Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Harley Quinn Book 1: Hot In The City (#0-8)

"Romance.  Who needs it?  I've got all the unconditional love I need right here" - Harley Quinn

Well let's lighten the mood a little now, Harley Quinn's New 52 series was something of a breath of fresh air amongst the doom, gore and gloom of the majority of the rest of the line.  I've already covered her team up miniseries with Power Girl that happened later in this solo series of Harley's but this is her ongoing that debuted in December 2013 and has been going ever since.  If you don't know much about Harley here's a potted history.  She first appeared in Batman:  The Animated Series as Harleen Quinzel the former psychiatrist of The Joker's who became his partner in crime and girlfriend although the relationship was something of an abusive one.  After joining the New 52 Suicide Squad (and you'll be seeing her as part of the team in the Suicide Squad film in August), she was given her own series where she functions much as Deadpool does in the Marvel Universe.  She has no respect for the fourth wall, is a pansexual and somewhat homicidal anti-hero and just generally larks about having a laugh.  She's no longer the Joker's girlfriend after he blew up her home and set fire to her beaver (No not like that perverts!  I mean the stuffed beaver called Bernie who she likes to chat with.  Tsk) and in this series is striking out on her own though she has a casual relationship with Poison Ivy going on now.  The issue #0 I'm not going to cover in any detail because it is basically Harley auditioning artists to draw her new series, with single pages from the likes of Batman: TAS's Bruce Timm and the late Darwyn Cooke amongst those responding. 
Issue Zero: Serious talent involved.
In the end she chooses Chad Hardin, with Stephane Roux (see the Harley Quinn and Power Girl mini I covered a couple of months ago) as a back-up and writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti who put in a cameo appearence at the end. Conner is an artist as well and is also responsible for the fantastic covers each issue has.  After she was told she'd inherited some New York Coney Island property at the end of issue #0 from an old Arkham Asylum patient of hers we join Harley in issue #1 driving her motorbike with what's left of all her possessions on it to check her new place out.

She waits at some lights and a hipster is dragging a sad looking daschund along behind him. The dog implores her and so she takes him.  They drive on, then a masked man pulls up along side with a shotgun and fires at Harley.  He misses but causes a crash and pile up.  Annoyed she wallops his head off with her giant mallet.
Stop. Hammer Time.
Finally she arrives, it is a four floor building with a Freakshow, Creepshow and Criminal House of Wax as some of the businesses there. The real estate agent shows her around.  The second floor is flats where the people who run the businesses live.  The third floor is empty, mainly storage and lumber and the fourth floor is a living space with access via an elevator of its own and roof access too.

Harley: "I think I've died and gone to heaven"

It's almost too perfect she thinks and the estate agent hits her with the bad news.  She is to be responsible for the back taxes, real estate taxes, insurance and upkeep.  The tenant's rents don't cover all this so she will have to earn about six thousand extra a month to keep the place.
Harley's new digs.
Later Tony, a small man who looks after security in the building, gives her a welcome gift, a local newspaper with the help wanted section circled, a milky coffee and a Brooklyn everything bagel with cheese.  This makes her happy and she gives Tony a hug and the person looking at her through a sniper scope can't make the shot.

So she uses make-up to give her a normal skin tone and applies for a job at a mental health clinic as a counselor using faked references.  They say they'll call her back.  Then she tries out for Roller Derby and the team are impressed with her violence and hire there and then.

Later that night Harley is lying out on the roof of the building saying how much she in enjoying the secutity having a place of her own gives her.

Harley:  There's no place like home.

Then Tony appears and shoots the assassin who was about to attack Harley from behind.  Harley rummages around in the assassin's clothes and finds a flyer, it has a bounty listed on her head for two million dollars!
Still has feelings for the Joker.
Next day Harley is looking round the House of Wax which has models of all famous criminals including The Joker.  Harley spots a fridge and realises she needs one of her own and goes and purchases one.  Outside she sees a demonstration, a pet shelter is going to put down fifty animals tommorrow if they don't get adopted.  Harley applies to adopt but the woman she hands the form to rips it up.

So Harley calls Poison Ivy to come and help with her plan.  While she waits, she hangs out with Bernie at her place.  Then the corpse of the hitman comes to life causing Harley to jump in fright.  But it's just Ivy standing on the fire escape using her vines to make him move.  Harley is relieved, "I don't know if I wanna kill you or kiss you".  Ivy replies, "kisses please."  Harley then says:

Harley: "You wanna meet my beaver?"

Ivy: "Um.. Okay... why not?

Harley: [shows her Bernie]  Bernie, meet Poison Ivy, Bernie.

