Harley Quinn #0:
For Puddinheads Only
Sometimes a book exists because there's some story that just aches to be told. And sometimes a character is so popular, it would be silly not to give her a solo book, because she is full of interesting stories.
Then there's Harley Quinn.
No doubt popular, and it's hard to remember a time she wasn't attached to the Batman mythos. But she's a difficult character in the spotlight, as she isn't just insane -- like it or not, her origin and motivation puts her squarely as an abused woman. And she loves The Joker, of all people. Hard to believe, huh?
Did you hear that Charles Manson is getting married?
Okay, so she isn't that unbelievable as a character. And because of a really good solo run years ago, she absolutely can stand on her own. Plus her appearance in the Arkham videogames has raised her profile among the demographic that DC seems to be aiming at.
If it seems like I'm hemming and hawing, it's because yes, Harley Quinn #0 exists, and if you're a fan of the character, it's a book you want to have. But it's also not much of a thing. Yet.
Her dramatic potential as the Joker's spurned lover has kind of been played out, and it does not seem like writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti intend to go that way with the series. Instead, the Joker probably will hover in the background as that ex-boyfriend she wants to prove she doesn't need, and by the end of this issue, the writers do set up her next situation.
But this issue does not delve into it. Already unfortunately infamous for a "draw Harley" contest that, taken out of context, seemed pretty sexist, this issue has Harley musing what it would be like to star in her own comic book.
It's a metatextual joke that serves little more than to play "What If --?" with creators that Conner and Palmiotti enjoy. Different artists get a page or two to do "their" version of her, guided by the writers. (And of course Conner gets one herself.) While fun to see Walt Simonson reimagine Harley Quinn as Manhunter, it's a joke not many new readers would get.
Then again, how great is it to have Bruce Timm return to the character he co-created? And to have them take a friendly jab at Jim Lee while also acknowledging that Harley has been altered by the New 52? It's just hard to see yet if Conner and Palmiotti will find enough of the old Harley in the new to make this a book people must have.
Well-done, but it's hard to see what would hold a new reader to it. It's not even fitting in the "Zero Year," which would give Conner and Palmiotti a chance to truly redefine Harley. This zero issue is for fans of the character, but doesn't seem likely to garner new ones.
That's not to say the ongoing series won't do it. Palmiotti takes a shot at himself as "that Western guy," but come on -- his work on Jonah Hex is pretty great, even after the limitations of the New 52 got put on him. And Conner, too, is an underappreciated writer/artist. So they can make this a series worth reading. This issue just isn't part of that series.
Harley Quinn #0 should be available at your local comics shop, such as Earth-2 Comics in Sherman Oaks and Northridge, CA, and Illusive Comics & Games in Santa Clara, CA.