HARLEY QUINN #0/ Written by AMANDA CONNER & JIMMY PALMIOTTI/ Art by CHARLIE ADLARD, ART BALTAZAR, BECKY CLOONAN, DARWYN COOKE, TONY S. DANIEL, SAM KIETH, BRUCE TIMM, JIM LEE, STEPHANIE ROUX, TRADD MOORE, CHAD HARDIN, ADAM HUGHES, DAVE JOHNSON, DAN PANOSIAN, JEREMY ROBERTS & WALTER SIMONSON/ Published by DC COMICS
Harley Quinn has always been a controversial character, who has inspired a lot of passion in the comics-reading fandom. A complex character, Harley has been held up as both a symbol of codependency and as a feminist icon. While few deny her relationship with The Joker is a destructive one, Harley is usually portrayed as being a perfectly capable criminal who chooses to play second-fiddle to the man that makes her happy.
The New 52 revamp created a whole new series of controversies. A new background saw Harley physically transformed by The Joker into his exact female counterpart, doused in the same chemicals and driven mad in precisely the same way. The New 52 Harley also had a skimpy new costume that – coupled with her bone-white skin and two-color hair – inspired many to declare that she looked more like a member of the Suicide Girls than the Suicide Squad.
Suicide lay at the heart of another controversy involving ol’ Harl. Earlier this year, DC Comics announced a contest for aspiring artists with the winner will getting their page published in the first issue of Harley’s new book! The script – which included no dialogue or explanation of the story – described Harley Quinn trying to kill herself in a variety of ways. This was particularly bothersome to some, as the contest announcement came just before the start of National Suicide Prevention Week.
Even now with Harley Quinn #0 in comic shops everywhere the controversy continues. The contest winner, Jeremy Roberts, is far and away from being one of the aspiring artists trying to break into the business the contest was aimed at. In 2012 alone, according to Roberts’ biography on his DeviantArt page, he did work for Marvel, Harper Collins, Penguin Books, Disney and Pixar! Roberts is undoubtedly a talented artist but he doesn’t seem to need any help breaking into the business.
All that being said and ignoring all the controversy, how is the book? In a word, hilarious.
The book is inspired in equal parts by Keith Giffen’s Ambush Bug and the Chuck Jones classic cartoon Duck Amuck. There’s no plot to speak of past Harley – hopped up on a mix of cheap booze, cheap comics and cheap sugar – musing that she should have her own comic. The unseen Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner say they can make Harley’s dream come true and take Harley on a madcap search for the right artist to bring Harley’s adventures to life.
What follows is utter lunacy as a team of the industry’s finest artists each take a page to depict what Harley’s adventures might look like. This leads to Harley destroying whole cities with a giant mecha, killing her fans as a punk rock princess, fighting monsters in a jungle-girl bikini variant of her costume and even crashing Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s wedding so she can rob the joint!
The one flaw this book has is that it does require some knowledge of the artists involved. There’s a lot of in-jokes, such as cracks about certain artists’ inability to finish work in a timely manner, that only make sense if you are familiar with the artist in question. Ditto the jokes about the Brooklyn-born Jimmy Palmiotti now and forever being known as “the cowboy guy” thanks to his outstanding work on Jonah Hex and All-Star Western.
Thankfully, there’s enough silliness independent of these gags to make the book accessible to those who just want to see Harley being wacky. And whatever else may be said about this book and the controversy surrounding it, it is a fun read and a funny book.