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Harley Quinn #31

Posted: Thursday, April 24, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell



Writer: A.J. Lieberman
Artist: Nathan Fox

Publisher: DC

Plot:
The book opens with Harley Quinn dealing with a group of double-crossing hoods before we join her in her civilian identity as she gets a look at her new, somewhat dilapidated apartment. We then see that later that night as she is out casing various places she plans on hitting, her apartment is playing host to a pair of late night intruders who discover her wall safe & the mystery metal box inside. However, as she returns home we are quick to learn the mystery box didn't contain any valuables but rather the thieves made off with vials of a special liquid that Poison Ivy made for Harley. What's more we learn that Harley needs to consume this liquid on a regular basis to keep her powers in check, and as the current dose begins to wear off, we see Harley's in a bad way. As her body starts to break down we see Harley calls upon her current beau within the police department, and he manages to turn up a lead that has Harley paying a visit to pawn shop, which in turn leads her to the thieves who stole her vials. However, during the ensuing battle we see Harley's rather reckless fighting style manages to smash all but one of the vials. However, one would seem to be enough to get Harley back on her feet, and thus we have our happy ending.

Comments:
A fairly entertaining adventure that manages to build up a nice sense of urgency as Harley races to save her life, and it all comes to a frantic climax where we see the chemical solutions that can save her life are becoming more & more scarce, until we reach the moment where the book truly makes one believe that there are none left. The little testing device that measures the percentage of the substance in her blood also made for a nice ticking clock plot device, which in turn added to the drama, as we see her condition begins to worsen. It's also interesting to note that Poison Ivy's gift requires the continuous consumption of a chemical solution that seemingly Harley can only acquire from Ivy herself, and as it would seem that Ivy has Harley over a barrel. While they are friends this little element does place Ivy into a position of power in this partnership, and until Harley finds a method of making the solution she is a bit like a drug addict, with Ivy being her only supplier. One has to imagine that in spite of their friendship, one has to imagine Harley has been thinking ahead toward being a little more self reliant, especially when one considers that Ivy does end up in Arkham from time to time, and there's always the idea she could be killed during a battle.

This issue also nicely plays up the idea that Harley is rather vicious when she feels the need to be, as the criminals who stole from her discover that she doesn't play around when her life is on the line. There's a degree of ruthlessness to her during this sequence that is actually quite disturbing, as even when she is given the choice of killing one of her tormentors, and saving her own life, we learn she was quite willing to risk her life in order to achieve the vengeance she felt she was being denied by this choice. Now I must confess I'm a bit disappointed that this new darker tone has essentially removed the more comedic elements from the book, as having her run through a list of lame bands is not exactly a comedic gold mine (plus I must disagree on the inclusion of Men Without Hats on this list, as they are cheesy, not lame, and yes there is a difference). Still, even without the humor this issue does hold up better than the previous issues, as for the most part the action is fairly easy to follow, and it doesn't call upon the reader to make any huge leap of logic as the story arrives at its big finish. The done in one quality of this adventure is also appreciated, though the book doesn't really take the time to introduce the secondary characters, or explain their connection to Harley.

This issue features the guest-art of Nathan Fox, and I have to say that his work is actually quite impressive, especially during the more energetic sections of the issue. This issue's big action sequence is a wonderful bit of work, as we see Harley gets a fun little exchange that nicely rivals the opening bit of action from "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom", as she tries to lay her hand on a vial of the chemical that can save her life. The scene where she dives out for the falling vial is also nicely done, as how can one not love the panel where it hits the floor & shatters mere inches away from her outstretched hand. The art also manages to capture the slightly insane quality the lurks within Harley, as the look that crosses her face on page thirteen when she hears the news about the pawn shop is a perfect Harley Quinn expression. The one thing I do have to question though is the way this art details its impact shots, as this book delivers some of the messiest looking impact shots I've ever come across in a comic, as the blood flows pretty freely in the pages of this comic. There's also page eighteen where it looks like the sound-effects didn't get put in. In any event the issue is a pretty solid affair, and I'll be keeping an eye out for Nathan Fox's name on future projects.

Final Word:
Following on the heels of a story arc that I found to be unfocused & too dependent on some rather shaky plot devices, I was pleasantly surprised by this issue, as not only is it a solid done-in-one affair, but it also holds up fairly well as a clearly detailed bit of action. Now the humor is still sorely missed, and there are times where I feel the book gets a little too graphic in it's violence, but for the most part I found this issue to be a highly enjoyable bit of crime-fiction. I also like the basic premise of this issue as it borrows its plot from one of my favorite film noir flicks (the original D.O.A.), and it offers up a climax that is equal parts thrilling & comedic, as one almost expects the Three Stooges to join in on the fun. The idea that Harley is so dependent on a chemical she can only obtain from Poison Ivy is also an interesting Achilles heel for the character to be saddled with.



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