Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Harley’s Little Black Book #5 Review and **SPOILERS**

Let’s Get Ready to Bumble

Writers: Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti 
Artist: Neal Adams 
Colors: Paul Mounts 
Letters: Dave Sharpe 
Cover: Neal Adams & Paul Mounts
Cover Price: $4.99 
On Sale Date: December 28, 2016


When I was a kid, there were a handful of comic books you might see on people’s bookshelves. Never mind that, in my neighborhood, bookshelves themselves were quite a rarity, and if any of my friends’ parents did have books they might be Reader’s Digest collections and some romance paperbacks. But besides at my home, where the comic strip reprints came thick and heavy courtesy of my father, the two comics I saw filed away with various Time-Life series and the past year’s Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue was the Marvel Treasury adaptation of the Land of Oz, and Superman vs. Muhammad Ali. I remember thumbing through it at other people’s houses (my father didn’t actually own a copy of this, despite having three collections of Uncle Scrooge and Donald Duck comics), but it wasn’t until the deluxe reprint from a few years ago that I learned just how insane this story is. You don’t need to read it to enjoy this issue of Harley’s Black Book, but it does draw heavily from Superman vs. Muhammad Ali and would help your understanding some of the…wackier stuff. Though if you’re a regular reader of Harley Quinn, wackiness is nothing new to you! Still, maybe you should go get Superman vs. Muhammad Ali and read it, then come back to my review, okay? I’ll be here when you’re ready, just look below!

Explain It!

As I implied pretty clearly in the introduction to this review, this issue as a parody of Superman vs. Muhammad Ali. It doesn’t follow the story exactly, of course: in this case, the antagonizing alien race known as the Scrubb visits Harley and her crew while they relax on the crowded Coney Island beach. He’s sort of a prick to her, so Harley socks him in the, er, “nutbuckets” and sends him flying off the contraption he ripped off from one of Darkseid’s parademons. Meanwhile, in Metropolis, Clark Kent hears a weird high-pitched noise and dips into a port-a-potty to change into Superman! This provides an opportunity for some of that trademark high-brow humor that Harley Quinn is known for. He zips right into outer space where a massive fleet of alien spaceships rings the planet. Back at Coney Island, the alien from Scrubb actually knows all about Harley Quinn and she is regarded as one of Earth’s greatest warriors. So as long as Superman isn’t anywhere in sight, how about she fights Scrubb’s champion?
I think you can guess where this goes. Superman eventually does show up, but Harley doesn’t want to give up her spot on the fight card so she has to fight Superman first, and the winner of that bout will fight Scrubb’s champion. Capisce? Superman takes Harley to the Fortress of Solitude—and this is the Bronze Age version, with the giant key and everything, and by itself this is an awesome prospect. After depowering himself with a special depowering drug, Superman spars with Harley in some kind of pocket dimension where all one’s wishes are granted. She knocks Superman cold with the first punch, and then gets bored so she summons all her pals to hang out and arm wrestle. Existing in this timeless dimension jeopardizes the agreement between Superman and the Scrubb, which can result in the destruction of planet Earth if not adhered to. They’re brought to a spaceship arena, I assume, where they meet the Scrubb champion—a big galoot name Hun’ka. Seeing the size of this guy, Harley thinks better about taking him on and secretly agrees with Superman to throw the fight in the second round.
And then, she doesn’t. With Jimmy Olsen announcing, Harley Quinn pummels the living crap out of Superman until he falls in the second round. As they wheel him away, the arena prepares for the main event against Hun’ka, and Harley is feeling herself. She punches out a cameraman and demands a new announcer—so they bring in Wolf Blitzen, who is Wolf Blitzer from CNN, but with antlers. This allows Olsen to escape and reveal he is really Superman! He swallows a pill to restore his powers and busts out of a prison cell and starts taking the place apart, forcing the Scrubb general to recall his fleet of warships or he’ll pop his head like a pimple. Meanwhile, Harley is actually fighting Hun’ka, to little effect. Then she yanks his pants out, makes a wry comment implying that Hun’ka has a big cock, and punches him out of the ring with ease. I’m not sure that’s how things work, but okay. In the end, Superman and Harley fly back to Earth in some big spaceship, and Superman lets her have some of his Kryptonian drugs, which were employed in the last issue of Harley’s Black Book.
Turns out when you combine the whimsy of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti with the expert renderings and general insanity of Neal Adams, you get a pretty damned funny comic book. This issue had more flat-out gags than I remember seeing recently, and considering the silly story they were quite welcome. Neal Adams is really at the top of his game here, there were some issues of his Coming of the Supermen series that looked a little loose but these pencils are tight like a Chinese finger trap. Is that offensive? I meant an Asian finger trap. To sum up, this was a really fun comic book and if you don’t like it then you probably had some personal trauma years ago that killed your spirit. Sorry about that.

Bits and Pieces:

This homage to Superman vs. Muhammad Ali has sufficient Harley Quinn silliness to make it an enjoyable read throughout. Indeed, don't feel like you must have read the earlier work to make sense of this--nothing will help you to make sense of this comic book! And since it's a Harley Quinn quarterly, that ends up being okay. Some masterful work by Neal Adams and really funny scenes make this title well worth the wait. Check it out.


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