Harley Quinn, ex-psychiatrist turned chief henchlady and missus of the Joker, has exploded into her own series, which began on Wednesday with Harley Quinn 0.
The series, still under a week old, has already been one of DC’s more controversial, what with the whole Draw Your Own Harley Committing Suicide debacle. The offending page, which apparently would have made perfect sense in context, was removed from the finished product, so I guess we’ll never know just how tasteless a gag it was.
Still, onwards and upwards, right? With superstar comics couple Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti writing, and seventeen artists illustrating, including such greats as Adam Hughes and Darwyn Cooke, this book should be bigger and bang-ier than one of the Joker’s bomb pies.
In reality, Harley Quinn 0 revealed itself to be pure filler, filler of the blandest and most boring variety, with no plot and no character development. Not only is the book drowning in its own smug self-indulgence and cleverness at breaking the fourth wall but it is yet more proof of the lack of outward writing in comics. A worrying amount of storylines seem to be written exclusively for a certain type of comic-reading demographic, and Harley Quinn 0 is the figurehead of a movement that seems to be trying to exclude newcomers from comics.
But where the issue really stank was the cringingly self-referential nature of the script. Harley spends the book wondering what it would be like if she had her own comic. She is then visited by the ghostly voices of Conner and Palmiotti, who proceed to show her all the different artistic looks her book could have- this is where the seventeen artists come in, each one more winking and elbow nudging than the last. Imagine how A Christmas Carol would read if Scrooge were visited by David Copperfield, Oliver, and Dickens, and you would still have prose less riddled with self-gratification.
Harley’s teddy bear asks her why she doesn’t get those writers onboard for her comic, y’know, the one who draws big tits and the one who writes cowboy stuff. Then Palmiotti’s voice corrects the bear, stating that he’s from Brooklyn. If you’re not laughing, wait till you get to the point where they discuss all the other books Palmiotti writes, and how little sales they garner (well if this is the standard of writing to be found in them, it really isn’t a surprise). Finally, for ultimate giggles, turn to the scene where Harley gatecrashes Conner and Palmiotti’s wedding, and Palmiotti vows to kick Harley’s butt… BROOKLYN STYLE!!
If you’re not in hysterics, it’s probably because you’re not a forty-plus comic nerd who knows religiously all the different names and styles of nearly twenty people, and this comic is not meant for you, and never shall be, so please move along and interest yourself in something like Star Wars. We’re enjoying our incredibly mature comics, thank you very much.
I think the most annoying thing about the whole issue is that Palmiotti and Conner were people I previously liked and respected, especially Conner. I maintained that the duo had brought something worthwhile to the Power Girl series, despite all the ‘heh: boobs’ jokes. But Conner, when you have Darwyn Cooke draw you punching Harley Quinn and Cat Woman at your wedding whilst shouting ‘I’m Amanda Conner, bitches!’, that is the exact point where the script needs to be scrapped.
It would be unfair to not state the positives of the book. With some of the best artists in the 52niverse, it was always going to have some stunning artwork, but what I really enjoyed was the Thanksgiving spread DC had included at the back for the holidays, which featured what looked a lot like the Spoiler, so marking the return of Stephanie Brown. So yes. The best part of the book was the part that WAS NOT PART OF THE BOOK.
This was an opportunity to reach out and engage more people in comics, what with Harley’s growing popularity from her appearances in computer games and animation, but, because newcomers are scary, the book decided to make sure that only the right sort of people would enjoy this book, and to hell with the rest.
In short, issue 0 is staggering (and so not in a good way), fairly joyless, and is representative of almost all that is terrible in modern comics. Avoid at all costs.