Friday, January 29, 2016

Harley Quinn: Hot in the City Comic Review

by The Wanderer   

Authors: Jimmy Palmiotti 
Illustrators: Amanda Conner and Chad Hardin
Publisher: DC
Genre: Superhero
Series: New 52 Volume 1

Buy on Amazon!

One of the two greatest character creations from Batman: The Animated Series, Harley Quinn gets her own comic as part of DC’s New 52 relaunch.  Thus far I have not been a fan of DC’s New 52 comics, they’ve been decent at best, and sadly this comic is no different. Below is back-cover quote from Amazon about the plot:

“Fresh from BATMAN: DEATH OF THE FAMILY and SUICIDE SQUAD, Harley Quinn returns to her first solo series in the New 52! The writing team of Jimmy Palmiotti (ALL STAR WESTERN) and Amanda Conner (BEFORE WATCHMEN: SILK SPECTRE) unleashed Harley on an unsuspecting DC Universe, as she encounters various heroes and villains … and leaves no one unscathed in her wake! With art by Chad Hardin and a slew of comics’ best artists including Darwyn Cooke, Sam Kieth, Tony S. Daniel, Paul Pope, Walter Simonson and Art Baltazar!”

Two things should immediately standout with this quote.  One: there’s no mention of a plot … because guess what … there isn’t much of a plot (only a weak shadow of one).  Two: there are a lot of artists mentioned here, a lot more than you will find in any other typical comic.

As for the large number of artists, credit the beginning of the comic, which begins with Harley breaking the fourth wall and trying to find a comic book artist to draw her.  Page by page the artists mentioned in the quote above give their takes on drawing a few Harley panels.  I liked the concept from a visual perspective. The artists do an excellent job, and there are a wide variety of styles including a few that don’t normally mesh with American superheroes.  But that’s the fun in it.  The writing that goes on during these panels was something I didn’t like, mainly because the writers use a bunch of snarky commentary over the drawings that ultimately turn a slick idea into a glib one.

From there we’re introduced to what’s supposed to be the plot: Harley inherits an apartment complex in Coney Island, and soon finds there’s a two million dollar hit that’s put on her.  Well it’s pretty obvious who put the hit on Harley … so what’s supposed to be the conclusion to this volume is blown right as soon as this is plot introduced.  The rest of the story functions like “A Day in the Life,” of Harley Quinn.  Some of these day in the life moments are pretty entertaining, others are not.

The point being this is a real hit or miss comic.  A huge miss is the section where Harley rubs on some of Poison Ivy’s seduction scent, and has to defend herself from a bunch of cops and criminals. That’s a worn out story that I’m tired of reading, and quite frankly I was surprised that something more original couldn’t have been substituted there. Speaking of Poison Ivy, there’s a lot of sexual teasing there, especially once she shows up and starts to turn things lesbian.  This doesn’t feel all that natural, and the writing here looks to fulfill the sexual fantasies of some nerds rather than create a relationship that could be potentially satisfying from a storytelling perspective.  Don’t get me wrong Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn hooking up could be a sweet thing, but they can do that while still crafting a more serious relationship.

On the positive end, if you have a dark sense of humor, which I most certainly do, then there are sections that can be pretty entertaining.  This is especially true once Harley resorts to using her real name (Harleen Quinzel) to find a job as a therapist at an old-folks home.  Harley’s version of helping old people gives us Harley at her most sociopathic.  Despite the violence she uses, she becomes oddly endearing.

Harley not being in Gotham is a bold stroke.  One that’s intended to allow the character to grow on her own with relying on a lot of her famous counterparts like the Joker and Batman. Both of whom are barely in this volume, or are not even in it at all. With a few sections that are complete misses and the lack of a strong coherent plot, I can only recommend this with some serious reservations.

Score: 6.3

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