Review: Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys #1

Harley Quinn is a severely mentally ill, tragically codependent abuse victim who frequently fails to escape her abuser. So of course she gets a spin-off wherein she has wacky adventures with what amounts to a crime-fighting youth group. Having finally -- and perhaps permanently -- shaken off the Joker's influence, Harley has begun providing her services as a hero for hire. What's more, Harley has subcontracted to a somewhat diverse gang of wayward young toughs. One of my major concerns going into this book was the continued fetishizing of Harley. In her many portrayals she's frequently infantilized, sexualized, and reduced to a joke. By contrast Joker gets to be terrifying, a genuine threat. Whether or not you find him sexy, he's undeniably a monster. In Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys DC seems to be positioning Quinn as their equivalent to Marvel's Deadpool. Deadpool has gone from crummy villain to sympathetic ne'er-do-well to somewhat overexposed zombie murder clown. And Harley has the capacity to represent a similar -- though hopefully more consistently good -- arc. Here she is testing her new independence by redefining her purpose. In Joker's shadow, she was isolated from others. Now, as a hero, she has built her own little family.

HQGH_Cv1_dsBy being put in a leadership position, Harley is pressured to consider someone else's well being. It is a job where her skills can be tested and applied for ostensibly selfish purposes. In reality, she has created a safe space where otherwise at-risk people can channel their efforts toward something not entirely destructive. The Harley's are only nominally superheroes. They like to get into fights and they hope to cause some good in the world as a byproduct of their violence. Beating up a gang of hipster bullies, for example, seems like a good enough deed and it's an act of violence no one will complain about. Don't know who is paying the Harley’s for that one. Don't know if the Harleys really care. In that sense, the characters are going to need a little more motivation in the future. They don't seem to want anything so much as they simply seem to enjoy carnage. Maybe, at this stage, the book doesn’t take itself seriously enough. Some readers are going to be turned off by the near constant flippancy.

I've never been fond of any Harley Quinn redesigns. They inevitably focus on failing to convince me clowns are hot. Mauricet’s art emphasizes the silliness of the book’s writing. While Quinn's cheesy sexuality is downplayed, it is still present in a playful, less icky capacity. The playful tone is helped greatly by truly brilliant, energetic artwork. And when the tone shifts, the art keeps up with a bit of shocking brutality.

Really, the only big weakness in Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys is the gang itself. They have distinct personalities that are certainly each given time to shine. However, they come across as little more than a handful of character traits and costume choices. The first issue's ending suggests we'll be getting deeper explorations of the gang's personal lives and motivations. Honestly, though, I don't know how one would write a better introduction here. Issue one might have been able to ditch its lead a little earlier to allow the gang more spotlight. But that would leave you with a bunch of unfamiliar faces competing for your attention. Issue two seems like it will better showcase the gang and their interpersonal relationships. And that's something the book needs more of.

A good start.

[button btn_url="" btn_color="pink" btn_size="large" btn_style="default" btn_outlined="no" link_target="blank" link_rel="" icon_left="" icon_right=""]Score: 3/5[/button]

Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys #1 Writers: Frank Tieri, Jimmy Palmiotti Artist: Mauricet Colorist: Hi-Fi Publisher: DC Comics Price: $3.99 Release Date: 4/13/16 Format: Mini-series; Print/Digital