Ivy: "Oh.. it's an actual beaver.  And he's burnt".

A well stuffed beaver is such a rich source of double entendre.  So after that at night they go to the shelter and let all the animals out.  Who promptly all run away.  Harley and Ivy split up to round them up and take them back to Harley's place.
"Rescuing" the animals.
Once she is alone, someone in a car tries to run her down.  She jumps onto the roof and chokes the man with a pair of giant pliers and he tells her that her address has been posted online with the bounty.  She throws him through a butcher's window and ties him up with sausages and this attracts the dogs so she leads him and them back to her building.

Ivy has already got the cats and birds there, so Harley decides to put the dogs on the third floor.  She then tosses the sausage wrapped hitman to the dogs and they make short work of him.  Next day Ivy wakes first and goes downstairs and makes floor three an indoor forest area with trees and grass.
Ivy and Harley make a cute couple.
Pleased with this, Harley is asked by Tony what she plans to do with all the poo that's going to need to be dealt with.  She says she has an idea, and is Tony good at building stuff?  He says he is, so she tells him she has "something spectacular" planned.

We next find Harley on valentines day attending the Creepshow.  She is ambushed by a hitman in there but kills him with his own shotgun and as she leaves, tells the proprietor she left something scary in there for him.

Brooding about her lack of a date she finds Tony looking similarly despondant holding some flowers.  He was going to ask Queenie out but she's gone out with someone else instead.  He gives Harley the flowers and leaves sadly.  In the bath later Harley complains about all the romance on TV, Bernie says "admit it fruitcakes.  You're lonely".

Bernie: "You need to put your ass out there, meet new people and sell your wares.  Giving all your attention to just your pet beaver will make you appear antisocial".
Pondering Valentines Day.
Harley spots a plant Ivy left her and eats a berry from it.  Then she gets a call from the nursing home she applied to be a therapist at, she's got the job.  To celebrate she dolls herself up and gets ready to hit a singles bar.

Harley: "Look out world, here I come!  I'll never understand why Superman wears the same outfit every damn day."

She strolls on out, but the berry gives off some sort of scent that affects the driver of a bus full of criminals and he crashes it and they all escape.

Each one of them smells a different delicious smell coming from Harley and advance on her.  She runs into a hardware store and battles them inside using the likes of strimmers and drills until there is only one left and she blows him up.
Harley deals with the besotted criminals.
She goes back outside and is kissed by the policewoman who was called out, much to the policewoman's surprise because she isn't into girls.  But Harley smells like the best donut ever.  Harley runs home realising the berry was causing all this and catapaults the plant out of her home.

Then Tony appears, the berry has worn off and he asks Harley for the flowers back so he can fight for Queenie.  Harley gives him the flowers and the last berry saying it'll "give you an edge".  Then she goes and plays with the cats and dogs for a while.  She ruminates on how Valentine's Day is the meanest holiday there is.  But as she leaves to go for a walk she sees Tony being hugged by Queenie and a man and thinks:

Harley: "Although it is awfully nice to play Cupid every once in a while."

Next day Harley disguises herself and gets ready to attend her first day at the clinic.  She meets with Tony who has the plans for the mysterious contraption she wants building which he negociates four months rent free to do so.
A tale of woe and neglect.
Her first patient is an old lady called Mrs. Rubenstein who tells her a sob story about how her son rarely even calls her and she hasn't seen her grandson in ages and she thinks they are just waiting for a big blood clot to claim her life.  Harley says they'll talk again on friday, Mrs Rubenstein responds, "If I don't die of a broken heart, sure."  Harley then tells the receptionist to rearrange her appointments for the evening she has something to do now.

At the Rubenstein's house, the grandson is playing videogames, his mum is demonstrating massage devices to some friends to sell and the dad is playing with his model trains upstairs.  Harley crashes through the side of their house on a bulldozer and takes all three of them hostage and dumps them in the boot of her car.

She goes for some food at a diner and while she does so, takes out another hitman with a fork.  Then she attends her first roller derby match, which she is late for.  Her team loses, but she runs over the opposing team as they leave the stadium, "wow, that was kinda hot" says her team captain.

Harley then remembers she has the Rubensteins in her car boot and gets them out and sits them on the end of a pier.  She kicks the grandson and his mum off it and takes out the son/dad's gag.  When he realises why she is doing this he furiously tells her he sees his mother three times a week, his wife has lunch with her once a week and his son sees her every saturday.  Harley is non-plussed.

