Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Harley’s Little Black Book #3 Review and **SPOILERS**

Who Ya Gonna Call? Ghost Busties!

Written By: Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner
Art By: Joseph Michael Linsner, Hi-Fi
Letters By: Dave Sharpe
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: April 20, 2016

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

You know what segment of the population thinks they should get laid a lot more than they do? Magicians. And don’t get it twisted, I’m sure many magicians have some twisted, freaky sex. But to a one, they all feel they should be having more twisted, freaky sex. That’s because they once saw a magic trick that excited their genitalia to such an extent that they decided to pursue it as a lifelong discipline. Magicians can’t comprehend that the vast majority of people find magic tricks a pleasant diversion, and perhaps even more find these illusions an annoying novelty. There’s also a certain narcissism to being a magician, one that is probably shared by all performers to some extent: a belief that they are really blowing your mind with unending scarves and long form playing card gimmicks. You pretty much can’t even stand before people and bullshit them without the intrinsic feeling that you are the shit. I wouldn’t hold it against Zatanna, though—I’d watch her pull rabbits from a hat all day. Throw Harley Quinn in the mix and…it’s sure to get pretty weird. Let’s go dumb together! Read on for my review!

Explain It!

Beautiful Coney Island, home of the original Nathan’s hot dogs, the stalwart Wonder Wheel, and…Hellgate 2? It’s important to know that the Coney Island on Earth Prime has four landmarked structures: the Cyclone, the Wonder Wheel, the Parachute Drop, and Hellgate 2, an eerie fun house ride with rather…hellish implications. [Insert cackling Vincent Price laughter here.] The only ride continuously open since 1911, it is haunted by three ghosts from its heyday: Rick the Ringmaster, Betty the Tattooed Lady, and Bob the Lobsterman, who had what looked like claws at the end of his appendages instead of hands. This is actually a birth defect called Ectrodactyly or cleft hand, and affects about seven in a hundred thousand people. Of course, this didn’t mean anything in 1911, and indeed there was a famous sideshow freak Lobsterman that was a cantankerous drunk that beat his family with his split hands…remind me to tell you the story sometime. Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself here, back at Harley’s pad that Legion of London-Based Gross Out Losers is broke from their ‘round the world journey to visit Harls, so they intend on crashing in her spacious apartment. This suits Harley just fine because she doesn’t know the meaning of personal space, and because Big Tony has already booked the downstairs apartment he keeps for traveling talent—with Zatanna! Despite being a world-class performing and practicing magician who just fought back demonic forces with John Constantine, Zatanna is fine with staying in a squalid room with a bed that looks about as comfortable as a subway seat. She’s one of the people, after all, and when in Coney Island, do as the Coneys do.

So Hellgate 2 is finally going to be torn down, and this arouses the three ghosts inhabiting the joint that I mentioned before. The only familiar structure they can see is Harley Quinn’s apartment building, so they head over there, chattering and being smutty all the way. First they creep on sleeping Zatanna, who immediately wakes up and tells them to buzz off. They soar upstairs, only to arouse roughly a zillion sleeping dogs on the second floor. This wakes Harley (for the first time, notes her stuffed beaver Bernie), who grabs a shotgun from under her bed in order to protect her guests. When the ghosts waft into her apartment, she blasts the crap out of everything until the spectral trio floats through the ceiling. All of the commotion awakens the Brits and summons Zatanna, who has jumped into her costume and is looking, as they say on the streets, moighty foine. Zatanna suggests they go up to the roof, where the spirits are likely to be hanging out and smoking cigarettes. They are indeed on the roof, and there they tell Zatanna and Harley their story: once employed at Coney Island’s Dreamland, they ran afoul of Hellgate’s owner Jolly Straton, when Rick and Bob stopped him from sacrificing Betty to Satan. Incensed by being half in, half outside of the mortal plane, the partially-summoned demon infested Jolly and turned him into a demonic type thing that would pursue the three circus folk—provided they were outside of the amusement area, because demons routinely make stupid rules like that. So they’ve been confined to the only ride still there since 1911, and now would be left to Jolly’s whims which includes sending giant ghost shrimp to beat up other ghosts.

Zatanna decides she must go to the spectral plane and ask Jolly to release the three from their prison, and of course Harley wants to go along because it’s her book. She gets into this pretty cool Ghostbusters type suit, complete with proton pack and other trappings, and it’s pretty cute. Harley and Zatanna zim-sala-bim over to Ghost Town, and then follow a line of ectoplasmic crustaceans marching in a straight line from some point in the ocean. Following the trail, they find a downed Nazi submarine inside which dwells Demon Jolly! Zatanna asks him to free those three loveable Caspers, and he informs them that he’s as much a prisoner as they, and the demon they really want to talk to is…Nad Oidid! Yes, that’s right, co-publisher Dan Didio’s name backwards. I admit I chortled. Nad looks nothing like Dan, though, in fact he’s a pretty buff-looking dude chilling in one of three giant pools filled with other sexy people atop some windswept mountain. Zatanna asks Nad to make a deal, and just as he’s about to pull some Satanic shenanigans, he realizes he’s in the presence of his all-time favorite murderer, Harley Quinn! He’s so enamored of her that he agrees to free Jolly and the gang from their bindings if Harley will spend one month with him in Hell…which, considering involves standing around in a pool, doesn’t really sound too bad. Maybe it gets really chilly at night and there are no hooded sweatshirts around? Harley accepts and the ghosts are freed, in spite of Zatanna’s protests. She gets zapped back to our plane and resolves to do her show as planned. That night, she does an illusion where she makes one of the gross British people appear from a locked safe, and after him Harley comes tumbling out! In less than twenty-four hours, she’s been evicted from Hades for being too annoying. Nad agrees to uphold the bargain regardless, provided she never sets foot back there again!

I had fun with this book. It was some silly, mildly offensive stuff that had lots of genuinely humorous moments. Readers of Harley Quinn will be able to fall right into this book, whether they’ve read the previous issues of Little Black Book or not. Brand new readers might wonder about the talking stuffed beaver. The one thing I did not give a shit about was this group of British rejects from Section Eight that showed up…a couple of months ago, I guess? There was this B-plot where one of them endeavored to meet the daughter he never knew, and I just did not give a solitary fuck. There are a few filler pages in the book like this, but a good number of them will make you chuckle, and you can’t expect more than that. As is common on a Conner/Palmiotti Joint, the art is impeccable and the layouts are perfect. I’ve said before, and will say again—this time, specifically: when you get a Conner/Palmiotti book, even if you don’t love the story you’re going to get great artwork throughout. You won’t feel ripped off.

Bits and Pieces:

Harley Quinn and Zatanna team up and take on the forces of Hell, and they are not prepared for Harley Quinn! Fans of the main Harley Quinn book will ease right into this story, which draws heavily from the character's Coney Island continuity. People that hate Harley Quinn...well why would you even be reading this review? Are you some kind of masochist or something? The art by Joseph Michael Linsner is wonderful (and pretty cheesecakey to boot), but I've come to expect excellence from Palmiotti and Conner and act like a real smug prick about it.


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