Robot 6

‘Harley Quinn’ #1: Introducing DC’s answer to Deadpool?

harley quinn #1 coverIt’s been about 10 years since the first ongoing series of popular Batman: The Animated Series export Harley Quinn published its 38th and final issue, so she was due — if not overdue — for another shot, particularly given that DC Comics’ current strategy means publishing a certain number of books each month, and the market seems to be rejecting a lot of those. Looked at in that light, then, this week’s Harley Quinn #1 was something of an inevitability.

The character certainly hasn’t been idle all that time, of course: She was a frequent presence in the Bat-books, shared the 2009-2011 Gotham City Sirens with Catwoman and Poison Ivy, briefly joined the Gail Siomone-written Secret Six and, with the New 52 reboot, she received a new origin story and costume in the pages of Suicide Squad. And, of course, she appeared at least briefly in various Batman cartoons during that time, as well as in the extremely popular Batman: Arkham video games and the more recent Injustice: Gods Among Us.

Certainly the character is popular, and while different fans probably like her for different reasons, the important factors seem to be that 1.) she’s a lady, 2.) she’s a sexy lady, and 3.) she offers the same sense of anarchy and dark humor as her sometimes-boyfriend The Joker, but without the depravity. More often than not — particularly in the comics and cartoons — she’s as much antihero as villain, a safer alternative to The Joker, whose evil serial killer portrayal is no so deeply embedded into the character that it can be difficult for creators to walk him back toward any more lighthearted portrayals.

But here we find a problem with the New 52 Harley Quinn, who doesn’t look or act much like the original. She doesn’t have the all-ages parameters that the cartoons — and their comics adaptations —  enforced on her, nor is she the relative innocent she was in her previous series, where she was portrayed as Catwoman often is, a bad guy who’s not that bad. Her New 52 costume and portrayal seem more heavily informed by her scantily clad video game counterparts, and most of her New 52 appearances have been pretty adult in nature, even if they were portrayed in a somewhat-juvenile fashion: There was the weird sex scene with Deadshot in an early issue of Suicide Squad, the scene where she lay the Joker’s flayed-off face over a bound Deadshot a few issues. Later, during  the book’s “Death of the Family” crossover, there’s an instance in which The Joker paralyzes her and simulates fellatio with a straight razor, and then a horribly violent fight ensues in which they bite chunks out of each other.

And then in September’s Harley Quinn  “Villains Month” one-shot, which was technically Detective Comics #23.2, she kills somewhere between dozens and hundreds of innocent children in an exploding video game/terrorism plot.

The challenge for the creative team of her new book — co-writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti and artist Chad Hardin — then is to somehow find a happy medium between the former all-ages recovering Joker moll and the sexed-up, maniacal killer from the T+-rated New 52 Suicide Squad for a rated-T-for-Teen ongoing in which she’s to be a sympathetic protagonist. After an interesting, attention-getting start in Harley Quinn #0, in which a fourth wall-breaking Harley discussed who should draw her upcoming series with the disembodied voices of the writers while an all-star jam cast of artists drew a page a piece, their strategy becomes apparent in this, the first official issue of the new series: They plan on making her DC’s Deadpool.

There’s little sign of a story in this first issue, as so much of it is devoted to gags that didn’t strike me as inspired, original or funny, and to setting up the premise of the series.

As was covered in the last few pages of the zero issue, a former patient of Harley’s, from when she was still psychiatrist Dr. Harleen Quinzel, has left her a sizable piece of Coney Island property in his will. As this issue opens, she has all of her possessions packed in a gigantic sack tied to the back of her motorcycle, and is on her way to her new digs, conversing with a taxidermied beaver (which is funny because, while it’s an animal, it’s also a slang term for vagina!) that talks in a special “crazy” font, not unlike the voices in Deadpool’s head, that only she can hear. (Because she’s crazy! Get it?)

hipster attack

On the ride, she crosses paths with a hipster parody — thick-rimmed glasses, waxed mustache and a trucker hat, which I would assume even hipster parodies had stopped wearing at this point — talking on a cell phone, and dragging a dachshund on a leash behind him, apparently oblivious to the fact that it’s not walking (this scene was a little less clear than I would have liked, given how upsetting an issue animal cruelty is; there’s no indication whether he’s actively abusing the dog, or if the dog just doesn’t like having him for an owner or … what, exactly).

