Harley Quinn will do just about anything to win a date with Bruce Wayne, including breaking and entering, robbery and inducing great bodily harm in Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s “Harley Quinn Valentine’s Day Special” #1. Despite that, there’s still a backhanded kind of sweetness in Harley’s misguided infatuation, as at least her selfish and destructive desires are motivated by a charitable effort and even Batman himself cuts her a break. In fact, she finds herself on the side of the angels in that enemy-of-my-enemy kind of way and things pretty much end well for everyone that deserves it, even for Harley herself in this case.
Conner and Palmiotti engage in a bit of satire against the wealthy, and the real-life individual they choose to parody is a safe one, in that it’s someone who pretty much everyone is all-too-willing to vilify. Some of the satire is turned inward, breaking the forth wall occasionally and poking fun at the comic book creative and editorial process by jabbing at marketing-driven event stories. The writers also take a brief swipe at some geek culture archetypes, one of whom meets a cartoon-style demise, albeit in a loopy dream sequence.
Beyond that, the laughs are pretty typical Conner/Palmiotti fare: mostly amusing with a couple of genuinely hilarious moments. Much of the humor is visual, thanks in large part to the talents of John Timms, who pencils and inks most of the main storyline outside of periodic dream sequences. Two new characters, a pair of bumbling would-be supervillains who also have altruistic motives, are rendered as jokes to be laughed at for the most part, although Timms can make them look just imposing enough when they need to be. He manages Harley the same way, giving her that goofy kind of evil twinkle when required but also making her intimidating when called for, whether she’s in costume or in a well-designed evening dress. Even Batman’s ever-present fear factor is toned down.
Harley and Bruce each get their own unique dream moment where they fantasize (or fear) the nature of an unlikely future together. Harley’s vision is cartoonishly illustrated and colored by Ben Caldwell, where Bruce is a musclebound hunk with only one thing on his mind, although for different reasons than one might think. With Bruce’s dream, artist Aaron Campbell takes a much more realistic and straightforward approach with an attractively textured, shadowy finish, but one that comes across as too serious for the scene’s mood and thereby as a mismatch with the rest of the comic. Artist Thony Silas handles the art chores for three pages in the main storyline that plays well with the overall tone established by Timms.
Conner and Palmiotti’s plot is a little contrived; Harley’s burning desire to go out on a date with Bruce comes from seemingly nowhere, and Bruce’s willingness to help the two villains who kidnap him seems kind of convenient. Still, it fits within the tone of their lighthearted story, and the feel-good resolution is in better keeping with the holiday embedded in the comic’s title than some kind of grim and hurtful ending. “Harley Quinn Valentine’s Day Special” #1 is a fun, harmless ode to this day of romance.