Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Harley Quinn: Harley Loves Joker #1 Review

Picking Up From Where We Left Off

Writer: Paul Dini 
Artist: Bret Blevins 
Colors: Alex Sinclair 
Letters: Dave Sharpe 
Cover: Amanda Conner & Alex Sinclair 
Cover Price: $3.99
On Sale Date: May 2, 2018

Last issue we had the Harley Quinn of 2025, here we’ve got the Harley Quinn of 1995. What happened to this series, anyway? It seems adrift, which is unusual for a title that once rivaled Batman in sales figures. Ah well, let’s find out what happened to Harley Quinn twenty years ago in Harley Quinn: Harley Loves Joker #1, right here!

Explain It!

It should come as no secret to many that I am not a Harley Quinn fanatic. I like the character enough, and I’ve expressed how impressed I am to have seen Palmiotti and Conner change this B-list villain into a quirky, fun anti-hero over the course of their reasonably long run. But reviewing Harley Quinn is really just a gig, something I offered to do years back when the title was infuriating Jim, and I’ve been on it ever since. It hasn’t been all bad, mind you; often the book can be quite clever or humorous. My point is, I take every issue as it comes, with few expectations or preconceptions. If a given issue is comprehensible and provides a couple of lewd chuckles, I’m probably going to feel positively about it.
But if I was a Harley Quinn fanatic, boy would I be pissed off about now. For one thing, since early last year, Harley Quinn has been a little chaotic. There was a lot of foreshadowing with little payoff, every issue had a dream- or psychedelic hallucination sequence, and for a little while, back-up stories by Paul Dini and Bret Blevins. They ran for about eight issues, as I recall, and had nothing to do with the main book’s story—indeed, the tales took place before Harley’s makeover, when she still wore a red-and-black jester’s costume and pined after the Joker. Besides being incongruous with the main book featuring them, these back-ups served to make an already confusing and unsatisfying reading experience even more so. And then, after several issues, the story unraveled in the back-ups didn’t even conclude.
Well, that story continues here, in the two-part Harley Quinn: Joker Loves Harley series that nobody asked for. After a one-shot of Harley and Brooklyn about fifteen years into the future. And that was after Frank Tieri’s brief crack at the title, a weird conspiracy by Penguin to take over Coney Island for dubious reasons. This came after Palmiotti and Conner’s flaccid last issue, concluding several months of a befuddled storyline that ambled around to nowhere. All that preceding this, two issues that don’t even take place in anything resembling current continuity. I mean, what the fuck? There are people who really care about this character, who look forward to this twice-monthly comic, but DC Comics has really dropped the ball. It’s amazing when you consider the fact that this series used to post six-figure shipping numbers month after month. Now they’re sitting around 30K twice a month. How very sad.
This issue is alright if you’ve been hankering for some more of that Batman: The Animated Series magic. And at that, this would be one of the least memorable episodes. Bret Blevins does a great job mimicking the cartoon’s style, and there’s a development with that “Weasel” character that keeps usurping the Joker’s crime schemes, which is…alright. Not entirely expected, but also not altogether warranted. I shouldn’t impugn this issue for being another symptom of an editorial office that has completely collapsed, but I will. I may not be a fanatic of Harley Quinn, but I have a responsibility to my readers to let them know when it looks like we’re being hosed. And it definitely feels like the water is on full blast now.

Bits and Pieces:

This comic continues the series of back-ups by Dini and Blevins that ran in Harley Quinn around this time last year. It has nothing to do with Batman & Catwoman's forthcoming wedding, as has been implied in publicity copy. A huge Batman: The Animated Series junkie may like this, but regular readers of this series have been cheated.


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