Harley Quinn 1

harley quinn 1

Today, Mikyzptlk and Shelby are discussing Harley Quinn 1, originally released December 18th, 2013.

MikyzptlkSometimes, what we need in life is a fresh start. That means cutting ties with what came before, moving on, and moving out. Sometimes, that also means traveling into some unknown territory and taking a leap of faith that things will work out. Harley Quinn has had a…troubled past to say the least, so if anyone in the DCU could use a fresh start it’s her. Harley Quinn 1 gives us the beginning of Harley’s fresh start. Will she make it out alive? 

We begin with Harley on the road with a cartoonishly large sack of her only remaining “treasures” on the back of her motorcycle. She’s on her way to her newly inherited apartment building in Coney Island. She learns that she now owns a very large building including retail space, apartments, and her own private suite. Unfortunately, the rent from her tenants will only pay off so much of the considerable monthly bills she is now facing. To remedy this, Harleen Quinzel gets a day job as a therapist while Harley Quinn gets a night job as a Roller Derby girl! Things are looking up for old Harl, until she realizes that someone has placed a hit out on her.

HitWell, that’ll put a damper on anyone’s evening. Fortunately, this comic will not. In case you missed it, issue 0 of Harley Quinn was delightfully nutty. Aside from setting up Harley’s inheritance, that issue was meant to be more a celebration of the character than a coherent story. What’s wonderful about this issue, is that the creators, Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, were able to transfer some of the joyful nuttiness from that issue into this one. At the same time, we are presented with a truly fresh start for the character, which is presented in a coherent and entertaining first chapter.

Issue 0 felt a bit like an animated variety show, and I absolutely loved it. Somehow, Palmiotti and Conner have been able to infuse the supposedly realistic landscape of the DCU with just a bit of the cartoonishness seen in the previous issue. Just take a look at the cartoonishly unrealistic scene below.

CartoonMoreover, they have infused Harley with a similar kind of impossible, cartoony presence, which is very much like Marvel’s Deadpool. In the first few pages, Harley comes across a negligent pet owner who is seen dragging his poor and inherently hilarious weiner dog down the street.

DogAs a passionate dog-owner myself, this is exactly the type of thing that I want to do whenever I see a human mistreating his or her pet. Where I am unable to act out my desires, Harley is completely free to do so. Harley Quinn is Harleen Quinzel’s unleashed id, so this scene is a perfect representation of the character: all action, no consequences.

Of course, any good story needs conflict, and Harley can’t just be a cartoony, consequence-less character all of time, right? This is where Harley’s new apartment building comes in. She doesn’t just inherit a building here, she also inherits tenants, bills, and most importantly, a new responsibility. Harley immediately falls in love with her new place, and she is fully intent on keeping it.

I’ve already explained how she plans on keeping her new pad, but I’m curious to see how this very grounded responsibility will interact with her cartoonish, and sometimes dangerous, personality and lifestyle. I’m sure the hit that has been put out on her isn’t going to help matters any either, as it seems that something from her past is out to bite her right on her fresh, new start.

Chad Hardin is the series’ new interior artist. He has a wonderful ability to capture the cartoony aspects of this book that I’ve been mentioning above. At the same time, he does a good job at capturing the quieter moments as well. Unfortunately, I found some of his art to be just a tad gratuitous, not much of it mind you, but it’s there. Additionally, some of his illustrations tended to look a bit odd, and even a little scary too. This is especially true of the Roller Derby scenes.

DerbyThat last criticism is minor, and it really is unfair to any artist to present us with a cover drawn by Amanda Conner unless the interior art will be by her as well. What do you think of Hardin’s interiors Shelby, they do anything for you? There’s more going on in this issue as well, as we’ve been introduced to what I assume will be Harley’s supporting cast. Any thoughts on them?

Shelby: I actually really like Hardin’s work here. The blend of goofiness, unadulterated violence, and cheesecake pin-up is so appropriate for Harley.



This spread is a perfect example. There’s the hilarious detail of Harley digging through a magic bag of holding for her comically over-sized mallet, the pin-up shot of her without her jacket, and then the gruesome fight scene where she knocked a man’s head off, spraying blood every which way. For any other character, this would be way over the top and kind of dumb, but Harley is the epitome of scary, sexy, and silly, so I think it works.

