Current Reviews


Harley Quinn #33

Posted: Tuesday, June 17, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: Andy Lieberman
Artists: Mike Huddleston (p), Troy Nixey (i)

Publisher: DC

The book opens in Paris, where we see a man watches his apartment blown to kingdom come, and this has him leaping into a passing cab, where he makes it quite clear he needs to get to the airport. However when the cab driver shoots him dead, we see this man is a hired killer on the trail of something on board a plane that has just left for Gotham City. We then jump to Gotham where we find Harley Quinn is busy adding to her art collection during a visit to the city museum, and after she manages to slip away from the guards she pays a visit to her information broker/weapons supplier, who has just been contacted by a man who has recently arrived in town offering half-a-million dollars to anyone who can locate a man who is hiding in the city. As we learn this man appears to have a secret code surgically scanned onto his retina, we see Harley's lust for money insures she'll be taking on this job. However, the man offering the reward has been busy getting the word out, and as such most of Gotham's criminal community is looking to cash in on this half-a-million dollar payday. However, Harley is able to get a step ahead of most of her rivals, and while she manages to locate the man, she does have to deal with a trigger happy competitor, and this allows the man to escape to the roof. However with Harley hot on his tail that man attempts to leap from one building to the next, and his jump comes up short.

A pretty simple plot that is made a fair sight more complex thanks to Andy Lieberman's writing style, in which he offers up the information in small doses so that with each scene we get to see a little piece of the bigger picture, and by the end when we can finally piece it all together, and we have what looks like a fairly conventional plot, he able to throw in an unusual twist. Now if I had to guess I would say that it's the little girl who has the code scanned on to her retina, and that Harley Quinn will be forced to protect this girl from the unkind attentions of the group that is looking to get this information, and the various mercenaries who are looking for the half-a-million dollar reward that has been promised for her capture. What I don't quite understand about the final pages of this issue is that like us readers Harley was operating under the assumption that it was the man who had the code scanned on to his retina, but instead of carting around his body (or his eyes) to pull in the reward, we see Harley was busy ransacking the man's motel room. I mean she was told where the information was hidden so why was she acting like she didn't. I realize it suits the purpose of the story, as she has to meet the little girl, but I did find this scene a bit strange. Then again, maybe she already has the man's eyes and she was simply looking for information on a secondary buyer.

The one nice thing about this story is that it really zips along, as in addition to the mystery of what exactly all these various groups are trying to accomplish in the early stages of the book, when we do have everyone on the same page, the action is nice & intense, as we have bullets flying, as well as a some pretty solid hand-to-hand combat to keep one entertained. I also like the idea that Harley is a character who not only seem to find great enjoyment in fighting against people trying to kill her, but her role as a villain allows her to essentially return the favor, as she guns down one man, while driving another into making a desperate leap between two buildings that he's simply not up to making, and as such he tumbles to his death. Harley Quinn is allowed to play the game dirty, and this makes her a rather unique entity in the DCU, as while Batman can put a good scare into criminals, and Catwoman will on occasion expose her villainous roots, Harley Quinn is the only DCU character with a monthly title (in recent memory) who has never really abandoned her villainous ways (heck, even Green Arrow isn't nearly a ruthless as he had been). I like the idea that Harley is still actively robbing museums of priceless works of art to decorate her apartment, and that when the latest villain plot is unleashed in the criminal community, Harley has ears to hear it.

Mike Huddleston has an art style that lends itself quite nicely to the film noir qualities of this title, as we're treated to heavy shadows, and angular perspective shots that give the action scenes a nice visual punch. In fact it's the action scenes that really sell me on the work, as the art does a wonderful job conveying a sense of motion, and the action moves from one panel to the next with a very strong sense of continuity, though there are some noticeable little details that could've used a sharper eye (e.g. the broken window the man jumped through has its busted edges change shape from one panel to the next). Still, the little details aren't enough to turn me off the art, as it has a wonderful sense of atmosphere & it also manages to convey the idea that Harley Quinn does have a darker side, as we see her shoot a man in the head. There's also some cute visual touches like the scene where the four bosses are made their offers, and while all the men look the same, the background details have some fun detailing what part of the world they hail from. There's also a wonderful shot of Harley Quinn as she makes her escape from the museum, as her gleeful expression perfectly sells the idea that she has tremendous job satisfaction. My only really quibble would be those silly sunglasses make two characters look very similar.

Final Word:
A fairly enjoyable adventure, as Andy Lieberman seems to be growing more confident in how he delivers the story to the reader, as while the opening half of the book is a bit difficult to follow, once the information does start coming in, it's worth going back over the opening half to see how well it all tied together. I also like the fact that this plot is able to pull Harley in with the simple lure of money, as there's something rather appealing about the idea that our lead character is allowed to engage in criminal activity. The story moves along at a brisk pace, so that one is never allowed to become bored, and there's also a couple nice plot twists, as we learn the rather unconventional reason for why this person is being hunted, and the last page delivers an unexpected surprise that should make the next chapter quite interesting. There's also some fun moments of interaction in this issue, as I consider myself a bit of a film buff, and as such I've always been rather fond when exchanges between characters veer into this terrain.

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