When it was first announced, it was hard to see why exactly the new “Harley Quinn” series needed to debut with a #0. Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti were going to be joined with an all-star group of artists, so with hindsight that was perhaps the first hint. But now that “Harley Quinn” #0 is out, it’s immediately obvious that this issue isn’t going to be quite like the rest of the series. And so, standing off to one side, this is a deliberately silly romp that lets Conner and Palmiotti stand back a bit and let a lot of the heavy lifting get performed by the artists. And ultimately, I’m just fine with that.
Most of the issue is Harley imagining what her life would be like if it was in a comic book, followed by her arguing with her writers as they shift from one artist to the next, page-by-page. Aside from the last two pages, there isn’t any real plot going on here; just a lot of jokes about the different artists tackling Harley, and a heck of a lot of breaking of the “fourth wall” as Harley Quinn addresses her creators as well as the audience. But with that in mind, it’s actually a pretty cute comic.
It helps that Conner and Palmiotti have a strong tongue-in-cheek voice for the comic; written seriously this would have been a drag and a half. But it’s light and amusing, and Palmiotti and Conner engage in a lot of fun quips and comments. The several references to Stephane Roux filling in for part of the upcoming “Harley Quinn” #2 are a nice sly nod at the readers, for instance, and I defy you to not laugh at the Jim Lee page when Harley realizes that it’s just a slightly tweaked page from “Hush,” or the answer to what’s now inside the sandbags that pummel Batman.
But when it comes to the art… oh, the art. I love that every artist is given something especially fun to draw. A lot are directly connected to what the artist is known for, needless to say. Walter Simonson drawing a riff on his classic “Manhunter” comic is gorgeous, although I do wonder how many younger readers might not get the reference. Co-creator Bruce Timm coming on board for a page is a welcome return, with Timm’s gorgeous and clean comic art looking as snazzy as ever. And sometimes, the art just looks cool because of the artist, with no need to connect to a previous work. Dave Johnson’s page makes me wish once more that he still drew interiors (although his covers are always more than welcome), with a striking choice of colors to go alongside the gorgeous angular art, for example. And having a few newer faces on board is a real treat, too. Art Baltazar’s “Tiny Titans” page is adorable, Tradd Moore’s looks snazzy, and talent search winner Jeremy Roberts is no doubt going to be in high demand.
Of course, those looking ahead to the ongoing series will probably be the most interested in the final page, from regular artist Chad Hardin. It’s a strange sort of dirty/clean art; good rounded forms and an overall strong artistic sense, but at the same time a fine layer of grit on top of what would otherwise be sparking clean and crisp. It reminds me a bit of the same approach that artists like Brian Stelfreeze take to the page, and it makes me think that “Harley Quinn” #1 is going to be a nice looking comic.
“Harley Quinn” #0 is a strange little flight of fancy, a one-off celebration of the character of Harley Quinn rather than a definitive start to her series. And all in all, I must say that it’s an entertaining way to ease the readers back in. Those interested in the ongoing story of Harley can wait until next month to pick up “Harley Quinn” #1, but if you don’t mind a deliberately silly romp with some drop-dead gorgeous art (there’s not a bad page in the bunch), well, stop on by now and drink in the craftsmanship.