Crazy, too: let’s  not forget that Harley is crazy. That’s why I love Palmiotti and Conner’s idea to make her go back to her therapy roots to make some dough. Can you imagine the havoc Harley can mete out while working with dangerous and unstable individuals? It’s going to be awful and awesome. They’ve crafted a perfect environment for Harley to just be Harley; I mean, she was practically meant to be a derby girl, I can’t believe she hasn’t been one before now. And did you see the businesses in her building? A burlesque, a freakshow, a creepshow, and a house of wax and MURDER, whatever that is. I’m secretly a little bit in love with it. Ok, a lot bit in love. The 0 issue was mayhem, and I hoped then that the creative team would be able to carry some of that mayhem into issue 1, and Conner, Palmiotti, and Hardin did not disappoint. So, anyone else want to move into Harley’s building? I think it would be worth a trip to Coney Island to get all the sexy, weird, craziness I need in just one place.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page.  Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore.  If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

41 comments on “Harley Quinn 1

  1. Thankfully, this payed off better than that other #1 I’d been looking forward to. I can’t say I adored the issue but it was fun enough, and more importantly, Harley enough, to bring me back for issue 2. Although I kind of have to disagree with Mik on the Hardin vs. Conner debate; although I really liked her cover for the most recent Batman Black and White, I don’t like the way she draws Harley’s face, so I’ll take Hardin on interiors here any day.

  2. The pin-up girl stuff is fine, as Harley is a great one. There was a scene or two where I thought it was going too far though, most notably was the scene where Harley slams a competing Derby girl into the ground. In it, a woman’s face was being brutally slammed into the ground, and yet I was able to see both her panties and bra. I mean, is that supposed to be sexy?

    • This is such a complex subject — so much so that I usually get uncomfortable talking about it. Sometimes, sexiness is exploitative, but other times, it’s empowering. I can rarely guess when a sexy image/depiction is seen as empowering, so I just default to seeing it as exploitative. Ultimately, I’m terrified of being accused of telling a woman that a image isn’t offensive. Oddly, I don’t mind suggesting that someone should be offended by something they aren’t. I don’t like it, but I bet I’m not the only one who feels this way.

      • It’s definitely a fine line, although I have to side with Mik in saying that gratuitous shots of bras and panties is hardly debatable. But you’re right, characters like Poison Ivy and Catwoman are inherently sexy, and I think when done right that’s an asset rather than a fault.

        • Sure. I’m with you on generally being uncomfortable with the upskirt shots here. I guess I mean that that mix of sex and violence is kind of inherent to roller derby, but I think the female participants/fans don’t see it as exploitative. That certainly doesn’t mean it’s wrong to to be put off by it, but it’s a very real subculture that sees that kind of sexiness as empowering.

        • I think in real life it’s different though, because if you end up seeing skin as a girl is falling, it’s mostly accidental, whereas here those shots could just as easily have been drawn otherwise. I’m not particularly offended by it myself, but I see where people are coming from when they accuse comics of being exploitative. I find it harder to digest when female characters act slutty, because that really just seems to diminish them, but perhaps it’s just because I’m so used to the fan service shots that I’ve grown desensitized.

        • See, this is why this subject is so tricky: is the notion of “sluttiness” a misogynist concept? Like, shouldn’t a character be allowed to express themselves sexually however they want, regardless of gender? I appreciate that this is WAY more complicated when those characters are being written and drawn by men to appeal to a largely male audience, but I also want to be wary of slut-shaming fictional characters. IT’S A WEIRD TOPIC.

        • You’re right, it is very touchy, no pun intended. I don’t know, I don’t mind female characters implying sexual acts or anything, like I said earlier, that’s kind of Poison Ivy’s MO, but sometimes it just gets pushed too far where it seems like the woman depicted is no longer a woman wanting to fulfill her sexual desires and/or attain some other goal through sexual means, but simply she becomes a sexual object. I don’t have an example on hand right now but I know I’ve seen it go that route before, and that’s when I tend to cringe. Although again, where to draw the line is debatable and will depend on many factors, even outside of how it’s presented. Really, a lot of it comes down to reader interepretation and the baggage we carry going into the comic.

