Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Harley Quinn #1 Review

Step 9 of the 12-Step Program

Written By: Stephanie Phillips
Art By: Riley Rossmo
Colors By: Ivan Plascencia
Letters By: Deron Bennett
Cover Art By: Riley Rossmo
Cover Price: $3.99
Release Date: March 23, 2021

In Harley Quinn #1, Harley returns to Gotham after the events of Joker War to turn over a new leaf under the very watchful eye of Batman. As a side project, Harley decides to make amends to everyone she's harmed in the past with mixed results. Meanwhile, an old villain is released from captivity to clean out the remaining clowns in Gotham.

Was It Good?

It was better than expected. Admittedly, it was a struggle to get past the hyper-stylized art (different artist but the same challenge in the Future State HQ books). It's not bad art but it has a very niche appeal. Some people will like it, some people will hate it. Chalk it up to personal taste.

The story is better than okay. A secondary challenge we have is a lack of consistency for Harley as a character. DC can't seem to make up its mind about who she is, how she acts, her motivations, and so on. This is the wacky, silly, mildly ditzy Harley that you struggle to believe was ever smart enough to get a psych degree. She's loud and annoying but somehow likable. If that's your brand of Harley, this version has those qualities in spades.

What's It About?


We begin with a one-on-one fight between Harley and Killer Croc in the sewers. There's some quippy humor that lands well (Croc is gluten intolerant?!?). But to the earlier point, how in the world is Harley supposed to stand up against a full haymaker to the chin from Killer Croc? Is she super-powered now and we didn't know it? It would have been better to see Harley use her smarts to hold her own against Croc instead of her fists. Instead, you can't help but sigh and ignore the suspension of disbelief.

That said, we do learn Harley is going around to familiar characters and apologizing for past slights in a bizarre form of Step 9 from a 12-Step program. When Harley leaves the sewer, she's confronted by several Gothamites as just another clown destroying the city. In an interesting bit of art, the outline of past Harley imagines bashing each citizen with her mallet, so you can see, without being told, the pull she feels to regress into old habits.

Harley comes back to her apartment, and Batman is there waiting for her. Somehow Batman heard about the fight with Croc and is checking in to make sure she's still on the road to criminal recovery.

If it wasn't obvious by now, this reads very much like Harley Quinn is a recovering addict, and her drug is criminal mayhem She's going through the steps to make her life right, and Batman acts as a sort of sponsor to keep her straight.

Again, Harley cracks wise with Batman until he receives a transmission from Oracle about trouble at Amusement Mile. Batman heads out to the hot spot but leaves Harley behind to stay out of trouble. Of course, she doesn't listen.

Batman arrives to find a former clown surrounded by angry citizens who want their pound of flesh from any clown involved in Joker War. Batman gets the citizens to attack him instead of the former clown (Kevin) while Kevin tries to hide out in the Hall of Mirrors. Batman makes short work of the mob and follows Kevin inside the Hall, presumably to arrest him for any involvement with Joker.

Before Batman can take him in, Harley arrives and pleads to leave Kevin alone so she can use her talents and second chance to help Kevin fully reform. Again, Harley's playing it straight and showing that she's determined to do good, all the while cracking wise and acting silly, so it's tough to tell (partly from the art and partly from the dialog) how sincere her efforts will be.

Cut to an epilogue in an upstate asylum. Reps from Saint Industries have decided the hero efforts in Gotham are inadequate, and stronger measures are needed to clear out the clown infestation. We end with the cliffhanger that the muscle selected for this task is a super-tall, super-jacked Hugo Strange. The physicality of Strange in this last panel is not at all in line with the character, so it's not clear if he's mutated due to some past event or if this is a creative license. It's not necessarily wrong, but it does look out of place for the history of the character.

Bits and Pieces:

Harley Quinn #1 takes the silly, billy, oh-so-wacky version of Harley and puts her through her paces as a recovering addict resisting the urge to break stuff. If you can get past the uber-stylistic art and the over-the-top Harley persona, this has the makings of an interesting take on the character.


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