Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Harley Quinn #33 Review and **SPOILERS**

So Long and Thanks For All the Flesh

Writers: Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti 
Artists: Bret Blevins, Otto Schmidt, Moritat 
Colors: Alex Sinclair, Otto Schmidt 
Letters: Tom Napolitano 
Cover: Amanda Conner & Dave Johnson 
Variant Cover: Frank Cho & Sabine Rich 
Cover Price: $2.99 
On Sale Date: January 20, 2017


And now, the end is almost here…the end of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s time on Harley Quinn, that is. In another issue, the series will continue under the pen of Frank Tieri for…well, no one can say how long. He co-wrote a miniseries (I think it was Gang of Harleys?) with Palmiotti to get up to speed, and I think he did okay. But something will surely be missing from this title with its originators gone, and Tieri’s got big shoes to fill. Well let’s see how they begin wrapping up this run, huh? Check out my review of Harley Quinn #33, right now!

Explain It!

What Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti have done with the character Harley Quinn is remarkable. Yes, there’s the sheer scope of it: 71 issues over two volumes, plus annuals and specials. At least three related mini-series. Another series in Harley’s Little Black Book…that never went anywhere. Point is, it’s a large body of work. Disregarding the sheer width of it, Palmiotti and Conner also did something very interesting with the one once known as Harleen Quinzell: they made her into a hero.
Now, let’s be fair: they didn’t turn the Joker into a sustained hero. Harley Quinn came somewhat pre-neutered from her daytime television-friendly origins, plus some palatable gag strips from the late 90s and early 2000s. She had long been portrayed in many instances as a well-meaning goofball with murderous tendencies. But Harley Quinn was never a hero—indeed, she was girlfriend to the most evil and homicidal member of Batman’s villain menagerie. And over the course of many issues, a richly-dressed amusement park setting, crammed with a supporting cast we came to enjoy, came Harley Quinn’s true Rebirth. When she was created by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini in the 1990s, no one could have imagined that she would be a member of the Suicide Squad, much less the lynchpin character in a blockbuster movie. Palmiotti and Conner certainly deserve some of the credit here.
I would have expected them to go out with a bang—or at least a Wizard of Oz-style closing where Harley says goodbye to everyone she’s met and loved along the way. Instead, we start the end by getting a somewhat dull issue, drawn by three artists for some reason—all of whom have worked on this series, but I wouldn’t “connect” them to it like I might John Timms or J. Bone. Bret Blevins does the first third, and they have worked on Harley Quinn quite a bit…but lord, it looks like crap. Something funny happened here during production, because I know he’s capable of better. This looks hurried, amateurish…well-plotted but badly-rendered. It’s an aimless story that begins with Harley mourning and then dressing in a meat bikini before finally meeting a member of her skate derby team on the beach.
Otto Schmidt delivers a very stylized, angular rendering of Harley and her world, which involves her fighting a giant roller skating brute that can hypnotize just by catching your gaze. It was so random, and Harley thwarts her by blindfolding herself. In the third act, drawn by Moritat, Harley comes home to find that Big Tony and Queenie are headed down to Tampa, Florida—why not come along! Harley Quinn is more than glad to, provided she can bring Poison Ivy. Why not?
This was not what I expected from the penultimate issue of such a long run. What about Red Tool? And that Batgirl from the future that only has a year to be a hero to New York City? What about Sy Borgman? What about Chief Spoonsdale? The Gang of Harleys? Terra? Some of these guys got panel time, but didn’t address the fact that they might not be in this comic book anymore. I hope that things we get more of them next issue, but for some of them, this really felt like the end. Others were mentioned but unseen. For such a rich blend of characters, I’d have thought they’d get face time. Instead, this issue reads like scraps from the cutting room floor from a couple of creators burned-out on the Harley Quinn grind. And you know what? I don’t blame them. Take a bow, Jimmy and Amanda.

Bits and Pieces:

Perhaps my expectations were high for this issue by Palmiotti and Conner, but this thing did not deliver much. The first part is poorly-rendered and meandering, the second looks cool but seems like another comic book entirely, and the third part is by Moritat, so it looks adorable. There's an attempt to set up Harley's Florida-based digs for the next writer, but it's a miss. We still have the final issue in two weeks, but this one just didn't hit like I hoped it would.


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