Thursday, 15 September 2016

Harley Quinn Book 2: Power Outage (#9-13, Harley Quinn: Futures End #1, Harley Quinn Invades Comic Con International San Diego Special #1)

"Are you sure I'm a superhero and not a stripper?" - Power Girl

Time for more larks and japes with DC's Deadpool, the pansexual, fourth-wall breaking, kleptomaniac, comedic sociopath, Ms. Harley Quinn.  She started life in Batman: The Animated Series as Harleen Quinzel, the psychiatrist who treated the Joker and fell in love with him before embarking on a life of crime with him.  Now having split from him she is carving out her own quirky path in the DCU as Poison Ivy's casual girlfriend and sort-of hero in her own little corner of the DCU which doesn't seem to involve her being a member of the Suicide Squad like she is elsewhere.  Last volume she inherited a large building in New York's Coney Island which plays host to various weird businesses like a famous killers waxwork exhibit and a burlesque show and their various live-in tenants including building security manager Big Tony.  To pay the taxes on the place she faked some references and is working as a therapist again, she also was a member of a roller derby team but got thrown out for execessive violence.  She was however given a card with contact details for a more underground "Skate Club" which she'll be joining in this volume. She also teamed up with an elderly Jewish special agent called Sy Borgman who reappears in this volume. This volume continues her New 52 storyline with an interruption from the DC line-wide series "Future's End" which sees her teaming up with "Mistah J" (the Joker) again temporarily, but don't be fooled by the cover, he's only in one "what if" story set five years in the future.  This volume also has her teaming up with Power Girl and this is where the Harley Quinn and Power Girl miniseries I covered a few months back fits in too.  Finally there is a Comic Con Special and a Secret Origins chapter which I'll be skimming over.  Writing partnership Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti are on word duty with a variety of artists contributing the pictures. So without further ado, it's Harley time.

The story begins with one of Harley's tenants, Madame Macabre who runs the crime waxwork show visiting her son Mason in prison.  He caused the accidental death of the Mayor's son-in-law in a bar brawl, and so is looking at some serious prison time.  His mum says not to worry and when their visiting time is over, gives him a full on kiss with tongue, which she uses to pass over what looks like a razorblade to him.
My kind of show!
Then we join Harley getting dressed up to take part in the burlesque show which she is doing to fill in for a regular whose been called away. Big Tony gives her a quick history lesson on burlesque, it's like Commedia Del'Arte but with "more va-va-voom".  This show is based around cheesy 50's sci-fi.  She going to be the sexy alien who seduces the astronaut and kills them.

Harley: "So at the end of the show I get to kill the astronaut...? That is soooo cool".

Big Tony: "No Harley.  No one dies.  No one gets hurt.  It's all for show."

Big Tony leaves and Harley admits to Queenie who runs the show she was just teasing him and she does know the difference between reality and make believe.

The show begins and Harley takes the stage dressed as an alien.  Another woman is playing the astronaut.  They both take off their bodysuits to reveal something altogether more skimpy underneath, and times comes for them to kiss.  Harley is unsure, so the other woman whispers that she should pretend she is Harley's boyfriend.  This sends Harley off and she starts ranting about all the crap The Joker did to her.

She tosses the other woman into the crowd and a brawl starts up.  Harley apologise to Queenie them leaps into the fray with glee, although she gets knocked out and wakes up in the back of a cop car in handcuffs.  But instead of taking her to the police station, he takes her to his house.  Inside is loads of Harley Quinn memorabilia and a large guilded cage which he puts her in.

Turns out he's not a cop, he's her biggest fan and his name is Edwin.  He killed an cop and stole his uniform so he could lay hands on her.  Harley asks what's going to happen next.

Edwin: "Well I didn't think this out past getting you here and into the cage. I guess I was hoping I could treat you well enough so you'd fall in love with me and we could live happily ever after."

He gives her some more modest clothing as they chat.  He says he works part-time at a comic store and when the others there dissed Harley he locked them up in a cage in the cellar.  Harley slips out of the cage after a while, saying she could have escaped back in the car but she was curious about him.   She gets him to lie on the couch and starts psycho-analysing him.
One way to deal with stalkers.
She says obsession is about possessing another person and not accepting failure or rejection.  She isn't rejecting him, but she isn't going to feed his obsession either.

Harley: "I want you to check yourself into a special clinic and see a doctor.  You do this for me for a nice lengthy period of time and I will give dating you a shot.  You have my word."

