There is no doubt in my mind that DC Comics do female superheroes better than Marvel. Of my top five favourite super heroines, 4 of them are DC: Supergirl, Power Girl, Batgirl, and Harley Quinn. (For full disclosure’s sake, the Marvel heroine is She-Hulk).
I’ve been a fan of Harley Quinn since her first comic appearance in The Batman Adventures issue #12, but I really liked what I saw in the Bruce Timm/ Paul Dini story Mad Love, though they came at a time when I was drifting out of comics because of how awful they had become in the early 90s so I missed out on a whole pile of her adventures until I became re-united with her when her own comic became a part of the New 52 Universe that DC started several years ago. She wasn’t one of the 52 launch titles, but once her comic started, I was well and truly into it. Harley’s actual first appearance was actually in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series as a sidekick of the Joker.
Who is Harley Quinn, I hear you ask? Harley’s origin sees her as a psychologist Harleen Quinzel who was manipulated by the Joker whilst treating him in Arkham Asylum to fall in love with him. The Joker has a firm ‘treat ‘me mean and keep ‘me keen’ ethos and that really works on Harley.
The Joker decided at one point that she cramped his style, so he attempted to kill her but she was rescued by Poison Ivy (another Batman villain) who assisted in her recovery by giving her various plant potions which also made her more limber, and increased her strength and endurance. She is also resistant to most toxins, including the Joker’s laughing gas.
Harley’s popularity also rose from her appearance in the amazing ‘Arkham’ video game series and she has been a cosplay favourite for a while too. Her appearance in the TV show Birds of Prey went by with just a blip, but her portrayal by Margot Robbie in 2016’s film Suicide Squad nailed her look into people’s regular day-to-day wear,
This collection is a series of 8 stories taken from various comics which show the evolution of the character from throwaway gun moll to superhero in her own right (if you have read the Harley Quinn/ Power Girl 6 issue mini series written by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, with art by Palmiotti, Stéphan Roux and Justin Gray). Her character goes from flat out villain to crazy fun-loving within a few pages that represent many years, so it’s funny to see just how much the character has evolved to suit the affection the comic loving populace have for her. Some of the stories are only a few pages long and serves as character vignettes, but others really display the character is all her crazy lights!
Story: This being a historical collection, there is a variety of writes who have worked on it: Scott Beatty, Kelly Puckett, Jeph Loeb, Paul Dini, Adam Glass, Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV, Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti and Rob Williams, and the stories are presented in historical order. The Rob Williams story is the most recent and clearly sees the film version of the Suicide Squad become a more comic related group and is an interesting look at where Harley’s mind is as far as wanting to be a superhero is concerned, but for me, the Kicked in the Teeth, from 2011’s Suicide Squad #1 by Adam Glass is the most effective story. The least effective story is Jeph Loeb’s The Opera but only because it was a past of a bigger story that was presented over 12 issues, and there are minor subplots unresolved. It’s not a criticism of Loeb’s writing, but more it’s appearance here is a misstep as it is only a snippet of an entire Batman story.
All in all it’s an uneven story collection, but as a character evolution and dissection, it almost works!
Art: As with the story, the art is of varying quality, but is mostly representative of the story it is presenting. Modern comics art legend Jim Lee makes two appearances here, his better art featuring in the The Opera story, but for me, the fun, cartoony are of Mike Parobeck, whose art lends itself to both an animated or a traditional comic style, in the Batgirl: Day One.
Overall though, I really liked all of the art in this collection.