Harley administers justice by stealing his dog and then dragging the hipster behind her motorcycle with a bull-whip to an off-panel death. When an assassin targets her, she stops (resulting in the death of an innocent bystander) and savagely beats him with her prop hammer, eventually knocking off his head; it soars away like a gory comet, a tail of blood chasing it.

harley beats assassin

The mode then is ultra-violent slapstick, a character who operates on cartoon logic in the “real” world, unconcerned that those she interacts with aren’t themselves cartoon characters. Think DC’s Lobo, particularly during his 1990s heyday, or, more recently and relevantly, Marvel’s Deadpool.

When she arrives at her destination, she meets her neighbor, an apparent Danzig parody named Big Tony, and the mysterious lawyer who told her the premise of her new comic in the last pages of Issue 0. The latter proceeds to dump information about the comic on her for a few pages: To keep the building, Harley will have to serve as landlord and secure gainful employment to take care of back taxes. She does this by re-assuming her Dr. Quinzel identity and applying for a job. How exactly an infamous serial killer and terrorist with a public identity could get away with this isn’t addressed; perhaps it’s not common knowledge that the Dr. Harleen Quinzel who disappeared from Arkham Asylum at the same time as The Joker is the same person as Harley Quinn, who started appearing alongside him immediately afterward?

Then she puts together a new costume (see the cover) to try out for a local roller-derby team that not only pays its participants, but is willing to make exceptions for extreme violence because of its entertainment value. Luckily for Harley, this team also wears red and black.

And finally, a second person tries to murder her, alerting Harley that a hit has been put out on her. So that’s where the series is going: Harley is going to be a psychiatrist by day, roller girl by night, and supervillain/landlord to a Coney Island building full of quirky characters, for however long that lasts.

It’s not a terribly promising start, and certainly a disappointment after the fun zero issue (although that book’s uniqueness was what made it fun). But while the portrayal of the character and the tone of the book are hardly inspired (I’m not a fan of Lobo or Deadpool, so seeing their shticks appropriated by Harley Quinn didn’t exactly thrill me), while none of the gags really landed, while the plotting was too obvious and while it contained more than a few holes for readers who take things like the integrity of the DC Universe seriously, there have certainly been much worse first issues since the New 52 launch. Even one that featured this very same character!

The humor is all rather forced by the plot  and scripting rather than emerging organically from the character’s dialogue (the way Tom Taylor’s Harley is funny in the Injustice comic, for example), but I suppose a mediocre comic with a bad sense of humor is better than a mediocre comic (or a bad one) with no sense of humor.

As for the art, I would count myself among one of the many who wished Conner was penciling the interiors in addition to providing cover art and co-writing the comic, which might further the book’s potential as the New 52, supervillain answer to the DCU, superhero comic that was the Palmiotti co-written Power Girl. It’s well worth noting that, depending on the degree of realism deployed, Conner’s art may have helped sell the book as something sillier and cartoonier (imagine if Harley conked the guy with a hammer and he simply saw stars, like those on the cover).

Hardin is a talented artist, and he does a fine job on the characters of the book, filling the foregrounds and backgrounds of the panels with interesting-looking figures in a variety of shapes, sizes and, most interestingly, degrees of realism. He doesn’t just draw superheroes in civilian clothes throughout the book, for example;, he draws real people — or at least his versions of real people — plus the one super-character. The problem is his artwork is so realistic, and so close in style to so much of the rest of the New 52 line, that it brings with it a high degree of seriousness; the violence is thus more visceral, and easier to flinch at than laugh at.

That may have been what Conner and Palmiotti were going for, of course, but judged as a whole, it seems more likely they’re constructing a sort of  violent comic-book sitcom with a Deadpool-esque character, rather than attempting to present their Harley as a character who is scary and dangerous because hers is a diseased, cartoon brain in a live-action world of bone, blood and flesh.

It’s not a very good comic book, but I’m fairly certain it will be a very popular one.

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Comments

43 Comments

I was tempted to get it but resisted for now. I liked he helping the pooch though :)
With my limited knowledge of modern day Harley, she is a bit complex in her violence. Meaning that when she deems you and enemy, she will kill you in a very terrible way. But she doesn’t seem to kill people face to face. What I mean by this is while she may have killed hundreds of children via video game bombs…I don’t think she could take her hammer and whomp a kid’s head off.
She killed the guy being mean to the dog but in #0 issue, she gave a kiss to the guy that had a piece of costume she wanted for herself. I guess the rule with Harley is she will leave you alone a s a person if you don’t cross that ever shifting line in her head that makes you ok in her book or someone that deserves to get hurt.