So he ends up being cheerfully carted off in a straitjacket.  She then decides she has unfinished business and finds the three comicbook store works in the cellar.  She takes them to the Brooklyn Bridge and sits them on the guardrail and asks them to repeat what they said about her.   Two of them lie and say they are a big fan of her... assets.  The third rather suicidally she wasn't his type and he wouldn't date her for a million bucks and he gets kicked off the bridge for his trouble.

She then goes home and gets changed, it's time to find out about Skate Club. She drives there and meets up with Sy Borgman and enters a crowded arena where the show is about to start.  Meanwhile back at her building complex, Mason has broken out of prison and is giving Big Tony a hug, he's going to be shacking up with his girlfriend but will still work at the building.

Then we return to Skate Club.  The set-up is that a pair of roller-skaters take each other on in no-holds barred combat using weapons scattered round the arena and people place bets on who will win. After battle between two other women, it's time for Harley to battle. He opponent is a very tall woman called "Maria Monsterella, The Massapeque Murderer".  Harley's former skate team all express sorrow for Harley, "She made me laugh" says one wiping away a tear.
Harley bites off more than she can chew at Skate Club.
Sy tries to change his bet on Harley but it's too late.  The bout begins and Maria kicks Harley clean across the arena, which stuns her.  Then suddenly we find ourselves on an alien planet.  Two aliens are debating how to deal with an attacker who "has the power of the Gods behind her".  They are bad aliens who have been found out by this mystery woman as annihilators of another planet.  They release a huge monster who punches the unseen woman hard and sends her flying through space.  The huge monster then squishes the two who let it out.

Back at Skate Club, Harley is getting a pounding.  Maria is declared the winner, but Harley recovers and using Sy's explosive toothpaste, blows Maria up.  Unfortunately as victory was already declared, she still lost, but at least regained her self respect.  Sy and Harley's skate team go for a late night meal on the boardwalk, then he takes his leave of the women. They bump into Mason (newly escaped from jail) briefly and Harley seems quite taken with him.

The girls decide it's a perfect night for a midnight swim and go skinny dipping.  There is some teasing from Harley pretending to be a shark and there is much merriment.  They get dressed and leave Harley alone as she enjoys the night.  She sees a falling star, which falls on her.  And the mystery woman is revealed as.. Power Girl.  Completely unconcious and at Harley's mercy.
Power Girl makes an entrance.
But before she wakes up, there is an interlude with the Future's End issue.  If you want the details of the event it has a wikipedia article devoted to it.  The premise of this comic is that all comics not directly tied in did a story looking at what possibly might be happening to their characters five years in the future.  And for Harley that means a reunion with ex-boyfriend, The Joker.

After a plane crash, Harley wakes up washed up on the beach of a desert island.  A dog is investigating her and Harley commands it to find her beaver (no it's not rude, she has a stuffed beaver called Phil who she chats with and he chats back).  The dog races off and doesn't come back, Harley sighs and starts building a shelter.  But she does find Phil, now a stripped down skull after a tangle with a shark.  She decides to wear him round her neck so she won't lose him again.

Then suddenly she is surrounded by tribesfolk who lead her to their village and treat her like a queen.  She doesn't know why, but she doesn't let that stop her enjoying the attention.  One who does speak English says it is time to take her to the "God-King" and he leads her to... The Joker.  She flies at him and gives him a huge snog.  Then she punches him saying she thought he was dead.  He commands that the banquet in his honour takes place and he fills in Harley on what happened to him.
A warm reunion.
He makes reference to some noodle incident that he decided to lay low after, he found out about the island and took it over. He says he got them doing "crazy stuff" for a while but even he began to feel "ashamed" and stopped it.  Nah, not really, and turns out the tribe enjoy a good knife fight as much as he does, although the lack of caped crusaders is starting to make him feel bored.

He would get the tribesmen to dress up as various heroes and battle him, but as he says, "it's like moving out of New York and then ordering bagels.  Eventually you crave the real thing".  They are interrupted by the tribe headman saking if they are enjoying their "final meal?"  This takes Harley aback, but The Joker says it's because they are going to get married tonight at sundown.  Harley seems pretty into the idea.

After putting on her somewhat skimpy wedding atire she is taken out to the temple on a litter.  Phil isn't keen on what's happening, he says the Joker keeps treating her like crap and she keeps taking it.  Harley says, "this time it's gonna be different, I can feel it".  She says it'll be a marriage of equals and they'll enrich each others lives.  When Phil says that makes him want to puke, she tosses him to the crocodiles.