Mr Rubenstein: "She has alzeimers you twisted clown!  She can't even remember what she had for dinner!"
Then he jumps off the pier to save his family but lands on sand, luckily the tide was out.  Totally unconcerned with her actions towards them Harley cheerily drives off telling the father to call his mother. 
The Rubensteins get some unorthodox therapy.
She attends her evening appointment which turns out to be an elderly Jewish man on a mobility scooter and with bionic limbs.  He is called Sy Borgman, and he knows she is Harley Quinn.  He is an ex secret agent and he wants her help tracking down and killing some Russian sleeper agents here in New York.  Are you ready to serve your country he asks her? "Well, Mystah Borg.  Let's do this thing" she replies.

Sy gives her the files on the seven targets they are after and tells her to study it ready for tommorrow.  In return for her help he can find out who put a hit out on her, though Harley says she has someone looking into that.  She returns to her building and is invited to a Burlesque show taking place there.  She gets a bit to involved though and storms the stage thinking the fight taking place is real.
Sy Borgman.
Then she go upstairs to read the files and nods off, she has a very weird dream in the process.  Next day she attends her clinic jobs until it is time to meet Sy in the evening and begin their job.  The first target is in hospital on life support so they gain entrance to his room by attaching the mobility scooter to a zipline and crashing through the window.

Sy rips all the wires out of the wall.  Nothing changes.  He cuts all the tubes.  Still nothing changes.  He electro-punches the man.  Nothing.  So Harley gathers up the tubs and blows hard down them making the mans arteries explode.  This kills him and they make their escape from the hospital.
One way to make an entrance.
They arrive at their next target's house, they break in through the gates and battle the gaurds.  The target phones one of the others and says it is their job to alert the others.  Then, when Sy and Harley reach her she sets off a huge explosion that blows up the whole house.

Sy uses his cybernetic enhancements to fire up some cables that grab onto a passing news helicopter.  The three off them are dragged free of the building and Harley takes the woman's rings before letting go of her.  She and Sy clamber into the chopper and take control.  Harley manages to fy it to the zoo and crash lands it outside, their next target "The Bear" works inside.
Dealing with the Russians.
As they go find the secret entrance, Sy tells them The Bear got his nickname because he used to feed whole families to them to get prisoners to talk.  The Bear is watching them on CCTV and says over the phone to another target, "zey von't know what hit zem.  I have a plan".  He lets out some of the more ferocious animals.  The bears don't want to get up though, he kicks one and it rips him to pieces in a rage.  His head goes bouncing out of the enclosure and is picked up by one of the eagles.

Inside the zoo Sy tells Harley their work has been done for them, he recognises the tattoo on the arm one of the tigers is chowing down on.  With The Bear taken care of, Sy says they can do a couple more tonight, while Harley wants to stay and play with the animals for a while.

Then the rest of the Russian targets pull up at the zoo entrance.  After trading insults they fight Harley and Sy.  Two of them blow themselves up with faulty bagel grenades, Sy blows one up with a rocket launcher, Harley brains one with a pipe and the older female in charge kisses Sy but aims a dagger at his back.  Before she can strike, he drives forwards and knocks her into the rhino pit and she is impaled on a horn.
The Bear falls victim to the zoo animals.
With all of them dead, they go for the mystery eighth target.  Turns out he's an American who sold Sy a rare car in 1959 but didn't tell him it had a radiator leak.  When he broke down and had to go for some coolant, he returned to find his dream car had been totally stripped of parts.  When he says he would have left the car to Harley, she gets mad and kicks the man out of the window.

Sy and Harley watch the sunrise on the boardwalk.  She kisses him and says, "you sure know how to show a girl a good time".  Then the eagle drops The Bear's head in Sy's lap.  Harley kicks it into the sea.  She returns home to find Poison Ivy there who has taken care of another couple of hitmen and says she has a lead on "who put out that bounty on your cute, crazy little head."
Another wacky escapade over.
Next day, she and Harley go to the beach.  Ivy tells her she tracked the postings down to Harley's laptop, so someone must be breaking in and posting while she is out or asleep.  Two men come up to them and flirt with them, the girls decide to play along.  One of them paints Harley's toenails:

Harley: "I'm keepin' this one".

Ivy: "Do what you want just put him away when I'm around".

They return to Harley's place and check her laptop activity.  The site advertising the hit gets updated once every five days and so that means tonight will be another update time.  They find a file called "Nunya" as in "nunya business" but it is user and password protected.

