WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Old Lady Harley #1 by Frank Tieri, Inaki Miranda, and Eva De La Cruz, on sale now!
Every now and then, comic readers are treated with a very special sort of speculative story. Instead of tales one would often read in the pages of What If? or DC's Elseworlds titles, which focus on familiar heroes and villains existing under vastly different circumstances than what they are known for, tittles like The Dark Knight Returns or Spider-Man: Reign fast-forward the clock to a possible future where characters are older and often downtrodden versions of themselves.
These heroes and villains have fallen from grace, and the world is worse for their absence. The stories of these past-their-prime icons pay tribute to dystopic films and literature. The Dark Knight Returns gave us a look into a potential near-future where the street crime of the '70s and '80s became omnipresent, much like in The Warriors. Old Man Logan revealed a barren wasteland with people fighting for territory and scarce resources, echoing George Miller's Mad Max film series. Now, Old Lady Harley has brought one of the most unlikely of characters to a future that is a melting pot of homages to the post-apocalyptic stories that precede it.
Harley Runs Bartertown
Subtly has never been Harley Quinn's strong suit, so naturally the references to other dystopian stories are glaringly obvious. The biggest visual gag is a flashback where Harley straps to a pike on the front of a car while wearing a steel muzzle across her face, similar to Tom Hardy's bonds in Mad Max: Fury Road. The character of Max Rockatansky gets a few more visual nods, with the other on-the-nose reference being the variant cover to Old Lady Harley #1 by Amanda Conner and Paul Mounts, which is a hilarious recreation of the iconic moment from the The Road Warrior with Max and a stray dog in the middle of the road. The image became so popular it was sometimes used as the cover for home video releases, and can be found printed on t-shirts owned by your movie nerd friends.
Harley's wasteland outfit includes the post-apocalyptic hero cloak we've seen consistently in the genre, and it hearkens back to the marauders and desert madmen of The Road Warrior and Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, which is only fair since she is technically a villain. After all, if you believe the Mad Max franchise, all bad guys in the future wear revealing leather clothes, war paint and sport some sort of body modification. The aesthetic aped from the Australian film franchise also extends to the car Harley and Red Tool drive, which looks an awful lot like an Interceptor, sans the insane engine block. Oh, and it also gets wrecked early in the issue... just like Mad Max's car in Road Warrior and Fury Road.
From Wastelands to Neon Cities
While the plot in the first issue of Old Lady Harley feels almost nonexistent (which is not a bad thing, as it's focusing on the world-building), its set dressing gives readers more information than the words on the page. There are strange teams of villains with advanced weapons that shoot monsters (which is reminiscent of the video game series Fallout) and dress up in matching outfits that are a cross between Malcolm McDowell's white getup from A Clockwork Orange and the baseball gang from The Warriors. Harley even refers to them as "Clockjerk Orange," which is a little on the nose, but cute.