“Harley Quinn Annual” #1 boasts a warning on the cover: “This issue contains scents designed to offend, inform and amuse.” Depending on the cover purchased, that warning either depicts a Christmas tree or a marijuana (or maybe it’s a poorly rendered buckeye) leaf. As the writing duo of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti are wont to do with this character, the adventure goes into silly areas and stays there.
The plot driving “Harley Quinn Annual” #1 is pretty straightforward: Harley learns Poison Ivy is in trouble and rushes to her aid. Conner and Palmiotti complete the adventure in this thirty-eight-page issue, but give readers plenty to see in a whirlwind tour through Harley Quinn’s world while also introducing new characters: Doctor Bruno Bash and Doctor Brandi Bliss. This pair is responsible for Ivy’s predicament and eventually lead to the introduction of Edward Fullerton Yeung. Yup. You read that right. The confluence of Conner and Palmiotti writing Harley Quinn make this exactly the right time and place for this development.
John Timms draws most of the issue, with assistance from Stjepan Sejic, Joe Quinones, Ben Caldwell and Kelley Jones. The latter four pitch in with their own telltale styles to assist with the hallucinations prompted from one of the scratch ‘n’ sniff spots, but more on that in a bit. Timms’ take on Harley is excessively exaggerated and maniacal, occasionally sacrificing a storytelling beat for an offbeat expression or over-the-top maneuver. For example, Harley’s catapult comes out of nowhere. It hits the story beats in the right place and, in the name of light-hearted tomfoolery serves its purpose, but serves as a bit more of a distraction than the pop-up Harleys set about the issue to alert readers when to rub and smell the tale unfolding before them.
The smell gimmick elevated awareness of this issue, but this issue doesn’t lose sight of being a fun comic book story in place of being a gimmick-packed comic book. The scents in “Harley Quinn Annual” #1 play into the story and vice versa, making a strong case for a hard copy of this comic as opposed to reading it digitally. None of the scents are overpowering, but they do linger, and some even recur. The most offensive and amazing scents readers anticipate going into this issue mostly don’t happen, but there is plenty here to elicit guttural reactions from those readers holding the paper copy of “Harley Quinn Annual” #1. Conner and Palmiotti add in pop-up commentary from the scent-locating Harleys, breaking down the fourth wall and ignoring the rubble.
All in all, like Deadpool for Marvel Comics, “Harley Quinn Annual” #1 is a goofy, light-hearted release from oppressive comic books burdened with tie-ins and events. There’s weird smells, funny one-liners, strung out gags and bizarre DC Comics historical connections that, truly, shouldn’t happen anywhere else. Conner and Palmiotti are definitely having fun with this book and it shines through in every wacky panel of “Harley Quinn Annual” #1. Their irreverent romp through the DC Universe is enjoyable and refreshing, even if it gets uncomfortably, awkwardly weird from time to time.