Ivy's plan is to hide in the closet while Harley sleeps and they can catch the miscreant in the act.  Harley finally gets off to sleep, then starts sleep walking.  She goes to the laptop and increases the bounty to three million, her plan is to attract all the local competition and kill them off.  She opens the Nunya file, but then two assassins crash in through the window.  Ivy starts fighting them and Bernie exhorts Harley to wake up:

Bernie: "Hey!  Turnip head!  They're going to kill your favourite houseplant if you don't wake up!."

Harley wakes up and between them, she and Ivy kill the attackers.  But in the fight Harley's laptop is destroyed.  Ivy fills Harley in on what she found out.

Ivy: "With the computer gone and you unable to remember the site or password, you're a bit screwed".
Harley unconciously hiring her assassins.
One of the attacker's phone goes off and he has a text update about a meeting of the "Brooklyn Assassins Guild" the next day.  They decide to crash it and Tony comes along for extra firepower.  Once there, Ivy uses her powers to tie them all up with vines.  Harley tries to explain to them how there is no bounty on her, and if they come after her she'll go after their families.  A grizzled assassin says he doesn't believe her and has no family to threaten, so Tony shoots him in the head.

As Harley, Ivy and Tony walk back to Harley's place, she thanks them for her help and she'll just have to keep dealing with the ramifications of the bounty on her head for now.  As a reward to Tony she buys him some new boots with the cash they took from all the contract killer's wallets.
The Assassin club.
We next see Harley trying to pawn the rings she took from the Russian lady.  Unfortunately they have been reported stolen so she has to take a lower price for them, boosted by the fact she takes out two robbers who try to stick up the pawn shop up when she is in there.

After a meatball lunch with Tony, she attends her next Roller Derby match.  She is doing too well and the opposing team send out their secret weapon, Bertha, to take down Harley.  She knocks Harley out and when she is revived in the changing rooms she is angry when she discovers she's had a tooth knocked out.  Her manager forbids her going back out but Harley ignores her, grabs her mallet and smashes Bertha's head in.  Unfortunately this gets her banned from Roller Derby, but her manager gives her a card with details of something called "Skate Club" on it.

Once home, all the occupants of the building have gathered to see something Harley is going to unveil.  It turns out to be a giant catapult which she nicknames the "scatapult" as this is the way she is going to deal with all the animal poo building up in the place.  They start firing bags of the stuff off the roof.
The scatapualt revealed to the rest of the building's tenants.
The first hits a roller coaster.  The next hits a train.  The next hits DC's office window where an editorial conference about a new line-wide reboot is being discussed.  Hah!  Harley goes  downstairs to get more poo, but a hitman has a hold of a kitten and threatens to kill it if she doesn't let him kill her.

He is grabbed from behind by Mario, one of the building's tenants and Harley whacks him with her mallet.  They put him on the scatapult and fire him into the air.  He bounces off a advertising zeppelin and gets minced up in the propellers of an advertising aeroplane.

As these shenanigans are going on, a creepy looking man watches Harley through binoculars from the top of a train.  A cop stands behind him and calls him Edwin, exhorting him to give up. Edwin disarms and kills the cop then dressed in his uniform says he's coming for Harley and wishes to marry her.
Yes, fire that poo at Dan Didio, noone deserves it more than him!
And that brings this first book of Harley silliness to a close.  I found this tremendous fun.  The scripting is sharp and snappy with plenty of double entendres and groan worthy punnage.  The sheer enjoyment Harley has as she bounces through life make her a very appealing character, especially now she has come out from under the shadow of The Joker. Giving her a property full of freaky people like her makes for some fun interludes as she investigates the various businesses working underneath her.  Her no-strings relationship with Poison Ivy is very sweet, after one as abusive as The Joker's one with her was, it does make sense she'd turn to a woman like Ivy afterwards. The various misadventures are enjoyable to read, especially when you get characters like Sy Borgman along for the ride.  The art really does suit the tone and atmosphere of the book, it's very lavish and almost garish in places the hyperreality suits a character who seems to exist in her own little self-contained part of the DCU that other characters occasionally get to visit. The mystery man at the end has got me intrigued and I'm looking forward to reading the next volume to find out more and also enjoy more daft antics from Harley and everyone she drags along with her for the ride.


  1. haha, love it! Harley is the best, can't wait for her solo film. Hope it is as good as the deadpool one. This series is excellent, glad you're recommneding it :)

  2. If the solo Harley movie manages to keep to the spirit of her series and be as awesome as Deadpool was I shall be a happy bunny indeed.

  3. Hmmm... the reviews for Suicide Squad weren't that good...

  4. Harley doesn't need to be part of the Suicide Squad. She needs to run freeeee! Free to kiss Poison Ivy and fling poo at Dan Didio and just generally be silly.