It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Harley Quinn as a character. After her first introduction in Batman: The Animated Series she became so popular with fans that she made the transition into comic book continuity seamlessly, and she could do this because she was so well realised. Of course she was beautiful but she was also strong, intelligent (when she wasn’t trying to hide it), funny and took an optimistic outlook that bordered on the extreme. Sure, she was a little bat-shit-crazy but she had a tragic element that resonated with a lot of us; she was in love with someone who was incapable of loving her back. Literally. That guy’s a narcissistic sociopath.
Then there was THAT episode where she teamed up with Poison Ivy.
The problem with her these days, though, is that DC just doesn’t have a clue what to do with her. Suicide Squad gave her a couple of ok moments but somewhere along the line it was decided that she couldn’t be sexy unless she was half naked all the time and while I liked one moment of terrified humanity during Death of the Family all it really did was prove to us that a character born of a Saturday morning cartoon doesn’t work particularly well with a Joker that would casually remove his own face. So after breaking up the second most dysfunctional romantic relationship in comic history (After going back and reading The Killing Joke I realise that the top title goes to Batman and Joker) Harley Quinn is striking out on her own and I really hoped DC wouldn’t muck this up.
Harley Quinn #1 is a reskinned Deadpool without the healing factor. I was going to step easily around that revelation, but there really is no sugar coating it. After the enjoyable fourth wall shattering zero issue where she goes through different artists to try and work out her new look we find out that she’s been left an old apartment building from a deceased former patient and she sets out to make a new life for herself.
If that sounds like the tenuous premise for a sitcom spin-off then the rest of the issue will feel like a pilot episode for that same sitcom spin-off. Given how DC can often seem overly serious that is actually a good thing, even if it does feel like a cross between Deadpool and The Golden Palace (ask your parents).
And yes, that feeling that someone read a little too much Deadpool sticks throughout the book, everything from the jokes to her talking beaver feel ripped straight from those pages and while it does seem to be taking the character in a different direction it’s a preference to the road she was on previously. The artwork too is certainly on the more cartoony side but for the most part it does look very nice indeed. Occasionally faces will look a little too much like caricatures (or worse look like they’ve been heavily photo-referenced to the point of looking like other people) but it doesn’t break thematically from the story that’s being told.
Fortunately it’s not a bad story either. Yes, it suffers from trying to cram too much exposition into the pages but it’s one of those pilot episode conceits that will hopefully leave up the rest of the series to pace itself with so much already established… unfortunately there IS a lot established. She has a new home, new financial concerns, two new jobs, a team of cookie-cutter supporting characters and even a bounty on her head; with so many threads the future could see them either woven deftly into an engaging read, or else unravel into a roller derby style bloody mess. But it’s certainly worth giving a read.
I give it 4 talking beavers which are optimistically telling me to read the next issue... and also to burn things.