Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Harley Quinn #26 Review and **SPOILERS**

Welcome Back to That Same Old Place That You Laughed About

Written By: Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti
Art By: John Timms & Chad Hardin, Hi-Fi
Letters By: Tom Napolitano
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: March 23, 2016

**Non-Spoilers and Score At The Bottom**

Well, here I am. I fought desperately not to become this site’s “Harley Quinn guy,” despite reviewing most of the Harley Quinn & Power Girl mini, then taking on Harley Quinn’s Little Black Book, agreeing to review the Harley Quinn & Her Gang of Harleys comic coming in April, writing about Harley Quinn’s Road Trip from a couple of months ago, and also doing New Suicide Squad (featuring Harley Quinn) since Seeley and Ferreyra became the creators…I figured whether I like it or not, I’m the Harley Quinn Guy. I don’t mean that to sound like I dislike Harley at all—I like the character, and I think Conner & Palmiotti have done a lot with her. But I do find individual issues hit-or-miss (though the artwork is always top notch) and, knowing how popular Harley Quinn is, I feel like there are people better-suited to my task. But it must be done! And so read on to read my review of Harley Quinn #26, the first solo Harley Quinn book I’ve ever critiqued and spoiled the crap out of!

Explain It!:

As explained in the intro, this is the first Harley Quinn solo comic book I’ve reviewed for the site. What I didn’t mention is that it’s the first one I’ve read since issue number five. I’ve read some annuals and special issues, and I critique everything else in which the character appears for this website, but Harley Quinn was a comic book I deemed to be of good quality that was not quite “my thing” some time ago. Consequently, I only know what’s been happening in this book from Jim’s reviews, and as a rule he’s not as spoileriffic as the rest of us. I do know she confronted the Joker in Gotham City and essentially broke up with him last issue, which is confirmed by a dream sequence where Harley fears being manipulated by Mistah J, but awakens on the bus back to her independent life in New York City. Besides the opening panel being an homage to one of my favorite scenes from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, I really liked how it was rendered in a psychedelic style, and seeing Harley awake from her nightmare to a better reality was as crystal clear in its intent as it was nice to see. You’ve come a long way, Harley.

When she does finally get to Coney Island, she’s beset by some sort of surf gang, which is probably the last gang you would ever actually encounter at Coney Island. Harley asserts her dominance by ripping the hair off of one and the earlobes off of another, which was actually pretty funny to see. It’s all rendered expertly by John Timms, and that added to the silliness of this violence. Then Harley’s pal Tony, the little person that looks a lot like Glenn Danzig, comes by with a coffee and a whole lot of patience for yakking, because that’s what Harley does. She pretty much establishes the book’s status quo: Harley is on a roller derby team, and has assembled the Gang of Harleys, and also works at an old age home as Dr. Harleen Quinzell. She also ties up some loose ends, like what’s happened to Sy Borgman and where other members of the book’s cast are. If you haven’t been reading Harley Quinn, like me, then it is some welcome information that should situate the reader well. But boy—it is a lot of words. A lot of words. Al Feldstein on Shock SuspenStories lot of words. I assure you that the ten people who get that reference would agree that it is a good allusion to comic book wordiness. She has an interaction with a fat guy using a metal detector who comments on her ass, but I would swear that by the end of it he’s convinced her that he should be allowed. Truly a strange, seemingly pointless two-page bit of fluff.

There’s also an aside where the Mayor plots and schemes to ruin Harley again, and we learn about a paraplegic guy hell-bent on revenge against Ms. Quinn who, after having episodic bouts of rage, has surgeries that turn him into an unfeeling super-killer that has his face all bandaged up like Batman’s villain Hush. But really, this book is about setting the stage for the new, improved Harley Quinn—now with a haircut and outfit more closely resembling her upcoming film counterpart, and a new jacket that demonstrates her symbolic divorce from the Joker (being Catholic, she would never apply for a legal separation). It’s a brand new day for the Quinnster, and to celebrate (and make some much-needed scratch) she goes to that evening’s Skate Club, which you may have guessed is like Fight Club but with roller skates. So like ten times more interesting, because actual street fights are often as boring as fuck. Her opponent is someone who has risen through the ranks specifically to challenge Harley, and on the last page we see it is the multiple weapon-wielding Red Tool! Who is nothing at all like Marvel’s Deadpool! Not one bit! Not in speech or abilities or characterization at all!

Considering satire is one of Palmiotti and Conner’s strengths, I’m all in for next issue. But this one was a bit too talky for my liking. I’d say it’s a really good “jumping on point,” if you’ve been waiting for such an opportunity. But if you’re already a Harley Quinn fan, then there’s not much new information in this issue. The art, as with all Palmiotti projects, is really well-done and deserves the highest accolades. Unfortunately, much of it is crowded out by an abundance of word balloons.

Bits and Pieces

I guess we can call this Harley Quinn pilot episode, take two, because this book is more or less an epilogue to the previous arc that re-establishes the silly, murderous status quo of the titular character. The art is great, but the comic is a little wordy for my tastes. If you've been looking for an entry point to the series, this is as good issue for it. But really, unless you're unnaturally confused  by concepts like taxidermied talking beavers and sentient egg-people, then you could probably pick any old issue and jump on whenever.

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