Thursday, December 3, 2015

Harley’s Little Black Book #1 Review and *SPOILERS*

Written By: Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner
Art By: Amanda Conner with John Timms, Dave Johnson, Paul Mounts with Hi-Fi, and Dave Sharpe
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: December 2, 2015

Blabbey Road

*Non-Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*

DC heard the clarion call of the masses who demanded, “We want more Harley!” and they created convention-specific special issues and Annuals. Again, the cry came: “We want more Harley!!” and DC green-lit a six-issue mini series where Harley Quinn teams up with Power Girl. Still, the yelling continued: “WE WANT MORE HARLEY!!” and at this point, Dan Didio should have checked the source of this outcry because I’m pretty sure it’s Jimmy Palmiotti talking through a voice synthesizer to make him sound like a crowd of people. Here we have another spin-off from the regular Harley Quinn title, a new bi-monthly series titled Harley’s Little Black Book. Back in the hey day of Three’s Company, a “little black book” was something in which you keep the phone numbers of your sexual conquests, but in this case it seems to be a journal of some sort. Are the personal thoughts of Harley Quinn something we really want to read, considering she otherwise confides in a mangled, stuffed beaver? Probably not, but read on to be sure!

Explain It!

I haven’t been reading the regular Harley Quinn book, but I know what’s going on from reading the reviews on this very handy-dandy website. So I was aware that Harley had accrued a team of misfit crime fighters she dubbed the Gang of Harleys. What I didn’t realize is that one of the members is an anthropomorphic egg with robotic tentacles, which is pretty fantastic. Harley and Co. have just taken down some drug distributors, and in a scene that just takes too fucking long figures out that some of these chemicals are being shipped to London in order to harm Wonder Woman, or something. Harley then directs Eggy the Egg Guy to take one of the dope dealers to her Coney Island lair and tells the rest of the gang to hang out and wait for the cops to take the bad guys away, which suits me just fine because all I want to do is hang out with the egg dude.

Back at Coney, Egg-Fu’s cousin does some internet research and discovers that these Wonder Woman-killing chemicals are being shipped to a bad guy named Barmy Bugger, main enemy of the London Legion of Superheroes. The London Legion of Superheroes? Who are they? Well I can tell you that it really doesn’t matter because they figure into this story in virtually no meaningful way. Harley reveals to MC Egg that she’s secretly a closet Wonder Woman fan, revealing an actual shrine to the princess of Themyscira which includes a piece of toast under glass that presumably has Wondy’s face burnt into it. Then Harley reminisces to her youth when she was being bullied by three kids, so she put on a deluxe Ben Cooper Wonder Woman costume and tried to hang one of them from a tree in front of the school. Just like the real Wonder Woman! To get to London, Eggbro tells Harley she will have to live in a shipping container on an overseas freighter for two weeks, which is sort of a weird detail but I’ll go with it.

I feel like we’re forgetting someone here, someone that has been referenced a lot but we still haven’t seen…oh yeah! We cut to London where Wonder Woman is chasing down some of Barmy Bugger’s crew that are absconding in a Mini Cooper with the British flag on the hood. Is this something they do in England like they do in America, ride around in cars with their nation’s flag on them? Is there an equivalent to the Confederate flag in England, maybe the skull and crossbones from a pirate’s ship? It matters not because Wonder Woman slices the compact car lengthwise with her super sword and saves the day while Barmy Bugger looks on through binoculars with sinister intent. Then we interrupt this bit of intrique for two pages of the London Legion of Superheroes talking a lot of trash to each other that—truly—has nothing to do with the story. They show up to intercept Harley Quinn when her boat lands, but are immediately subdued by Barmy Bugger and are meaningless to the story from here on out. Harley secures herself in one of Barmy’s crates of chemicals and is carted to his warehouse.

Then we read. A lot. This is one of a few pages in the issue that are just packed with word balloons and white-on-red caption boxes that denote pages from Harley’s journal. There are so many words on this page, you’d think we were in the third act of a Scott Snyder comic, and this is an oversized issue! Harley figures out that Barmy Bugger doesn’t want to kill Wonder Woman, he wants to kidnap her and demand ransom, which is probably the stupidest kidnapping scheme ever devised. Seems like the more interesting thing to do would be to let this idiot try it and watch the fun when Diana punches him into next week. Harley takes up the task of rescuing Wonder Woman, which she decides to do by posing as a delivery person and gassing Diana so she’ll sleep for two days, then switches clothing with her (and dons a black wig) to pose as Wonder Woman. The princess’ costume doesn’t really fit Harley, and there’s a pretty funny scene where she uses body tape to secure the bodice like some kind of clunky halter top. Of course, she looks nothing like Wonder Woman.

Just then, Barmy Bugger’s crew come rappelling into Wonder Woman’s apartment like some well-timed SWAT team, further exemplifying the stupidity of this plan. Harley does a pretty good job fighting them off, but she is becoming overwhelmed when suddenly Diana wakes up due to all of the commotion and takes on Bugger’s crew while wearing Harley Quinn’s rather tight-fitting gear. The cover of this comic shows the two of them having switched clothing, but I didn’t realize it was actually going to be a plot point. Good show for truth in advertising. The two of them together beat the snot out of the bad guys handily and even rescue the London Legion of Superheroes, who were being kept chained to a wall in a dungeon like something out of the Wizard of Id. They all go out to the bar together and laugh it up when Harley ties herself up in Wonder Woman’s lasso of truth and allows everyone to ask whatever embarrassing questions they like of her. The end.

Er…actually no, there’s one more page for some reason. Wonder Woman carries drunk Harley out of the bar and says she’ll put her on a plane back to New York, and the London Legion of Superheroes warns that they will be back again, perhaps even having an impact on the story this time. I’m not sure why this book required two endings, the second worse than the first, but there you have it. Indeed, much of this book seems padded out with inconsequential dialogue and drawn-out scenes that go nowhere in particular. The scene where Wonder Woman is being subdued by gas is a full page—one full page of Wonder Woman slowly closing her eyelids! It seems like this could have handily fit into a regular-sized issue and probably saved us all a buck in the process. All of the art in this book is top notch, and doesn’t seem at all disjointed despite having three artists. The credits look screwed up on the title page, but I’m guessing Conner did the pages where Wonder Woman is wearing Harley’s skimpy get-up and it is “tit”illating. What I mean is that it’s one of the “breast” images in the book. It really shows what someone “cans” do when they draw from “mammary.” I’m saying that her boobs are out, which was a highlight of this otherwise drawn-out head-scratcher of a book.

Bits and Pieces:

Harley Quinn goes to London and fails to save Wonder Woman from a middling threat. That’s about the half of it. The art is great, but for five bucks it’s really got a lot of fluff. There’s pages of exposition so dense that you’ll wonder if the scripters were paid by the word. If you like Harley Quinn’s antics, well you’ll see some of them here, but you can also see them every month in her regular solo title. So far, what this title has to offer is a fairly thin team-up and some cheesecake shots of Wonder Woman. Which, incidentally, are no extra charge.


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