Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Harley Quinn: Hot in the City, Vol. 1

I was going to start out this review by apologizing, but I'm sick of that.  I should be able to enjoy a graphic novel or comic book without apologizing for my lack of prior knowledge of every artist who ever drew that character, or every author who ever wrote that character, and how the story arc changed with the reboot/universe event/whatever.  I didn't read more traditional comics for a long time--the superhero kind, I mean.  I loved Fables and The Sandman and some of the early League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but Superman?  Batman?  Meh.  So much angst.  So.  Much.  Angst.  So much useless whingeing about loooove and responsibility and it's done so that it hits you over the head with its This Is A Big Deal-ness.

Take Superman, for example.  In every movie I've seen, or radio play I've listened to (yep, my family's old school that way), or comic I've browsed, somebody's found some Kryptonite or turned the sun red or whatever.  Seriously?  The planet Krypton must have been the size of a solar system to spew out that much of its own soil through space just so it can conveniently incapacitate Superman.  Whatever happened to matter cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed?  I'm getting a wee bit off topic, but I hope you catch my drift.  Most superhero comics fail to engage me in any meaningful way.


I don't know if Harley Quinn: Hot in the City is meaningful per se, but it is bucketloads of fun.  I don't know much about Harley Quinn besides what your average Jane might--Joker's lover/sidekick/victim, enjoys whacking people on the head with a giant mallet.  I've only read the Batgirl side of Death of the Family (because: Gail Simone, duh), and I honestly mean to read Snyder's Batman, but I haven't gotten around to it.  Anyway, after that event, Harley finds herself without her beloved Mistah J.  She's morose, sitting in a storage locker, eating candy and talking to her stuffed beaver (later used purely for juvenile laughs.  I laughed).  She gets into a conversation with the writers in a hilarious bust-down-the-fourth-wall exchange, and negotiates her way through being drawn by various artists.  I'm not yet skilled enough to recognize all of the differing styles (although Baltazar was obvious, and Harley's complaint that "They don't even bleed!" tickled me), but it was really cool to see different interpretations of Harley.  After that gloriously clever bit, we settle into the actual story.

One of Harley's former patients at Arkham Asylum has bequeathed her a building on Coney Island.  She becomes a landlady (!) of a building housing a freak show (poop, is there a more politically correct term for that?  Show of wonder?  I mean, Harley isn't exactly PC herself...).

She's thrilled to be on her own and living in the big city, although she does miss the Joker (okay, that's an understatement--she's obsessed with him but is slowly learning to work on her own).  Friends (and more than just friends) like Poison Ivy are just a phone call away, and she gets two jobs: one as a psychiatrist (incognito, naturally) and another as a derby brawler.  Love it!

Alas, this paradise of criminality is spoiled by two-bit henchmen constantly barging in and trying to knock off Harley.  Evidently, someone out there's put out a hit on her with a very big payola.  Harley must figure out who it is while simultaneously rescuing a building full of dogs, assisting an aging spy in completing his final mission (be prepared for lots of Yiddish in this issue!), and trying to get her tenants to pay the rent!

By far my favorite scene in this volume was the recreation of the famous cantina scene with Greedo in Star Wars.  I laughed the whole way through--particularly because Harley was in on the joke, and wasn't impressed when Guido went off script.

It's odd when a comic that's clearly about a psychopathic villain makes you kind of root for her, but, I did.  In a way.  I was also impressed by the handling of Harley's bisexuality--namely, by pretty much making it a non-issue.  She just is who she is.  Insane, but Harley.

I received an ARC of this from Netgalley.

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