This review is based off a volume that collects Harley Quinn #1-7.
As it so happens, Harley Quinn is a rare breed when it comes to Rebirth titles because not only did it retain the same creative team from the New 52, but also due to the fact that it pretty much picked up where the previous volume left off. Granted, new writers and artists should always be welcomed lest a series grow stale, but I’m far from ready to say goodbye to writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. In my opinion, they’ve made the most significant contributions to the character since Bruce Timm and Paul Dini.
Perhaps just as important are artists Chad Hardin and John Timms, both of whom have also been on board since the New 52. In that timespan, there have indeed been guest artists here and there, but it’s their pencils and inks that have established a visual precedent that has even carried over to related miniseries they didn’t even work on. The only other example I can think of comparable to that in recent memory has to be that of J.H. Williams III’s take on Batwoman.
A question that may be on your mind is if this is a good jumping on point, given that I said it picks up where the New 52 series left off. For the most part, I’d have to say it is. As long as you know the basics behind Harley and are aware that she’s been estranged from the Joker, you’re good.
But when it comes to fully grasping her new status quo and getting to know her rich supporting cast, well, I guess you’ll just have to hit the ground running as it were. This is somewhat akin to picking up a TV show at the start of its second season. Like I said, you shouldn’t feel too disoriented if you’re a newcomer, although I highly recommend purchasing Hot in the City at some point in order to familiarize yourself with these concepts – and maybe also Kiss Kiss Bang Stab, as that one happens to be my favorite. Actually, there is a roll call of sorts at the beginning, but it’s not quite the same as getting to intimately know the characters through some of the previous stories.
Anyway, Harley Quinn trade paperbacks of late have had a bit of an anthology feel, normally consisting of one or two short and sweet story arcs, along with some done-in-ones, one-shots or annuals. This volume is no different, as it contains two insane (in a good way) three-issue arcs bisected by a standalone. But like its preceding collected editions, they’re each cleverly woven into a grand tapestry, so pay attention because some seeds are planted for what’s to come.
The first arc to be enjoyed jumps headlong into a genre that’s been beaten into the ground in the past decade – that of the zombie variety. But, to the book’s credit, you’ve yet to experience an undead crisis with Harley at its epicenter, so at least it has that going for it. Although I’m admittedly in this for the long haul, I was skeptical when first approaching this premise, but seeing her, Big Tony, Red Tool and others forced to survive their own personal Resident Evil enthralled me before long.
Basically, this calamity came about thanks to an alien who crash landed on Earth, posed as a cow to blend in and then was turned into a hot dog. Unsuspecting citizens soon gobbled down said wieners and, well, you can probably do the math. As if I needed one more reason not to eat hot dogs.
You know, I really admire how Conner and Palmiotti were able to balance their trademark sense of humor with the horror that comes with such a dire situation. Come to think of it, it may be best I scratch that Resident Evil comparison. Factor in the Coney Island locale and the use of a dirty toilet seat as a bludgeon, and you have something more in line with Dead Rising. Just don’t count on Harley to wash her hands.
After a fun, violent interlude that sees Harley fly halfway around the world in order to take down telephone scammers, the final arc to be included follows our girl as she (deep breath) starts a punk rock band in order to infiltrate the scene and get close to the killers of her favorite mailman, who happen to have a musical act of their own. Quinn’s had no shortage of wardrobe changes in recent years, but here you get to see her sport a mohawk. Personally, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a goth industrial look down the line. But at least she was revealed to be a fan of death metal in an issue published not long ago, so I’ll take that as a win.
As the thread unravels, we get a reminder of just how much Harley has changed as a person since 2013; most of what’s offered affirms my statement that she’s evolved more in the past three years than in the previous twenty. Trust me, she makes several choices throughout “Undercover Punker” she’d never have made while under the Joker’s influence. And, speaking of which, pay attention to a certain bar of soap that’s floating around, as it’s key to what you’ll read in the next collected edition.
So, if you ever needed a piece of evidence proving that Harley Quinn is consistently one of DC’s best books, then Die Laughing is certainly it. None of the charm, humor, ultra-violence or overall addictive quality offered by the first leg of the journey have been lost. Let’s hope the powers that be keep this creative team in mind whenever Gotham City Sirens is inevitably relaunched.
Die Laughing reaffirms that there are none more lethal or lovable than Harley Quinn. When she calls on the banana phone, you answer.