The ceremony takes place, but there was just one teeny little detail she and the Joker weren't told.  They are to be sacrificed in the volcano immediately afterwards. The Joker gets angry saying he thought it would just be Harley making the jump.  He says she deserves it for her hanging around with superheroes and that he "hates do-gooders".  She punches him and from an alligator stomach, Phil says "I told ya so."
The happy couple.
They both punch the headsman into the volcano and it starts to erupt.  They share a kiss then get blasted back out.  Harley winds up back on the beach and so does a dead crocodile who just happens to have Phil nesting in its exploded torse.  Harley sighs and picks him up and asks if her "pitifully, perfidious, puddin' made it?"  Phil replies, "does it matter?"  Harley guesses not.  Then Aquaman and says she looks far from home and he and his dolphins will take her back, to Coney Island.  And that brings the Future's End issue to a close.  Now back to Harley and the unconcious Power Girl.

Harley calls on Big Tony and Mason to help carry Power Girl back to her apartment.  Power Girl in case you didn't know is the Earth-2 version of Supergirl.  Here, enjoy this wiki page on her so I can get on with the story. They lie her down on Harley's bed and check her for injuries as delicately as they can when suddenly she comes around.  She has amnesia though and quickly passes out again.  Harley spots an opportunity for mischief.

She goes downstairs and gets Queenie to quickly run up two Harley themed superhero costumes.  She changes into hers and wrestles Power Girl out of her costume and into the new one.  Power Girl wakes up, takes a few steps and her new costume completely rips and falls off her.  Harley quickly offers her the old one back, Power Girl is very confused about what is going on.  Harley tells her that she is called Power Girl and Harley is her teammate.

Harley then tells her that she has a secret identity, her real name is "Betty Burns" and her stage name is "The Bomb". 

Powergirl: "So my secret identity from being this 'Power Girl' is a strong woman in a sideshow?"

Harley: "I can get a pen and write it down for you if you like."

Power Girl asks what she wears in this secret identity and Harley puts some glasses on her. Power Girl says "you must think I'm an idiot".  So off they go to do some clothes shopping.

After purchasing several outfits between them, they sit and have a meal in a fast food joint.  As Power Girl takes a drink, her cup springs a leak.  Because someone shot her through it, luckily she is made of iron so she is just a little startled by this rather than hurt.  "Someone just shot my soda!  And my boob!" she exclaims and it turns out a pair of villains, "The Sportsmaster" and "The Clock King" are responsible as they are robbing various places in the mall.  So Power Girl and Harley strip off their coats, revealing their superhero outfits and launch into evil-battling mode.

Power Girl: "How about we do some magic and make these guys disappear?"

Harley: "The way you say that is hot."

Unfortunately for them, the pair of baddies stretch open a ring which is a portal through space and Harley and Power Girl get transported across the cosmos.
To the rescue!
They find themselves amongst an army of a variety of aliens, led by a Queen with four breasts. When asked who they are, Power Girl proudly states they are both protectors of Earth and of their galaxy.  The Queen asks her human accountant and lover, "given to me by The Clock King", if what she says is true.  The man says as it's true as far as Power Girl is concerned but as he is about to reveal Harley's true nature, Harley blows him up using a gun she managed to swipe.

Power Girl and Harley make their getaway from the rest of the aliens as Power Girl says to Harley not to kill people again.  Power Girl then starts fighting them which wakes up the huge pug dog that can talk.  He asks Power Girl if there is a way they can resolve the situation. The Queen wants Harley and Power Girl dead, but the dog is her husband the King, who was disgusted by her taking a human as a lover and after a heated argument, he eats her.

Later he, Harley and Power Girl enjoy a banquet and he tells them that the ring they came through is one-way, but there are other rings they might be able to use, as owned by "Manos Ruler Of The Infinity Rings".  So with a map to guide them and a promise they'll chuck some cheeseburgers the king's way when they return, Power Girl and Harley go to confront Manos.
The King is a friendly dog.

They find Manos and his forty-five children hanging out on their planet.  Before they can reach him though a creature that looks like a giant slice of pizza attacks them.  Power Girl goes out and fights it but Harley manages to zap it using a space laser.  Then Manos, who doesn't look at all like Thanos, noooo, comes out and says:

Manos: "Bring me the Cosmic Organ".