While I thought the comic was a decent start, I couldn’t say it was more than that. Most of the humor didn’t work for me either, and I definitely didn’t like the talking to a taxidermied beaver because she’s crazy shtick. Of course, humor is one of the hardest things to get right.

What the issue did do well is set up the ongoing narrative.

Why would there be a “DC’s answer to Deadpool” when Deadpool was a Deathstroke parody to begin with?

“Answer to” is a bit strong, but I do believe that they’re in the same vein along with characters like Plastic Man and Madcap.

Deadpool is Marvel’s answer to Ambush Bug.

Well while I AM a fan of Deadpool and Lobo ( I am a huge fan of DP, even if he has been pushed on so many books by marvel that some of his charm has diminished) this looks like it is trying way way too hard to simply be a deadpool pastiche. “hey its gotta be wacky violent hilarity!”, it appears to be really forced

Have not read this. Don’t plan on it. When mistakes like “Dunno Know Who You Are” are made, I wonder to myself, how does crap like that make it to the printers. Obviously DC has cut back on their script readers.

DC just feels like they are only going for money, rather than making interesting comics. That’s why I dropped most of the DC titles I was collecting. Money grabbers first, sexy art second, story third. No thank you. I’ll put my money towards folks who actually care to tell a story; Image.

TO answer how she could get a job and not be arrested on site you have to remember she became a member of the Suicide Squad. As such all her past crimes were pardoned. As for her being essentially DC’s answer to Deadpool, well I think that is true but let us not forget Marvel even admits that Deadpool was himself a shameless rip off of Death Stroke, it just so happened that is personality mutated into the “Merc with the Mouth” Harley was an original character that sort of mutated into something similar to Deadpool so it all sort of makes sense in a strange demented sort of way, except harley is a lot sexier!!!!

Sorry I am a fan of the original and was wary of this series but I love it.. I love the violence.. I love her personality.. she’s not so ditsy but still fun..

I agree. Pretty lame book with some cheap attempts at slap-stick. It’s a shame too, because Harley has such great potential, but this is one book I’ll be passing one

What garbage

“Not a good book. Will be very popular.”

Yep, that about sums it up.

This was garbage. I can’t believe i bought it. Bad writing. Bad jokes. Bad Harley. I can’t believe i fell for that. And the worst part is that i’ve read some 10/10 reviews about it. This is too fishy DC. Too fishy…

In response to Mike Guy

Hi! I am one of the people who rated this comic high (8.5. Not a 10, but still high). There is absolutely nothing fishy about my score at all. I enjoyed it quite a bit and do not see how it is bad. It’s mostly setup, but it was enjoyable setup. I enjoyed the humor, I like this version of Harley (I am a big fan of character and as such, I can like more one interpretation of the character), I am quite curious about where the series will go (seeing her double as a therapist and a roller derby girl has potential), and though the writing was perfectly fine.

I would more along the lines describe this book more akin to Hawkeye, since it has a bit of similar vibe and scenario to it, but it’s far more upbeat and silly.

Sir, there is just nothing fishy. People have different tastes and opinions than your own and it’s as simple as that.

Wacky!!! You are smashed!!!

What the differences between the known Harley and the new one?? The old one done a comical action when her puddy was terrible. The new one is much more adult, the frontier between the bad/the right things is thin more than ever and, $@#&!!!!!!, we are more adult readers than before and the new readers are more mature than we were before.

So, this Harley is a reflection o the actual society with a strong humor not easy to assimilate for a lot of people. About Palmioti, have you read his The Pro???? And about Conner, have you read her The Pro, too??? Be adult sometimes!!!!!

Harley, it’s when you want, where you want, my cheesy-cake!!!

I wrote, on a differently website, about how disappointed I was that this was a shameless Deadpool analogue and got yelled at. I know that Deadpool started as a Deathstroke parody, but he soon evolved into his own character. Harley started as her own character and she’s being turned into a poorly written female Deadpool. It’s just kinda sad, because I used to like her as a character.

Ok, now i’m completely sure that something fishy is going on with this : ) Strange thing. Reader’s comments are mostly negative yet reviewers support the hell out of this. Don’t care. Won’t be following it. I just felt cheated for spending $3 on this one. And it’s never good when loyal readers feel cheated.

^The Pro was written by Ennis. Conner drew it and Palmiotti inked.

I just don’t see the charm in Ms. Quinn. I guess maybe I don’t find mental illness funny.

Oh and to Judge MASON who claims that the book is funny but readers just “don’t get it because you have to be smart like me to understand the delicate humour”.

Well, you are making things worse. It’s not that readers didn’t get the jokes. It’s just that the jokes were bad and the idea is bad. We are having two contradicting Harley Quinns. The one is a child murderer and the other is a happy go lucky psycho. They should either claim that this is Elseworlds and nothing else matters or at least they respect the readers that are confused about what the hell is going on with her.

still a terrible costume.

Yeah, DC dropped the ball when they had her mass murder thousands of CHILDREN for funsies without any consequences. It happened in Gotham, right? How is that not the only thing Batman is concerned with until he finds her and throws her in a deep dark hole?

Harley Quinn was Deadpool before there was a Deadpool.
Deadpool has been aping the likes of Harley Quinn and Ambush Bug.

And Harley is gonna be around long after Black Widow, Elektra, She-Hulk, and Captain Marvel have been canceled. Again.

“Have not read this. Don’t plan on it. ”

yet you’ll comment on terrible you think it is….

Kelly you shouldn’t make posts like this. You are just making the rest Harley Quinn fans look bad. I love Harley but Black Widow, Elektra, She-Hulk, and Captain Marvel are also great characters. I love Harley but i have to admit that her new ongoing is not that good.

“Harley Quinn was Deadpool before there was a Deadpool.”

Actually Deadpool debuted before Harley Quinn.

So they’re gonna pretend that her Villain’s Month never existed? That’s bulls###. I want to see Batman going on Harley hunt. This is too big to simply ignore it. Matt Kindt took the time and wrote a good story with a great climax and then nothing. What did you expect from Harley? She was Joker’s lover for all those years. She is a psychotic murderer. Not a hero. Palmiotti should at least acknowledge it.

I don’t see the problem, frankly. Although I enjoyed the previous HQ series, I always found the notion of Harley as “cute and innocent” to be rather boldly incongruous with her station as the devoted love interest of a mass murdering psychotic.

Kelly- Harley Quinn first appeared in September 11, 1992 in an episode of the Batman Animated series; while Deadpool made his first appearance in New Mutants 98 in February 1991.

Something tells me that if they didn’t do the whole hipster sequence this book might have gotten a much better review from the author. Seems they hit a nerve there.

@Ron What do you mean with:

“She is a psychotic murderer. Not a hero. Palmiotti should at least acknowledge it.”

Wasn’t she a psychotic murderer in this book? Pretty sure that guy whose head she knocked off is dead. ;)

I freely admit that I have not read this book. However, the description of the book in this review, and the description of Harley’s more recent adventures (ie, The Joker, razor blade, flayed face, etc., etc.) reminds me of why I Make Mine Marvel. DC writers need to stop watching Saw movies.

In reply to Richard

Simple, Batman does not know about it. He’s a bit preoccupied with the whole Crime Syndicate situation and all the missing heroes.

In reply to Mike Guy

Yes there are negative comments, here! In an article that is negative about the series. Have you read comments for reviews that are positive elsewhere? Have you seen the discussion board topic here about the latest issue? There are plenty of people who like it. You can’t base the entire opinion of the comic based on the reactions of just this select group of people commenting in this one article on the vast Internet.

To Caleb:
The first 12 issues of Power Girl and (I believe ) all 70 issues of Jonah Hex were written by Palmiotti.
So that puts the count at atleast 82 comics that are worth reading. Also, assumably atleast 82 more comics than you have written.
And incidentally, Harley Quinn #1 makes it atleast 83.

This looks and feels like a Deviantart fan comic. The humour is terrible and the art looks bad on paper. Perhaps the digital edition looks better. Very disappointed. Power Girl was great but this one is just bad. As for the villain month story, i want some answers on this one. She can’t be left unpunished. Readers are not stupid.

i thought Deathstroke / Slade Wilson was DC’s answer to Deadpool?

THERE IS NO ANSWER TO DEADPOOL.

Deathstroke predates Deadpool by a decade.

The new 52 has DESTROYED Harley Quinn. Bruce Timm and Dini must be ashamed of what has happened to their lovable creation. I blame Jim Lee in the first place for that atrocious re-design.

for all of the nonsense , posted here , we sold out by Saturday night , of our 200+ copies. And the ones that did not have in on their pull list , added it for the most part. Our pull numbers now at 194 people. So the majority of people enjoyed this

@Any, so my opinion is nonsense. The fact that it sells well does not necessarily mean that it’s good.

Gotta love some sassy and sexy Harley Quinn!!

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