Brightest Daycare

Harley's Little Black Book #1 Review

review postRyan ClarkComment
 Harley's Little Black Book #1 Variant covers by J. Scott Campbell

Harley's Little Black Book #1 Variant covers by J. Scott Campbell

I had been a bit reserved in my judgment of Harley Quinn, even though with the New 52 version of the character, she really didn’t have a whole lot to offer me that I found interesting. I had always thought of Harley as a bit more one-dimensional sidekick than a dynamic leading lady, and the new version of Harley sans-Mistah J was something I took some getting used to. But I read the first trade for Episode Three of the Comics With Your Mom segment on my podcast, and I actually found myself enjoying the entire arc as a single entity. Now, that is not to say that the book as it stands didn’t go further and do more to seem like a ridiculous caricature of the character that I had been enamored with since my childhood watching the Batman: Animated Series, but I stopped reading after that first volume and this was really my first attempt to return.

I also love Wonder Woman, specifically the Azzarello/Chiang version, so this book seemed to be speaking to me as a way to try and get back into Harley, and maybe even to give the WW a second chance, too. So I picked up the book, I specifically got the J. Scott Campbell polybagged variant, in the hopes that getting a nice JSC variant would offset the potential for disappointment from the issue itself. Luck would have it that I actually got the “inks” variant, which looks gorgeous- Campbell’s black and white art is some of my favorite, and it just looks STELLAR; the only downside to this issue being that the cover is the super slick, glossy cover- so if I was ever to try and get JSC to sign the book, I would need a paint pen or something to make his scribble stick.

But the issue itself offered little downside, other than the typical moments that I have come to expect (and also dread) from a Harley Quinn book. The overwrought use of “holy (insert word here)-a-molee!” only had one appearance here, but it was more than enough to remind me of just how many freaking times I had to read that terribly lame attempt at humor in the main HQ series. The other moment that really seemed unnecessary and to really just drag the story down was the talking beaver who made mention of some unspeakably evil or gross or just terrible “closet” that Harley has hidden, that “no one should ever see the other one. EVER.” In contrast to her Wonder Woman fanclub closet which was cute and fun and nice and harkened back to a time when HQ was just Harleen Quinzel, nerdy girl who got picked on a lot and who idolized Wonder Woman.

One thing that felt a bit off to me, and maybe was just overlooked by editorial (which is an excuse that is as overused as “Holy Editorial-gaffe-a-rollee!”) where Harley has two different color eyes; and not the iris, like maybe she has heterochromia iridis, no- the white of her eyes are two different shades, but in two of the four previous panels, her eyes are both the same shade of white. From there, though- I have a lot less to complain about. Maybe it is because the story actually interested me, or maybe it is because I was already sick of looking for flaws in the first three pages.

Regardless, the rest of the story worked pretty well, I enjoyed the subdued nature of Harley in the rest of the story- only going over the top when she was around Wonder Woman, which makes sense, because HQ would fangirl SUPER HARD over WW. I liked the travel sequence, and seeing the London Legion of Superheroes was a bit less annoying than I was expecting; they were still not great- I didn’t think that Pub Crawler was anything more than just a ham fisted jab at drunk Brits, and Big Ben being a somewhat subtle (but not really) homosexual character who has a weird affinity for Batman. The female characters seem like they would probably draw the ire of many Social Justice Warriors, because Double Decker is a plus sized woman who is seemingly powerless save for her stature, and Tiffany Terror doesn’t seem to do much besides complain and make half-hearted attempts to emasculate Big Ben. So maybe, on second thought, the London Legion is pretty awful- and hopefully that was the intention.

The sequence that seemed to bother me the least was when Harley pretends to be a flower delivery person and then in turn gasses Wonder Woman in her home, then drags her lifeless body into the bathroom and strips her naked (stay with me here, this isn’t slashfic) and puts on her costume to pretend to be Wonder Woman. Which is what sets up the scene that the main cover art teases- Harley in an oversized Wonder Woman outfit and WW in a very tight HQ suit. Which may titillate some, but to me it just was fun and funny. Though showing a nude and unconscious Wonder Woman in her bathtub was a bit unnecessary, but then again, unnecessary could be used any number of times for Harley Quinn.

The fight scene between Harley/Wonder Woman and The Barmy Bugger was pretty impressive, and the artwork through the issue was pretty good. I don’t think I would go around handing out copies of this book to people to try and get them to start reading comic books, but I think that for someone who wants to try and give HQ a second (or third, or fourth) chance in comics, then this is as good a place to start as any- I wish that I could speak to her time with the Suicide Squad, or that she had a bigger role in the current Deathstroke story arc, but this is all she has at the moment, so if you’re thinking about checking out Harley Quinn, this is as good a place as any.

I have to say that this book was nowhere near as bad as I was expecting- like I said, I was hanging my hopes on the variant cover for this book being it’s saving grace, and I really don’t think I would have been too upset overall if I HADN’T gotten a variant cover. The price tag is a bit steep, with every dollar counting when it comes to comics; so a $5 issue is never an easy sell. I am betting this book still sells well, and that there will be a few copies of the bagged variants out there selling for big money in the short term, but in the long term, I don’t know if this book will really be a sought after book, or if it will be in the bargain bins alongside dozens of copies of polybagged Image comics and Death and Return of Superman issues.

This issue was a lot more than I was expecting, and I think that people who are unfamiliar with Harley will be pleasantly surprised with the results given in this issue. I don’t know if it can really support an entire miniseries of team-ups including HQ, but if I look at this as a first issue (and for me, probably the ONLY issue) it is not as tough to deal with as I thought. So if you enjoy Harley, you will most likely enjoy this book, because it doesn’t seem to be blazing any new trails for the character, but with someone who was created as such a one note character, it is hard for them to ever blaze a trail, let alone to break out of the role they are already cast in. Check this book out, because if you are willing to plunk down $5 for it, then you’re most likely already half convinced you’ll enjoy it (or more than half) and it will be a funny, goofy, weird ride.