Harley: "Ha! He said Cosmic Organ".

While Harley and Power Girl watch in horror, he destroys a whole planet with it.  This makes Power Girl angry, she tells him she was planning on bargaining with him but after that little display she's going to defeat him instead.

Manos tries to use his Infinity Rings against her, but light-fingered Harley has stolen them off him and uses them to blast him into a skeleton, much to Power Girl's annoyance.   One of Manos's kids tells them the ring home was his "Pinkie-toe one" and they stretch it into a portal which takes them back to just after they left Earth. 
Not Thanos honest!
But the Clock King and Sportsmaster send them back through another portal.  They instantly return, but Power Girl is now in a wedding dress and Harley, in a space jumpsuit is accompanied by several three-eyed purple cats. "Thank God! That was the longest two weeks of my life" says Power Girl.  Harley says she thought "Vartox" was cute.  So what happened?  An entire miniseries set between two panels happened, which I have covered here.  Enjoy!  For now, Power Girl rips off the dress and The Clock King says "I think we're in trouble."

Power Girl punches The Sports Master so hard he pops out of his skates.   He retaliates with a "short range nuclear ballistic missile."  Harley and The Clock King get to safety but The Sports Master manages to get caught in the blast that hit Power Girl.   The Clock King uses a magic clock to turn back and freeze time and retrieve his companion, and they make their getaway.
Tease PeeGee at your peril.
Power Girl survived of course, but her hair is all wooshed back.  As she flies carrying Harley, Harley has fits of laughter and teases her over it, getting dropped a couple of times as punishment.  They arrive back at Harley's building and Harley tells her she has a show to do that night.  Still pretty confused by her apparent life, she goes for a shower.  "Can I watch?" asks Harley.  That gets a firm NO.  Big Tony notes that she'll kill them when she gets her memory back.  Harley says she thinks another blow to her head and Power Girl's memory may return and she likes being her partner.

Big Tony: "Aw. Aren't you two cute together.  Add yer pal Ivy to the mix and we got a regular sitcom".

Harley: "Let's save that for another special, shall we?"

Coming out of the shower in Harley's flat, Harley introduces Power Girl to "Edgar", an egg with mechanical arms, the newest tenant of the building.  "He used to be a villain but we cured him with love and kindness" she says of him.  Power Girl is suspicious of him though.

Later, downstairs at the burlesque show poor Power Girl is in a leotard and does some flexing for the crowd.  A stagelight falls on her and Harley and Tony get ready to run in case her memory is back, but she is still amnesiac.  Then Harley tells her Clock King and Sports Master have been spotted uptown and it's time to go defeat them.

After an interude where Harley tries to mesmerise a mugger with her butt, she arrives to find the two miscreants beaten and down.  But The Sports Master isn't finished yet and he fires an energy bolt at Power Girl, which gets him shot in the hand by Harley for his trouble.  This surprises the villains, "since when do heroes shoot bad guys?" says The Clock King.  The police arrive to take them into custody as Power Girl flies off with Harley.
It was probably an obscene suggestion, bad Harley!.
They sit together on a roof and Power Girl wants to know all about herself.  Harley spins her a bunch of fibs, then suddenly a bird craps on Power Girl and it is this that brings her memories back. Uh oh. Harley does some fast talking saying they did some proper superheroic stuff:

Harley: "Look, we were a crime-fighting team and you really liked me, even though I drove you nuts".

Harley makes her eyes big and limpid and starts crying, saying "could you ever forgive me?" Grumpily, Power Girl says "I can't stay mad at you Harley.  I just don't know what to do with you."  So Harley whispers something in her ear we don't hear, but involves the word "French" and gets Harley abandoned on top of the Eiffel Tower as punishment.  And that brings the Power Girl arc to a close.

Another interlude, this time for "Harley Quinn Invades Comic Con International San Diego Special" which is a bit of a mouthful but pretty much describes what happens.  Harley goes to Comic Con, which allows for some more playful meta humour.  In the course of the issue she snogs a room full of Joker cosplayers, de-pantses Batman, gets arrested for shooting a cop in the bum, has her portfolio looked over by Jim Lee, gets Bruce Timm and Paul Dini's autographs, and sadly also overhears an interview with DC Satan-In-Chief Dan Didio who says the following:

Dan Didio: "We'll be launching a new line of books that do not have any editorial overlooking control. We call this D-C-You.  Each creator does whatever they like with the character of their choice and goes crazy. We don't expect these books to sell at all, so we are setting the print run at 1,000 copies each."

