If there were an industry award for most truthfully-named comic, the front runner would undoubtedly be Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s amusing “Harley Quinn Invades Comic-Con International: San Diego” #1, a one-shot comic where Harley Quinn invades Comic-Con International: San Diego. Conner, Palmiotti and a team of nine artists collaborate on an inward-looking but fun romp through the fanboy craziness of the comic book industry’s dominant annual event. Harley somehow ends up travelling with a group of retailers exhibiting at the show, but unlike most retailers, Harley is able to escape the confines of her booth and partake in many of the experiences the con, and the city that houses it, has to offer.
Of course, this is Harley Quinn, who proves that the typical craziness of Comic-Con is nothing compared to the kind that she brings with her. As wild as things can get, only Harley would de-pants a Batman cosplayer on the show floor, or manage to get a group of Harley cosplayers arrested. At least, one would hope so. She engages in plenty of other and more harmless antics during the course of the show, many of which probably have actually happened, such as photobombing DC Comics’ co-publisher Dan DiDio during an interview, and going to dinner at the nearby favorite hangout Dick’s Last Resort (whose named has been changed to protect the copyright) and reacting badly to the staff’s trademark and put-on rude behavior.
Some gags work better than others; some are side-splittingly funny while others are only chuckle-worthy. Throughout, though, it’s fun, in no small part for some of the more self-deprecating touches. DiDio is especially victimized, as he delivers an over-the-top and fictitious parody of the company’s upcoming output, which otherwise reads like an announcement from one of his old DC Nation panels. There’s a veiled jab thrown at Marvel Comics’ creative direction, and Harley manages to score a portfolio review with none other than co-publisher Jim Lee himself, in an uncomfortably funny sequence that will hit home with any artist who has ever participated in one of these nerve-wracking encounters.
Conner and Palmiotti have both attended enough Comic-Cons in the past to understand its vibe, one which they superbly capture in this comic. Anyone who’s been to SDCC will obviously get the most out of it, and even those who have been to one of the larger cons other than San Diego will get it. Although, not unexpectedly, DC seems to be the only publisher with an exhibit at the show, and all of the cosplayers are either DC characters, or generic characters from other pop culture media. Much of the humor will be lost on non-con goers, though, and almost all of the industry humor is all but wasted on those who don’t recognize the real-life DC staff and creators who are referenced. Fans of Harley, though, will appreciate it regardless, and at worst this comic stands out as a worthwhile Harley one-shot.
All of the contributing artists utilize a lighter, sometimes cartoonish style, but also deliver painstakingly detail at times. The cover as drawn by Conner and colored by Paul Mounts is a wraparound showing Harley chaotically running through the line of fans in front of the convention center, with all of the Batman cosplayers hilariously knocked out. Javier Garron renders an impressive and surreal double page spread to lead off the story, one that is worth scrutinizing for its detail before beginning the story in earnest. Conner’s own three interior pages, though, are a comic-within-a-comic, showing Harley to have some creative talent as the creator, writer, and artist of her own character, Hurl Girl. This aside is funny enough, but its misplaced in this comic, especially so early in the story, and reads more like something that Conner had lying around in her studio that could finally see the light of day here.
Paul Pope’s opening page shows a Harley who echoes the feelings of those who have longed to attend SDCC. Harley’s opening thoughts state, “It’s been something I’ve dreamt about. Many times.” Through Harley’s trouble-making experiences, readers who share that same sentiment will get a taste of what they long to see, in a story that pokes fun at Comic-Con but is also fun because of it.