It was sad to see Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti move on from Harley Quinn years ago, but it’s quite clear DC is aware their fanbase is ready for more. Out this week, Harley Quinn & The Birds of Prey #1 is the debut DC Black Label return of the Harley we know and love complete with taxidermy beaver and a wild group of friends. This series may only be four issues long, but it makes up for it by packing three issues of content into every issue. We’re talking multiple fight sequences, multiple flashbacks, multiple sight gags.
I’m always fascinated when creators get extra pages to work with since it changes the flow of a book so much. This issue packs a lot of content into its pages and yet it reads like any other Palmiotti and Conner Harley book — you just get more of it. I ended up liking the general feel of the title more since a flashback can take up so many pages, but it doesn’t matter so much here since we can move on to many more scenes after that.
The book opens with Harley, Poison Ivy, and Red Tool enjoying the beach nearly nude. Superman is their butler of sorts and he’s brought them shots, all of which have inappropriate names he’d rather not say. It’s a fun way to drop us into some inappropriate humor and visual comedy, but soon we realize Harley is dreaming and she’s sleeping on a dirty mattress with a bunch of her buddies. Palmiotti and Conner’s version of Harley is only as strong as her worst day and it’s in her positivity we see the true joy of this series.
Ast he story progresses you might start to see a swear or two pop in, but only after a few pages. I actually wondered if the creators didn’t know they were DC Black Label till a few pages in, since swearing seems more apparent as the book goes on. The gore and violence are ramped up too and it’s nice to get a more violent version of Harley now that the rating isn’t an issue. It definitely changes the feel of the character when she’s smashing a guy in the head with a bat filled with nails. It’s never too disturbing though thanks to Conner’s cartoony style and Paul Mounts’ bright color art.
Speaking of art, Amanda Conner is doing some of her finest work of her career here. Layout and panel placement all feel fresh and alive. Yes, captions and dialogue can run extra long, but that’s customary of this series’ style. There are some gags that require the art to work for the laughs to be pulled off and I think Conner excels in these moments. One of my favorites involves Harley talking to her beaver while onlookers look on freaking out. They can’t hear the beaver, you see, and it’s quite a conversation she has with said beaver.
There is a lot of content in this book and it’s well worth the extra cost of $5.99. All told it’s 36 pages of content and those are dense pages. There are multiple action sequences, good bits of dialogue, jokes to be had, and a fun narrative structure.