Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner team up with, uh, basically every major artist still speaking to DC for a blessedly playful introduction to their upcoming Harley Quinn series.
Harley Quinn was more damaged than perhaps any other character in the DC Universe (give or take a Jaime Reyes) by the DC Universe ‘soft reboot’ in the New 52. While Harley’s always had a dark, seductive edge, the New 52 stripped her of all her subtlety and most of her clothes, turning her into a vaguely ridiculous facsimile of one of DC’s most iconic female characters. Bits and pieces of the old Harley have resurfaced periodically, but by and large, Harley went from the Clown Princess of Crime to another bland merry murderess in a corset and boy shorts. It was an abysmal redesign. Now, however, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner are taking over and steering Harley Quinn back towards being her own thing, a process that starts in the cluttered-but-playful Harley Quinn #0.
The issue’s gimmick (well… one of them) is that nearly every page has a new artist. It’s one DC has used pretty recently with Justice League #23.3: Dial E, though the effect is much stronger here, in part because the sheer talent of the art pool. I’m half-tempted to say that the book is worth the price of entry just to get even one more page of Bruce Timm doing classic Harley… so I will give in to temptation, because that is, frankly, something we all deserved. But the book also gives us Darwyn Cooke illustrates Amanda Conner in a Power Girl outfit beating on Catwoman and Harley, or Sam Keith creating the single creepiest Joker panel I’ve ever seen. When you’ve got artistic talent like this just goofing around and having a good time, you pay attention.
The writing is a bit more difficult. This is definitely an in-joke heavy issue – I’m not sure how many laughs folks who don’t follow the industry relatively closely will get about Adam Hughes’ inability to meet a deadline, or offering a digitally tweaked reprint of Jim Lee to fit him in even after he got too big to actually contribute new work. With the premise being that a napping Harley Quinn is auditioning artists for the comic book she wished she lived in, it’s tendency to ignore the fourth wall is a blunt, angry instrument, devoid of subtlety – and, what’s more, it’s a tactic I’m not sure can be maintained in an ongoing series. But it’s also fun, and that forgives a lot.
So, Harley Quinn is DC’s response to Deadpool. Which… is fine, actually. If anyone is going challenge Deadpool for zany, violent, fourth wall breaking antics, Harley would be the one. Really, the biggest problem there is how easy it is for ‘mania’ to devolve into schtick, as we’ve seen time and time again over at Marvel. The best mainstream comedy books running right now (Quantum & Woody and Archer & Armstrong) tend towards character-driven situation comedy, because that’s easy to maintain over a long haul and tends to be less… confrontational. Harley Quinn #0 is all about confrontation, though, and it isn’t afraid to get as in-your-face as humanly possible. Readers who can get beyond the occasionally forced nature inherent to that style of comedy will probably find a lot to love, especially if the book remains as fun as it was here.
Written by: Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti
Art by: Amanda Conner, Becky Cloonan, Tony S. Daniel, Sandu Florea, Stephane Roux, Dan Panosian, Walter Simonson, Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Bruce Timm, Charlie Adlard, Adam Hughes, Art Baltazar, Tradd Moore, Dave Johnson, Jeremy Roberts, Sam Keith, Me, You, Your Significant Other, H.P. Lovecraft Probably, Darwyn Cooke, and Chad Hardin
Colors by: Paul Mounts, Tomeu Morey, John Kalisz, Lovern Kindzierski, Alex Sinclair, Lee Loughridge, Dave Stewart, and Alex Sollazzo
Letters by: John J. Hill
Cover by: Amanda Conner & Paul Mounts
Published by: DC Comics
Published on: 11/20/2013