‘Harley Quinn’ shows us a Harley not defined by her relationship to the Joker

 

Harley Quinn Seriesharley covers
Written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti
Art by Chad Hardin and Stephane Roux
Colors by Alex Sinclair
Letterer John J. Hill
Covers by Amanda Conner and Paul Mount
Published by DC Comics 

DC’s current Harley Quinn ongoing series does something that has never been done with the character: it gives her an identity not defined by the Joker. Quinn has forever been the long suffering companion to the Clown Prince of Crime, so much so that it’s hard to think of her as her own character and not just an extension of the Joker. DC must have felt the same way because when they started everything over with the New 52, they gave the character of Harley Quinn a complete makeover. Gone are the days of the red and black jester suit and domino mask. The new Dr. Harleen Quinnzel favors red and black bustiers and matching booty shorts. Her hair and eyeshadow now match the red and black color scheme of her clothing; the hair split evenly down the middle one side red, the other black. It would also appear that this Harley Quinn has at some point taken the same chemical bath as the Joker because her skin is permanently stained chalk white.

That’s not to say that everything from pre-52 Harley Quinn is gone. She still favors a giant mallet as a weapon of choice and she’s still crazier than a outhouse bat. Quinn also still chums around with fellow femme fatale Poison Ivy who from issue #2 on, pops in and out of the book occasionally – and even if the Joker is never seen, she does mention him a few times. It’s clear though that the changes far outnumber the similarities.

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All these superficial changes mean nothing though if we aren’t given a fresh take on Harley, and writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti give us just that by moving her out of Gotham and into New York, specifically Coney Island. A former patient dies and leaves Harley a tenement building in his will complete with a cast of built in supporting characters. The most prominent of these is Big Tony a man of short stature who looks like a caricature of Glen Danzig. Big Tony becomes a not entirely unwilling accomplice to many of Harley’s shenanigans.

Along with the building Harley inherits some debt , namely back taxes, causing her to seek employment as a therapist at an assisted living facility, along with a night job playing Roller Derby. Throughout all of this, Harley is trying to find out who put a one million dollar bounty on her head causing several assassins to keep attacking her at inopportune moments. Despite the two jobs and having to fight off countless hit-men, Harley still finds time to: terrorize the family of one of her patients in a misguided attempt to help the women; free all the animals from a kill shelter; and assist another patient named Sy Borg in killing a bunch of elderly communist spies that have been hiding in America for fifty years.

harley1These are all just situations and plot points though, you could insert anyone into them and have a comic book. The real question is who is Harley Quinn without the Joker around? The answer is Deadpool. Harley has become essentially a female version of the Merc with the Mouth. Instead of just having different voices in her head she talks to a stuffed beaver named Bernie whom only she can hear talking back. Harley has become an utraviolent killer dispatching anyone trying to collect the bounty for her in increasingly gory ways with a myriad of weapons. You can feel that they are trying to turn the character into an antihero; a crazy antihero that talks to herself, murders people worse than her, and has a few quirky sidekicks. It’s all very reminiscent of Joe Kelley’s work on the first Deadpool ongoing series. This may be intentional seeing as how Jimmy Palmiotti has also written Deadpool.

Is the new Harley’s similarity to Deadpool a bad thing though? Marvel and DCHarley copy each others characters all the time. Quicksilver and The Flash, Dr. Fate and Dr. Strange, Man-Thing and Swamp Thing – the list goes on and on. Deadpool himself started out as a rip off of Deathstroke. Personally, I like the new direction that Harley Quinn has taken. When let off the Joker’s leash and allowed to stretch her legs, Harley becomes a much more interesting character.

Chad Hardin and Stephane Roux switch off on art duties around every other issue. With issue #2 done by both of them. Both artists do amazing work especially when it comes to the title character. Reactions to Harley’s new look may be mixed but there is no denying that Hardin and Roux render it beautifully.

Harley Quinn is worth picking up if you are willing to try a new take on an old favorite, if you’re a fan of Deadpool, or if you enjoy DC’s other New 52 titles.The series is only up to issue #7 so it’s not too late to catch up. If you’re a diehard Paul Dini/Bruce Timm fan you may not like the new direction that Conner, Palmiotti , Hardin and Roux have taken the character. For the most part though, Harley fans should dig this series.

– Zachary Zagranis

 

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