Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Harley’s Little Black Book #4 Review and **SPOILERS**

Holee Holocaustamolees

Written By: Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti
Art By: Billy Tucci, Joseph Michael Linsner, Flaviano, Paul Mounts
Lettered By: Dave Sharpe
Cover Price: $2.99
On Sale Date: August 24, 2016


One of my great failings as a reviewer and champion of DC Comics’ digital-first line, besides getting my reviews in late and generally being a mediocre writer, is that I do not read Bombshells. I did, at first—the first four or five chapters, and I liked them okay. I thought the art was pretty good (though varied, as digital books tend to be) and the concept was awesome, but it didn’t grab me. “I’ll catch up later,” I told myself, or “I’ll get the trade.” Next thing I know there’s three or four trades and I’m so behind on the series I’ll need to dedicate a beachside vacation to it. Which is something, incidentally, I am willing to do. I’ve just got no such plans until next March. So while I’m angrily insisting in my reviews of Wonder Woman ’77 and other digital titles that they are the sweetest comics deal around, I’m not even reading one of the biggest digital titles. Someday, I swear it! Luckily this issue of Harley’s Little Black Book is an opportunity to glimpse the team in action, and through them vicariously enjoy their digital comic that I’m sure is fantastic. Why not join me in a trip through time, to the traumatic event that made my grandparents’ generation the Greatest one, according to Tom Brokaw? Read on!

Explain It!

I know what you’re thinking: “How can Harley Quinn team up with the Bombshells characters, when they are from World War II while Harley is from the present day?” To that, I would say: what are you, a freaking idiot? This is Harley Quinn. She’ll do something stupid like walk into a freak wormhole or bite into a time-traveling hot dog or any inane thing that could result in her landing in war-torn Europe in the 1940s. You act like there has to be some succinct science behind it, this character hangs out with an giant anthropomorphized egg and talks to a half-burned stuffed beaver. It doesn’t have to make sense. Which is a good thing, because Conner and Palmiotti have decided to make it as complicated as possible: in the next issue—you know, the one coming in the Fall? Harley and some buds fight aliens and wind up at Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, where Harley grabs his balls. Not his testicles, but little spheres, including a green one that allows time-travel. See? Is that so hard? She took Superman’s time-travelling marble. Boom, now she’s in the past.

Specifically, she winds up in the fetid latrine of a U.S. Army forward operating base in…Europe somewhere. Upon exiting the tent, she is immediately mistaken for that era’s Harley Quinn, by that era’s Amanda Waller! Wait, are these really the characters from that era? This is sort of an alternate universe, isn’t it? It’s not like the Waller of today is like, “Oh, I follow in the footsteps of my mom, Amanda Waller, who was a hero in the war.” Besides, that would make nearly every character in the DCU a Junior. Harley immediately gets whisked into a…what do they call them in the army, a debriefing? Whatever it is, a plan to parachute onto the Alps and infiltrate Hozenverfen Castle, where General Beatty is being held hostage. He has sensitive information that cannot fall into the hands of the Nazis, which really should go without saying. I mean, I suppose he could also tell the Nazis his favorite color and how he likes his eggs, but it’s unlikely that they’d even ask. Anyhow, Bombshells Batwoman and Bombshells Big Barda ‘chute to the Alps, right outside of Hozenverfen Castle, because it’s time to get the show on the road.

In the town of Verfen, below the castle, Nazis are whooping it up and taking in some evening entertainment in the form of Bombshell Zatanna, who makes some light sexual innuendo. The clamor over Zatanna gives Bombshell Catwoman, masquerading as a beer maid, time to slip away and guide Harley and the other Bombshells through a secret tunnel into the town. At the castle, a Nazi is petitioning Commander Hausser for permission to manhandle the American General, but Hausser tells him that they must wait for die Schlachterochter, a female interrogator specifically picked by Adolf Hitler. There’s also an intimation that Hitler himself will be visiting that night, which means this comic book is about to get really crowded. Usually Harley Quinn teams up with one or two people, but this time she has to cozy up with an entire battalion consisting of the entire female DCU, in Bombshell form. The newly-arrived ladies slip into some authentic German stripper costumes so as to mingle with the Austrians, and as Harley looks at the castle high atop the mountain, she’s struck by a car—carrying Bombshell Harley Quinn!

Bombshell Harley Quinn (we’ll call her “B-Harley Quinn”) gets out of the car and rushes to Harley Quinn (we’ll call her…well, we’ll just call her Harley Quinn), and as they touch there’s a terrific explosion! This knocks them out cold, but B-Harley Quinn comes to when she’s called by her fake Nazi name, which, if you hadn’t guessed by now, is Dr. Heydich, die Schlachterochter. They rush inside and B-Harley explains that she is working under deep cover as a Nazi stooge to get close to Hitler, an opportunity that has presented itself that very night. The Bombshells are incredulous that they would be on competing missions, a scathing indictment of our military’s bureaucratic trappings. Hey Palmiotti and Conner, politics are for the newspapers, okay? Let’s not whip the comics-reading public into a frothing fervor over the issue of Army inefficiency! Harley is out cold during all of this, and while the Bombshells consider what to do with her now that she’s pretty much compromised the mission, Harley has this awesome dream…you know what? I’m not even going to spoil it. Buy the book if you want to see it. I’m just going to leave two words: Count Jokula. Yeah, you want to check this out.

Harley wakes up in a meat locker, tied to a chair. Somehow, Harley Quinn figures out that the explosion between her and B-Harley created a parallel dimension where she can do anything without causing repercussions to the present? But, haven’t we already proven that this is not the past? I’m so confused. Harley proves some point by kissing B-Harley on the mouth, but all it proved to me is that I’m a dirty old man. Despite her insistence that she can be of help to them, now that she isn’t prone to random explosions, they decide to leave her tied up because, you know, she sounds pretty insane. Once B-Harley gets into Castle Hozenverfen, she asks to see General Beatty, who she then explains the plan. The rest of the Bombshells are waiting in the town of Verfen for a signal, then they will rush the castle and murder a bunch of Nazis and fairly well save the day. Harley is able to free herself from her binds, however, and somehow winds up in the same car as Adolf Hitler on the way to the Castle! And you know what? I’m going to leave it here. A whole bunch of other wacky shit happens, including some wholesale killing and the entrance of the rest of the Bombshells, but if you’re not enticed to read by now, then you’ll never be. And this recap is almost as long as a World War II history textbook, anyway.

I really enjoyed this issue, even though it was tonally a little different than most Harley Quinn books. She was still the same loveable klutz we’ve always known, but these Bombshell trappings lent some gravitas to the proceedings. The art ranged from good to great, depending on the artist, but was largely unlike the art we get in the regular Harley Quinn books by Conner and Palmiotti. For once, Harley Quinn actually seemed like just another character in her own comic book. I can’t really explain it, I mean she is the cause of most of the mayhem and destruction as usual, but I was more engrossed by the story and the mission. Reading this comic book made me realize something very important: I really ought to be reading Bombshells.

Bits and Pieces:

A densely-layered story full of intrigue and downright hilarious moments that suffers from uneven artwork. The extant Bombshell Harley Quinn being in the same space as, uh, our Harley Quinn creates a temporal problem that I’m sure will have repercussions in future comics. Palmiotti and Conner never throw anything away, they’re like pack rats. Harley Quinn will be eating an ice cream cone in one issue, and then half a year later it will turn out that she ate Proty II by accident. I’m telling you. You gotta watch everything with these guys.

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