        • For sure Drew, I don’t claim to be an authority on matters of sexiness vs. exploitation of course, but I know when I feel uncomfortable about a particular image. I think a part of the debate involves the eye of the beholder and their personal sensibilities, but I personally draw the line when violence gets involved.

        • Haha, I know you are joking, but I think you are right too. There is a place where violence and sexiness intertwine that somehow works. It’s hard to define, and it can be awkward to think or talk about. Instead of violence, I’d like to rephrase what I said before and say that I draw the line at brutality and sexiness intertwining, if that makes any more sense.

          Like, that panel was SO brutal, and I think it did a great job of expressing the violence inherent to Derby. I just don’t think it also needed to express the inherent sexiness of the sport too by showing the underwear. For me anyway, the other panels of the girls skating around expressed the sexiness of the sport just fine.

        • Ya I’m totally yanking your chain, though it turns out I’m glad I did, since now your point is clearer and something I think we can pretty much all agree with, even BDSM enthusiasts.

    • Honestly, I didn’t even notice. If it was included to sell more books, I feel like that sort of thing would leapt out at me. I don’t have the book in front of me, was the gal in question wearing a skirt? Because if you get knocked down while wearing a skirt short enough to roller skate in, people are going to see your underwear.

      You guys are right, there’s a fine line between exploiting women’s sexuality and embracing it, and that the comic industry tends to fall on the exploitative side. But knowing what I do about the character, the scene, and Palmiotti and Conner, I don’t think that is what’s happening here.

      I would like to call a moratorium on using the word “panties,” though.

  3. No I agree with you that some of it is a bit over the top, although I’d be curious to know how much that comes from the artist, how much is in the script and if editorial is like “make it teh SEX so it’ll sell!!!”. Not pointing fingers, I’m genuinely curious.

    That being said, when there isn’t a lot of underwear in the panel, I like how Hardin draws Harley’s facial features; my problem with Conner’s depiction is that her face just looks off; it’s nothing like her face in any other incarnation; it’s way too round. My favorite Harley renditions are still Capullo’s beautiful shot in Batman 13 and Guillem March’s run on Gotham City Sirens, but overall this works for me.

    In any case, I’m curious to see where this goes. Historically, villain-led books don’t last long and are seldom very good, and I stopped reading Harley’s original ongoing after about 8 issues because it just wasn’t doing it for me, so hopefully Conner Palmiotti find some fun adventures for her to partake in. I wonder when/if the Joker will eventually show up; it feels sort of inevitable but it sure seems like DC is trying to use him sparingly.

    • Yeah, I’ve got to assume Joker will show up at some point, but it’ll probably be a while before that, which will be good for Harley, as she needs to establish herself as a solo character and stack up some Jenga blocks before Joker can try to topple them down again.

      As for this issue, I really felt that it was a strong opener, and as far as Harley being a villain (and villain series having a tendency to burn out quickly), I think that the creators have the same fears that you do, Gino. That’s why I think they are giving Harley some real responsibilities to latch onto.

      Not only that, but they are having Harley go about meeting those responsibilities in a responsible way too. If Harley needs 6K a month to pay her bills, couldn’t she have easily gone out and robbed a few banks? Instead, Palmiotti and Conner have her getting a day job! I think that’ll be good for Harley’s character development and (hopefully) the longevity of this series.

  4. Ya, I like the idea of a job; I don’t care much either way about the roller derby but seeing her as a therapist has tons of potential. I’m happy to see her as herself too, as in a cute blonde as opposed to full Harley get-up, although unfortunately Suicide Squad made it so she has to pull a Nicholson and put on make up to look NORMAL.

    Either way, for all my minor gripes, I’m a huge fan of the character (I’m getting her and Joker tattooed in the summer) and I hope she gets done right; she’s really been dragged in the mud since the new 52. Hell, they could cut down on the cheesecake and bring back her old suit (at least from time to time), I love the classic look, although I have to say I quite like the two-colored hair.

