Tuesday, 21 January 2014

New Beginnings - Harley Quinn #1

by Matt Puddy

A couple of months ago, DC unveiled a fairly unique zero issue into the world. Featuring none other than the slightly deranged persona that pheonixed out of Dr Harleen Quinzel, Harley Quinn #0 was different in more ways than one. Firstly, instead of having a specific artist the issue was created with a plethora of talent, changing with every page or double spread to highlight her varying looks and style since her creation and inception. In some ways it's also representative of the various identities she has also displayed over time.

The other main difference was that as a character, Harley Quinn did something that very few (if any to my knowledge) DC characters have ever done. She broke the fourth wall by speaking to - and of - those outside of the comic. In true Harley Quinn fashion she didn’t just break it, she smashed it. Whereas the slightly unhinged Deadpool makes occasional wise cracks and comments to those outside of the comic (holding the final issue of Deadpool Kills The Marvel Universe to one side that is), Harley holds an open dialogue with the creative teams who are putting effort into making the issue. Name checking them as well as casting references, she works through the book to firstly showcase all of the talent but secondly explain who she was, who she is now, and what she may become. For some readers it will be reminiscent of John Byrne's Sensational She-Hulk. This all culminates in the news that she has been left a building by a former patient, thus opening the door wide for Harley Quinn #1.

I can’t really comment on all of different artists, but as a stand alone issue it works OK but is very choppy, although that seems to very much be the point. It doesn’t really fit with the new ongoing series, but also isn’t that incongruous with it either. If you’re planning to get the series on the whole then this one may be worth picking up to get further insight into the girl behind the make up and the approach taken by the writers behind this and the ongoing series, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner. Conner also provides the beautiful covers for this new series.

Harley Quinn #1 re-unites the two writers with Chad Hardin, who produced a few pages during the aforementioned zero issue. We find Harley packing up her remaining possessions and heading for Coney Island and her new abode, all on the back of a motorbike with her trusty stuffed beaver strapped to the front.

One of the most endearing features of Harley for me is that if you look at her she is not really an evil person. If anything she is a girl who loves a lot of things, an awful lot. So much so that it’s a little surprising that when looking for deputies at the end of Blackest Night the Star Sapphires didn't conscript her. So when she sees even a tiny injustice on her travels - this one concerning with a small unloved dog - all hell breaks loose. The following ride - complete with new canine companion - is garnished with a biker hitman. It appears that there is a price on Harley’s head set by an unknown bidder (with my guess being a twisted love letter from Mister J himself or the Suicide Squad trying to tie-up a loose end) The scene also gives us another one of Harley’s loves… her trusty mallet.

Upon finding her new home, which she thinks is incredibly fitting, the sheen and shine wears off when she realises that even though it’s a perfect opportunity for her, there are strings attached. Big hefty financial ones, but being a resourceful girl she has interviews quickly lined up. First one features a very vanilla-looking Harley going back into the medical profession, but her real character really shines in the second - a roller derby interview where she gets to let loose.

Harley Quinn #2 is out this week!
At the end of a tough day she gets to relax on her own private roof area where another assassin attempts to kill her off. Things aren’t perfect but they’re good. She has a place to live, a fun, rag-tag group of new friends including a new dog and potentially two jobs. OK, so there is a hit out on her as well but in her eyes is this really a problem?

It’s a really enjoyable story but does it make her a little too domesticated? Last time I read anything which was solely her, it was the terrible one shot for Villains' Month. My major problem is that from this first issue you can’t really see any deeper development on the horizon, except for finding out who wants her dead and why, although it does add a potentially interesting new supporting cast. If anything this is the sort of thing in today’s comics that becomes a minor subplot for most characters as there’s always someone somewhere who wants them dead.

Visually it’s a good looking comic which hits the mark often, but outside of that I am struggling a little to see what it offers. I want to like this comic a lot as it develops a fan favourite character, but I am struggling to really attach to it. I can only hope it gets a lot better in the coming issues.

Matt Puddy was wondering what had happened to this one - anyone would think Ben had a lot on his plate!

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