Current Reviews


Harley Quinn #34

Posted: Monday, July 14, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

Writer: A.J. Lieberman
Artists: Mike Huddleston (p), Troy Nixey (i)

Publisher: DC

The book opens with the police arriving to investigate the aftermath of the violence that played out in the previous issue, while Harley Quinn & the young girl she found in the apartment slip off into the shadows. As Harley leaves the child in the care of Doc, her elderly weapon supplier, we see she attempts to set up a meeting with the main villain, as she is looking to cash in on the $500,000 reward being offered for the delivery of the child. However, after the meeting is made we see the villain has no intention of paying as he sends his assassin after Harley. As Harley waits for the meeting we see that the little girl is fully aware that Harley is looking to sell her off, but she seems quite unconcerned by the situation, and instead proceeds to make a pest out of herself, by demanding that she be fed. After Harley takes out a sniper who had set up shop across the street, we see she returns to the apartment to find the little girl has gotten hold of one of her guns, and she has decided to phone the police, while holding Harley at gunpoint. However, Harley manages to press the point that the cops are likely to be in the pocket of the villain, and the little girl decides to stick with Harley. The issue then ends with Harley too busy dealing with a gang of gunmen to prevent the child from being snatched up by the police, and taken into custody.

This issue reminds me a bit of the film "Paper Moon" in which a con-artist finds himself saddled with a young girl and he starts to discover the little girl is far more adept at the con game than he is. Now there are some fairly significant differences, such as the fact that Harley's young ward is a much sought prize being sought by the criminal element, and the reason why the young girl takes to this new situation so well is because she's been living the fugitive lifestyle for most of her life. Still, Harley's complete inability to play the role of the adult guardian in this scenario is very much in line with the film example I used, as one is almost left with the sense that of the two the young girl is actually better suited for this situation. I mean one has to love how quickly the girl managed to arrive at the conclusion that Harley is not a threat to her, and that if she wants to make it out of this current jam alive it's probably for the best to stick around Harley, as she'll be able to take down the others that do mean her harm. This is a pretty solid example of how a writer can craft a scenario where Harley is clearly wearing the white hat, while at the same time her criminal behavior isn't cast aside. One also has to love the final scene which manages to play up the idea that the Gotham City Police Department are up to their necks in this criminal exercise.

This issue also manages to play up the relationship that Harley has with her elderly weapon supplier Doc, as the two always seem to be at odds with each other, but one also gets the sense that they need each other, and that they would each put everything on the line to save the other. It takes a fair amount of skill on a writer's behalf to make such a relationship balance work, as most times the tension feels contrived, or it's delivered to such a degree that one actively wonders why these characters wouldn't be helping to tie the other to the train tracks, as the speeding train approached. The interaction between the two characters is a lot of fun, as it's very easy to see why Harley would be a difficult person to deal with, as she is seemingly oblivious to the idea that her actions would have a negative impact on the lives of others. As such Doc has to make his points to her in the most overly melodramatic means available, and his steady stream of sarcasm is pretty funny as well. When the situation turns toward the business at hand the book also does a nice job of playing up the idea that Doc has Harley's best interests in mind, and that he knows her well enough to spot how she could makes the situation more complex than it already is. The interaction between Harley & the little girl, before Harley tosses her in the closet was also a lot of fun.

The art of Mike Huddleston works exceptionally well when it comes to delivering the harder edged material in this story, as the opening scene where the body of the little girl's previous guardian is being looked at by the police is a wonderful method of pulling the readers into the story, as well as telling them that the situation Harley's currently embroiled in is a rather serious-minded affair. The art also manages to do a pretty solid job on the final bit of action as when the bullets start flying, and Harley makes her mad dash up the building to take down the assassins, the art does a wonderful job of detailing the action. The little girl is also rather cute, which makes the scenes where she reveals herself to be wise beyond her years all the more effective. Harley's frustration with the situation is also amusingly presented, as the page where she's pacing back and forth ranting is a very cute visual. There's also a very effective scene where the art closes in on the little girl, while we know that there is a sniper on the neighboring roof, and as such the sound effect of a gun going off has far more impact than it might've if the focus had been on the battle. The calm, almost matter of fact manner in which the young girl manages to get the drop on Harley was also well done, as was the scene where Harley manages to put her off calling the police for protection.

Final Word:
I have to say that I'm rather warming up to this book's new hard-boiled approach, as when it first hit the book I have to admit I was annoyed that the humor, and lighthearted escapades had been cast aside. However, while the original story was a bit of a puzzler that left me unimpressed, this current arc is a very entertaining bit of action, that is nicely combined with some fairly amusing character moments. I love the way this book plays up the idea that Harley is a pitiful parent figure to this little girl, as she has trouble providing even the most basic elements of guardianship, such as the fact that one must feed a child. I also enjoyed the street wise child who is in some ways more suited to this current situation than Harley, and the fact that Harley finds herself having to constantly tell herself & the child that all she's looking for from this situation is the $500,000 reward she'll get for delivering the child to the big, bad villains. There's also several cute moments, like the little nod of the head to Peter Parker's favorite breakfast.

What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!