Current Reviews


Harley Quinn #36

Posted: Thursday, September 11, 2003
By: Jason Cornwell

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

Publisher: DC

The book opens with Harley Quinn facing down an army of police officers who have converged upon her in the aftermath of her rescue of the young girl from police custody. However, thanks to the bomb she left behind, the sniper who was drawing a bead of her is taken out, and Doc arrives in a stolen police car to provide her & her young partner with a speedy getaway. We then get a pretty good look at how deeply corrupted the Gotham police force is, as the hired gun who was taken into custody is set free the moment it is learned he was placed in a cell. Meanwhile Harley is quickly learning that her apartment is no longer a safe place to lay low, as she barely manages to escape with the girl down the fire escape, when a machine gun totting killer busts in her front door. She then seeks refuge in the apartment of a friend who is currently serving two-five in jail, and we see in this bit of quiet time Harley learns that the little girl knows about the code imprinted on her retina, and that the procedure that will allow someone to retrieve the information will rob her of her eyesight. We then see that the group that is on the trail of Harley plant a bug on Doc, as they are aware of his friendship with Harley, and believe he will lead then to Harley. We then see this plan proves to be a success, as the two have a meeting and the group follows Harley back to her current hiding place, where Harley has discovered the girl has gone missing.

This story is a bit like riding an exercise bike, as you're expending the same amount of energy as you would if you were riding a regular bike, but in the end you haven't really gone anywhere. Now, I'm sure A.J. Lieberman would point out that this issue features a great deal of forward momentum, as Harley makes her escape from the cops, and then discovers a DVD upon which the girl's father explains why he performed the operation that has made his child the most sought after prize in the criminal underworld. However, I would argue that Harley's big escape is simply an unnecessary extension of the action we received in the previous issue, and that the only real purpose it served was that the previous issue could end on a cliffhanger, while this one could open with a bit of action. What's more the action arrives at an abrupt finish when her friend arrives in a getaway car, as the story seems to be asking us to believe the idea that none of those police officers would race back to their cars to speed after the fleeing Harley, or radio ahead to the other cars on the street to let them know a suspected cop killer was heading their way. As for the material where the father explains his actions, this is little more than an convenient means to clarify what exactly was done to this little girl, and why, but the video doesn't read like a parent explaining something to his little girl but rather a writer explaining back-story to the readers.

If I had to come right out and give one reason why I'm finding it difficult to embrace A.J. Lieberman's work on this series it would have to be his seeming inability to deliver information in a clear, straight forward manner. Now I have little problem with writers who prefer to make the readers work for the information on needs to enjoy the story, as I consider Christopher Priest to be one of the most skilled writers working in the comic industry, and I honestly don't think he could writer a story that simply progressed from point A to B. Oh I'm sure he could, but it certainly wouldn't be nearly as much fun as his current endeavors. The problem I have with A.J. Lieberman's work is that his efforts to deliver mystery and intrigue through the delivery of half-truths, and partial answers feels more like a writer who is simply padding his story. My growing annoyance with Bruce Jonesí work over on the Incredible Hulk evokes this same feeling, as while I'm sure the writer honestly believes they've injected enough material to support the arc, speaking as a reader I have to say I'm tired of reading stories that used to be delivered in one or two issues stretched out over the trade paperback friendly five-six issues. Now there are writers who can get away with it thanks to their strengths as a writer (e.g. Brian Michael Bendis writes great dialogue, so he pads his stories with lengthy dialogue exchanges), but A.J. Lieberman's attempt to stretch out this story with his belief that us readers are eagerly awaiting the answers he's been holding back is simply not enough.

Well, even if it doesn't really deliver a scene from inside the book, I have to say I did enjoy this cover to this issue, as it does a nice job of playing up the delight that Harley finds in something that most people find shocking and/or horrific. Plus the collection of guns that have gathered behind the two characters does a nice job of playing up the idea that Harley has made herself a target of the criminal underground in Gotham. As for the interior art I have to say that I'm really warming up to the bold use of light and shadows that is a key part of Mike Huddleston's work, as the opening shot of Harley standing in front of a small army of police officers & the flashing lights of the cruisers is a wonderful visual to open the story with. There's also a great shot of a gunman being vaporized by an explosive device on the following page, as I've always been rather fond of the effect where the explosive burst of light acts as an x-ray effect, allowing the readers to views the skeletal structure of the person caught in the blast. The art also does some nice work on the little scene where we see the various criminal overlords are informed that Harley Quinn has escaped with the child, and I love the way that this men can look exactly the same, while at the same time playing up their nationality. Harley's escape down the fire escape also makes good use of the set piece.

Final Word:
This issue is not exactly a thrill a minute reading experience it seems to be striving for, as frankly the issue is repeating the same plot that has made up the previous two issues. Harley Quinn is saddled with a young girl who has a code imbedded on her eye, and this code is of great interest to some very powerful figures in the criminal community. Harley is deeply troubled by the idea that this young girl is being treated like property instead of an innocent young girl. Plus, in order to collect the reward being offered for this girl, Harley will have to hand the child over to a group that plans on performing a procedure that will blind her for life. Now this is an interesting dilemma, but the problem is that A.J. Lieberman has already covered this ground in the previous chapters, so this issue is essentially repeating this information instead of advancing the plot forward. In fact the only bit of plot advancement we do get occurs on the final page when we learn the young girl has run away, and has tossed aside the one means that Harley had of tracking her.

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