Review: Harley Quinn #1

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Though reviews for this week’s Suicide Squad just started hitting the web yesterday, the consensus so far is that Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn is the best thing about a disastrous misfire. Likewise, Harley has always been the standout member of the comic book version of Task Force X. While the whole Squad is getting the Rebirth treatment this week, Harley’s own book is also getting a reboot—just one week after her previous series ended. Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti retain writing duties here and they clearly have a good handle on the character. Their plotting, however, leaves a bit to be desired.

The issue starts, surprisingly, with Harley and Poison Ivy sharing a relaxing spa day. While the characters have only canonically dated in the World War II era alternate universe of DC’s Bombshells, Conner and Palmiotti have done everything possible to suggest a romantic relationship between the characters short of outright stating it. That’s true here as Harley repeatedly hits on Ivy to no avail. The whole interaction is fairly fan-service-y, but it also makes it clear how desperately Harley wants a deeper connection with Ivy. It’s such a strong element of those first few pages that it’s easy to assume Harley’s search for connection–with or without Ivy–will be the book’s focus going forward. Instead, we unceremoniously abandon it to go straight into a recap of Harely’s past.

Harley Quinn is one of the more well-known figures in comics, so the pages we spend reading her origin story feel like filler at best and a waste of time at worst. Conner and Palmiotti try to mitigate that frustration by having Red Tool quip, “Of course I know all that,” at the end of it, but the joke doesn’t entirely excuse the choice. Still, that section of the issue would be even more annoying if it didn’t end up being the best thing about Harley Quinn #1.

Though we spend almost half the issue on flashbacks and unrequited Sapphic romances, the bulk of it focuses on a pretty bizarre zombie plot that has no apparent connection to either Harley’s past or her desire for connection. Granted, the cause of Coney Island’s sudden zombie infestation is wonderfully absurd (it involves a very hapless alien), it still feels like a sharp–and silly–turn from the rest of the issue. While Conner and Palmiotti should be commended for trying to make a book that’s an antidote to the rest of the rest of the DCU’s gloomy self-seriousness, it’s disappointing they don’t seem to have any higher aspiration for the character. After all, as Harley herself points out, she doesn’t like playing the ditz. She only did it because that’s the way the Joker liked her best. It’s a shame her own series doesn’t seem to respect that.

Rating: 5/10

By day, Marisa Carpico stresses over America’s election system. By night, she becomes a pop culture obsessive. Whether it’s movies, TV or music, she watches and listens to it all so you don’t have to.