Harley Quinn Volume 1: Die Laughing (2016)
Written by Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti
Art by John Timms and Chad Hardin
Harley Quinn is living on Coney Island, New York with the former members of a traveling carnival and apparently, Egg-Fu’s son and a Deadpool knockoff? Well, an alien lands on Earth and gets chopped up into some ground meat causing a zombie apocalypse to break out. Poison Ivy shows up to help with that one. Then a gang of armored medieval knights attacks a mailman which leads Harley to put together a punk band. All of that is done by order of the New York mayor. Yeah, this is Harley Quinn.
I hate this comic. I was never a fan of Deadpool because that specific point of view and sense of humor just isn’t personally funny to me. Breaking the fourth wall has become an incredibly overused writer’s crutch so that when they are backed into a narrative corner, they can just wink at the audience and ignore everything they’ve done up until then. Harley Quinn doesn’t go as deep down the rabbit hole as the worst Deadpool does, but it comes pretty close. Harley is not a funny character. The world and characters she is surrounded by are not amusing. All of this feels incredibly forced. The Deadpool analog is called Red Tool, get it?! Ugh.
The collection is broken into two halves: The Zombie stuff and the punk band stuff. And neither is very good. Part of my dislike of the book is that the supporting cast is so ill-defined beyond their weirdness and quirkiness. We have the former members of a carnival who are intended to ignore stereotypes, but I was struggling to see them presented in any way beyond their “freak” gimmick. There is a lot of content carried over from the previous run, written by the same couple, yet no actual Rebirth moment where a new audience is introduced to this cast. The robot egg character confused the hell out of me because he is just present in scenes yet I could tell he wasn’t part of the carnival, and he wasn’t connected to Red Tool. There’s never an explanation as to whom he is. I literally had to go to the DC Wiki run by fans to find out who the hell this character was.
My assumption with Rebirth branded titles is that they were meant to introduce new readers to characters they may have never read or dropped in the past. There is zero sense of that in Harley Quinn. Conner & Palmiotti seem to have missed that memo. I honestly forced myself to finish this mess. And I am not adverse to “funny” superhero titles. At one point I owned the entire run of Giffen & DeMatteis’ Justice League. I loved Peter David’s X-Factor, that combined humor and drama. But while those series found the middle point between humor and superhero storytelling, Harley Quinn is just a disorganized slog of meme-ish dumb jokes.
The comic did remind me of how over “punk” I am. Literally, the least “punk” thing you can do at this point is declare how “punk” you are. That whole ideology is a what makes people in their 40s from Generation X look like lame morons. I’m sure people will try to counter by pointing out how Harley is openly pansexual and that she is shown as a strong, capable female character. That may be true, but Jessica Cruz (over in Green Lanterns) is a much better-written character. You know why? She is flawed and makes mistakes and is able to overcome them, but at a cost. That’s what good writing is. I get that Harley Quinn wants to be a “funny” book, but it is honestly painful.