How do you solve a problem like Harley? If you’re Conner and Palmiotti, you don’t. You just grab hold with both hands and ride that bucking bronco wherever she takes you, no matter how bizarre (or dangerous) that may turn out.
Die Laughing is the first volume in the DC rebirth reintroduction of Harley (which is pretty much the same Harley of the New 52 reintroduction, with some tweaks and her suicide-squad blonde locks back on board). It starts off a little shaky, with an over-the-top alien-tourist-causes-a-zombie-plague-on-Coney-Island and yes, it is as messy and high-concept as it sounds. It’s a funny story, and an excuse for Harley to unleash ultra-violence without reverting to full psychopathy and mass murder. Still, the joke wears thin after a while and the gross-out humour gets old fast.
Far stronger are the stories that follow, in which Harley takes down a crime syndicate that swindles old people (violently, and with great delight), and then takes down a punk band that is committing grand larceny and acts of crazed violence (she’d like them, but they killed her favourite mailman, and now they have to pay). These stories allow her to show off her considerable skills (she’s a creative and ruthless killer, a tide of pure anarchy and id, with snappy comebacks and relentless wordplay), but without forgetting the broken woman lurking underneath – the brilliant psychiatrist who threw it all away to reinvent herself, followed her heart into an abusive relationship, and who is picking up the pieces of her life.
Harley is charming precisely because she’s both self-aware and feckless (and reckless), brilliant and ditzy, a loyal friend who drives those around her to distraction with her quirks. She loves small animals and will straight up murder those who abuse them. One of her best friends is a taxidermy beaver, another is an egg in a mecha suit. Honestly, the bizarre cast of characters (including a Deadpool parody named, uh, Red Tool) are such that they make Poison Ivy (Harley’s BFF -and-more) seem a rational, mature adult who probably pays her bills and writes well-thought-out letters to the editor of her local newspaper.
If the series can reign in the excessive “we’re so ker-ay-zee” hijinks of the zombie story, and have more of Harley being the bonkers badass bunny-hugger we love, this series will be a favourite. Holding thumbs (in case Harley cut ’em off)!
Provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Order Harley Quinn Vol.1: Die Laughing at Amazon: