rooftop bar and pool, Selena meets with Darkwolf and gets what’s hers. And he gets what’s his when Catwoman lures him out the window with a piece of raw, seasoned steak. Oh yeah. Darkwolf is actually part wolf, or something. Just go with it.

The three ladies finally go to meet Uncle Lou’s neighbor, Sheila, who has been minding his Airstream and ashes. On the way, they stop for hamburgers with their taxi driver, and Selena suddenly gets all supernerd and explains how hamburgers cure hangovers. Suddenly this comic qualifies for extra credit in remedial Biology class! The cab driver propositions Harley Quinn with a ketchup bottle so she throws him through a billboard, because that’s just part of a good breakfast. At Sheila’s, the gang picks up Uncle Lou’s Airstream and what looks to be a cherry red 1950s Cadillac Seville in mint condition. If you ask me, screw the Airstream—just cruise in the Caddy!

Harley, Selena and Pamela entertain themselves along the first leg of their tour by cruising through Las Vegas and playing Truth or Dare. Later, Darkwolf shows up to get his revenge against Catwoman, so while she is driving the Cadillac he bumps her and the trailer off the road. Harley emerges from the capsized trailer mad as hell and beats the snot out of Darkwolf, who has crashed into a cactus, while wearing boxing gloves made from pieces of cactus. It’s one of the more brutal things we see this issue, until the next panel where Selena drags Darkwolf out into the desert to be devoured by coyotes.

Stranded in the middle of nowhere, our trio fatale sun themselves on the side of the Airstream (which, technically-speaking, is now the top) until a kindly Native American man picks them up and tells them they can drink some his water, but not from the marked bottles in the back. So of course they drink it and start hallucinating, because that’s a pretty good gimmick to get a bunch of artists to draw their own scenes in the book. Harley goes through a lot of creepy shit that is really worth seeing because the artwork by Moritat is really appealing.

Later, Harley, who has a cat’s head for some reason, makes time with Batman, which pisses off Catwoman and Poison Ivy. This scene fairly well lays out the relationship between the three in plain language if you hadn’t been getting the cues all along. I like this bit of intrigue: all of these women are best friends, but Poison Ivy is protective of Quinn, who hates Catwoman’s love interest. It seems like something that can be mined for situations later without needing to impact the friendships between these women.

That whole drug episode gets wrapped up rather quickly when Poison Ivy and Harley wake up in the back of a fixed Cadillac being driven by Selena. She explains that they’ve been zonked for days but business has been handled and they’re back on the road again. They pass by some American roadside sights, and even meet up with Jimmy Olsen and Bizarro who are traveling cross-country in their own miniseries, Bizarro. It was a cute scene and implies that the events in Bizarro are happening in the Harleyverse…I can smell those continuity-obsessed cortexes burning now!

Eventually, they make it to the Long Island cemetery where Uncle Lou wished his ashes to be buried, and Harley visits the spot next to her Aunt Alice to mourn. Poison Ivy cheers her up by growing a new tree right on the spot, and the book ends with the three at Coney Island drinking champagne and toasting to their 70s sitcom-style freeze frame finale.

It’s difficult to tell from a review, but this book is all about character moments. I really got the feeling that the three have one kind of relationship when together, but then each dual combination of the crew had its own trappings as well: Pamela and Selena are unified in their protectiveness of Harley, but there’s also a little latent jealousy and defensiveness between Selena and Harley themselves. It was a surprising bit of character development in a book that I’d normally regard as a goof. The art was great throughout, Bret Blevins does his usual quality stuff for most of it but Jed Dougherty picks up duties at the end and does a nice job as well. This is a pretty fun book, and if you have been curious about Harley Quinn but haven’t checked it out, this isn’t a bad place to test the waters. If you’re slavish to DCU continuity, however, then you should steer clear because Harley clearly doesn’t give a damn.

Bits and Pieces:

There’s a little more to this book than meets the eye, but even on the surface it’s just a bunch of funny vignettes and silly jokes. The price point puts expectations higher, but if you can let go of the idea of comics always “counting” and enjoy it for what it is, you might like it and you’ll probably live longer. The art is solid throughout, even during the short rotation that takes place during Harley and Pamela’s hallucination, and everything is pretty easy to understand if you know the basic conceits of each character. Not a bad place to peek in on the series if you’re so inclined!

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  1. Nice write up. I've been hesitant to get into Nu52 Harly because most of the other stuff has been so awful... well, not to my tastes, anyway (especially when it comes to women) but this looks like fun. I'm enjoying Starfire by Palmiotti and Conner so I may have to check this out. Thanks!

  2. If you like Starfire, you will probably like the Harley book.


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