No, no, let's move on.  Let's stay positive for now, even though this proves to me my theory that DC set the DCYou up for failure before the New 52 breathed its last.  You'll be hearing me whine more on this topic when I cover the second and final wave of DCYou trades early next year.  Anyway, after all this daftness, this volume is rounded off by a short "Secret Origins" tale of Harley and her lifelong interest in the criminally insane, culminating in her self destructive relationship with the Joker.  And that's it for another Harleytastic volume.

I just find these comics so much FUN.  The meta humour doesn't overwhelm the narratives, the jokes, innuendo and parody comes thick and fast and perhaps what I like most about it is the huge emphasis it places on female friendship.  Seriously I can't think of many other superhero comics where a whole issue would just be two women hanging out chatting and shopping.  And even before the Power Girl issues we get Harley hanging out and having a laugh with her Roller Derby team, no men in sight, nor are they the subject of the conversations.  It passes the Bechdel Test more comprehensively than any other superhero comic I can think of.  The Power Girl/Harley odd-couple friendship is glorious.  Poor Power Girl does end up looking a bit undignified in places, but she gets to be superheroic while having to cope with the crazy persona Harley has cooked up for her.  The idea of setting a miniseries between two panels is another fun idea and the Harley/Power Girl miniseries manages to be even dafter than the main Harley series if that's possible.  All-In-All you really feel Harley enjoys her life a lot, the Future's End and Secret Origins issues actually goes someway to showing how putting her with The Joker limits her, she is too wild to be a one man or woman Harley and she works much better as an anti-hero than as a villain.  I'm definitely still sticking with Harley for now, keep watching this space for the next volume in her series fairly soon.


  1. (Yey, another diversion from work :-) )

    Hmm, Harleen Quinzell eh? Nominative determinism does seem to be a bit of a thing in Gotham City. "Have you thought of a name yet Mr & Mrs Pervillan?", "We were thinking of Sue"

  2. Jeeves, Jeeves! Fetch me a new keyboard this one is now sodden with tea, there's a good fellow. :)

    It's a bit like, if you're a comic character created by Stan Lee, your first and second names likely start with the same letter: Peter Parker, Matt Murdoch, Sue Storm, Reed Richards, The Green Goblin and so on.

  3. It's well known in police circles that if you have to come up with a fake name on the spot it'll probably be an alliterative one. So Marvel characters must spend a lot of time arguing with cops.

    Funnily enough my special friend thinks the best reason we should get married is she like the way her name, which begins with R, would sound with mine. Yeah, not even slightly insulted that that's the best reason she can think of.

    On an unrelated note, saw this and thought of you (as the old Post Office adverts used to go)

  4. That's a really good history on the kinky history of Wonder Woman and it's right, at the start her kink was about feminist empowerment, whereas having panty shots of her now is just character breaking fanservice. Greg Rucka is a real feminist ally, having given us two well rounded and popular lesbian heroes at DC and the fantastic Lazarus at Image. Good stuff, thanks for bringing it to my attention!

  5. I was quite intrigued when I found out about the origins of WW. It really resonated with me. I think I'd have got on very well with the guy who came up with her. And of course I loved Lynda Carter in the 70s series.

    Frank Cho is another big fan of hers (check that segway out!). I read a bit of his stuff because he's another jungle girl fan. However he seems more into the aesthetics rather than the tropes of the genre; and I do find his work gets very repetitive after a while (you can draw arses and velociraptors, we get it, change the bleeding record). Wasn't aware of his stance on feminism but I can see it now.

    Haven't seen the new WW yet. I'm quite the fan of ex IDF girls (it's a Krav thing) so I suppose I should check it out. She'd have to be amazing to compete with Lynda Carter though.

    *Goes off humming 70s WW theme*

  6. I'm boycotting the DC Rebirth for reasons that will be elaborated on in further posts (can't get over how they cancelled nearly all their LGBT titles for it), but Greg Rucka on WW again is at least a positive step forwards. Though putting him with a cheesecake artist beggers belief. DC have really lost the plot I think.

  7. harley is the greatest, this series is the most fun one dc has done.

  8. It definitely is fun, I much prefer this Harley to the psycho one in the Arkham videogames, le gasp, Heresy!