Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey #1 is the latest from DC Comics’ mature imprint, DC Black Label. The creative team brings on Amanda Connor and Jimmy Palmiotti, who launched Harley Quinn’s New 52 run. It is written by Connor and Palmiotti, with art from Connor, colors from Paul Mounts, and letters from John J. Hill. This book is a direct continuation of where they left Harley from the last run they worked on.
From the start, Connor’s interior artwork is fun and lively. The various costume changes for Harley Quinn throughout the book showcase how much Connor loves this character. Her and Palmiotti’s script follows Harley as she and her love interest Poison Ivy take a break. They were trapped on an island for a few days due to Harley’s recklessness. During these few days, Ivy grows extremely mad and exhausted over Harley’s antics and declares that she needs some space. This makes Harley go back to Coney Island, alone and pensive.
Once Harley arrives in New York, the co-written script takes a nosedive as it becomes riddled with sexual comments and swear words that feel forced and unamusing. Take for instance, when Harley is explaining her current situation to Power Girl. As she recounts this tale, Power Girl offers to help her. Harley interprets this help as, “showering together.” To which Power Girl responds with a, “No. Listen to your problem, you little horn-dog,” which feels very out of character for Power Girl to say. Later on in the story, a villain calls Huntress a, “whore-bag,” which feels unnecessary. There are other instances where Harley makes inappropriate comments that feel cheap and inauthentic to her quippy and smart character.
Connor and Palmiotti set up an interesting conflict for Harley as she attempts to fix her relationship with Ivy. However, since she spent so much time away from the hotel she owns, she’s missed too many mortgage payments to the crime boss Benny Defeo. They harm one of her friends and it showcases Harley’s sense of empathy and care outside of her relationship with Ivy. Feeling guilty about all the people she’s recently put in harm’s way, she vows to return to Gotham to set things straight. On her journey, she meets up with members of the Birds of Prey and their interactions are great. The character chemistry offers a nice balance to Harley’s hyper narration. While the general plot of this narrative is cohesive and interesting, especially when the Birds of Prey are involved, I cannot help but feel like the crassness of the script bogs down this entire book.
Despite the flaws presented in Connor and Palmiotti’s writing, Connor’s art knocks it out of the park. Characters are given moments to breathe with interesting and fun attire from panel to panel. Her lines are clear and bold. Connor does not shy away from showcasing violence. Her sense of motion for action sequences feels fluid. Mount’s coloring adds so much depth to Connor’s pencils. Harley’s dip-dyed blue and red pigtails are faded making all of Harley’s red and black outfits stick out. When some of the Birds of Prey appear in a panel, their dominant color sticks out and showcases each person’s uniqueness. What strings the personality of Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey #1 together is Hill’s lettering. Most of the sound effects have their own different colors per panel. Harley’s narration is stuffed into solid red text boxes. When characters are whispering to one another, the text becomes small but not too small to detract from the flow of reading.
Overall, the artwork in this issue stuns in its bright and colorful adventure but tonally the script does not follow suit. This DC Black Label book is a conflicting letdown for even a devoted Harley Quinn fan like myself. It is very apparent that they used the DC Black Label to push the envelopes on how violent and crass they could make this book via its script. While I appreciated this creative team’s work on Harley during the new 52, Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey #1 fails to live up to that expectation and flounders over the push to make it more “adult”.
Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey #1 is available now everywhere comics are found and online through our Comixology affiliate link.
Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey #1
While I appreciated this creative team’s work on Harley during the new 52, Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey #1 fails to live up to that expectation and flounders over the push to make it more “adult”.