Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey: The Hunt for Harley by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti. Review.

Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey: The Hunt for Harley by Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti

DC Black Label, HB, £15.99

Reviewed by Sarah Deeming

Things are not looking good for Harley. A holiday with Poison Ivy gone wrong, missed payments on her hotel mortgage results in a friend in the hospital and the hotel burnt, and the Joker has a new girlfriend. But this is Harley Quinn, and she won’t let a little thing like no money get in the way of her sorting her life out. