Harley Quinn #0 Review: Don’tcha Wanna Rev Up Your Harley?

The New 52 DCU gets injected with some much needed levity in the wonderfully self-referential, fourth-wall breaking Harley Quinn #0, written by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, and featuring the artwork of a cadre of talented artists. Now would be the perfect time for a quick bathroom break…Back? Ok, here we go:

Charlie Adlard, Art Baltazar, Becky Cloonan, Darwyn Cooke, Tony S. Daniel, Sam Kieth, Bruce Timm, Jim Lee, Stephane Roux, Tradd Moore, Chad Hardin, Adam Hughes, Dave Johnson, Dan Panosian, Jeremy Roberts, and Walter Simonson.

Whew.

So how was the title? Did you not look at that list of artists, puddin’?!?

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artwork by Darwyn Cook – note the “Boob Window” – an homage to Conner’s work on Power Girl

Positives

This book is positively hysterical. The framing device used by Conner and Palmiotti works wonderfully. Basically, Harley is sitting around, contemplating her life, when a pair of disembodied voices appear and guide her along a wacky journey. These voices are, of course, the voices of the writers themselves, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. The journey? Well, to find the perfect artist for the book, of course! This issue breaks fourth walls more often than Deadpool (but in a more interesting, less played out kind of way). It is also incredibly self referential. Every artist (each is given a page to work with) is named by Harley. And no one is safe from her satirical wit.

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cover artwork by Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts

Walt Simonson, Jim Lee, and even poor Adam Hughes are named and poked fun at. It feels like a chat room, with each self entitled comic fan hurling insults at one another. Except, being as this book DID make it past editorial (a joke referenced a few times in this issue), all of the humor is good-natured fun. Fun. Wow. Feels like a long time since DC has cornered the market on that, huh?

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artwork by Jeremy Roberts

Speaking of the art, congratulations to the winner of the art contest – Jeremy Roberts! *applause*

I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least touch on the “controversy” surrounding the art auditions for this illustrious page. Back in the summer, when Harley Quinn was announced, the submission guidelines outlined specific instructions on what the content could be.

Harley had to be in the buff, in a bathtub, contemplating suicide. Palmiotti clarified that the scene was supposed to be a “dream scene” and darkly humorous. According to CBR, however, the damage had been done, as various organizations such as The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Psychiatric Association and National Alliance on Mental Illness called the contest “extremely insensitive” and “potentially dangerous.”

This led to the scene being excised from the printed issue. I’m not going to debate the merits of the “controversy” here, but I will say that its removal is a good thing for this issue. It allows the book to be read on it’s own merits, without controversy.

And Mr. Roberts, kudos to you, your pencils were very clean and professional. We at DCN wish you a long and happy comic career, should you choose to pursue it!

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artwork by Art Baltazar

Negatives

As is the case with any book with multiple artists, some of the artwork is better than others. Everyone has different personal tastes. However, the use of varying artists is in line with the story that Palmiotti and Conner are telling, so it does not feel out of place, or like one artist is trying to match another (as has been the case with other artists, say Sudzuka and Akins emulating Cliff Chiang in Wonder Woman, for instance). Also, while the issue is fun and irreverent, it does not begin to delve into Harley’s story until the final two pages. This may frustrate some readers but given that this is issue #0 and not issue #1, it hardly seems fair to fault the writers for that.

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“Mad Love” – by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini

Final Verdict:

rating5outof5

Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti craft an excitingly fashionable tale that is genuinely funny and satirical. With the help of 17 phenomenal artists, Harley Quinn #0 begins the series on the just the right foot, leaving the reader begging for more. And just which of those artists will be the ongoing series penciller? You’ll have to read to find out!

Let’s just hope he doesn’t need a fill-in artist by issue two.

  • stultiloquy

    I love how DC runs a talent search for ‘New, Undiscovered Talent’, and then just makes the winner a guy who has been working on and off for them and other publishers for the past 10 years.

    Totally legit contest, that. Thanks for wasting everyone’s time, DC.