  5. I’m really happy with this issue, like, REALLY happy. DC’s been needing a fun book like this for a while; the only other book they’ve got that comes close to filling this role is Li’l Gotham. I couldn’t help but to be reminded of Deadpool in this one (both issues even feature skull-faced assassins gunning for the protagonists!), and I’m considering that a very good thing. Definitely gonna stick with this book.

    • We haven’t really touched on that in the comments but anyone have a theory on who put the hit out on Harley? The first that comes to mind is Joker but I think he’d be more likely to do his own dirty work, so it begs the question, who’s filthy rich and has a real hate on for Harley?

      • I LOVE that this kind of plot concern to totally secondary to everything else that’s happening in the issue. We can certainly talk about who put the hit on her, but I’m almost more inclined to ask “who cares?” I sorta hope we don’t linger on the mystery for too long, because I just don’t think there’s as much in there as there is in just exploring Harley’s day-to-day.

        • I have no intel about this but I have a feeling it won’t be a mystery very long, I’d say we’ll know who it is by issue 3 tops, though depending on who it turns out to be, it could affect the plot for much longer than that.

  6. Guys, did you see Whip It? Both there and here there’s a little “let me explain how roller derby works” sequence. And I sorta get it – not all that many people attend Roller Derby events. But like, can’t we figure shit out from context clues? Why is it important to know that everyone is playing offense and defense at the same time? Isn’t it just enough to know that Harley is brutal and everyone loves it?

    • Although it was pretty clear exposition, I was kind of glad for the info, I knew nothing about roller derby going in other than: girls play it, it’s violent, and it involves roller skates. Mind you, I could have googled it had they not given me the rundown on the basic rules.

    • I did see Whip It! I actually saw the trailer and thought it looked good, but didn’t get around to watching it for a few years. I ended up reading the book first and all I could remember about the cast was that Drew Barrymore was in it, and the whole time I was reading I was thinking “Okay, Drew Barrymore seems way too old to play this high school student.” So I was really happy when I watched the movie and saw that Ellen Page was the main character instead.

      I think explaining the rules in Whip It was fairly important since knowing how the game worked was important to the plot. Which makes me think that the rules of Roller Derby will be important to this particular subplot.

  7. I think Shelby brought up an interesting point that nobody touched on. She stated that ideas/images weren’t exploitative because she knew the character, the scene, AND THE AUTHORS.

    I wonder if why so many comics about female characters here turn in to “Is this exploitative?” due to a lack of trust in the medium (a given over the past 50 years, unfortunately), the characters as created (see seven words ago, ‘medium’) and the authors.

    I’m not sure I’ve vocalized or written this before, but a lot of how we view things is based on our trust of the situation. The exact same story in the hands of other writers could have brought out a creep factor in us, but we are familiar with these writers so we trust that what they’re showing us is ‘good’. (I think of Tarantino and Django unchained where some left the movie early due to language and violence but most trusted the director enough to see how it was part of the story, even if it was an unpleasant part. Even so, there were still talks about whether or not parts were exploitative (the dog scene), and it was almost impossible to discuss it without saying the word ‘Tarantino.’

    I’m not sure I agree that is fair, but I think that I might be right.

    • Absolutely. I think we often avoid talking about how our perceptions of the creators influences our evaluation because it’s really messy, but I do think it’s unavoidable to some degree. I know for certain that I’m willing to give creators I like extra slack because of that trust you mention. Hell, I often chose what to read based on the creators (and my experience with their work).

      Part of what makes it so complex is that this thinking emphasizes intent — something basically unknowable unless the creators express somewhere exactly what their intent was (and even then, you can’t always trust what they say) — over content, which is ultimately the part of art I’m most interested in. Intent is all about the creators, so is basically as complex and multifaceted as the people themselves. Sure, a depiction of women in a new work may be consistent with what we’ve seen before, but it might break new ground (for better or for worse), or our old perceptions might be based on assumptions.

      Point is: I agree that it isn’t fair, and while I’m not sure it’s right, I’m certain it can’t be avoided.

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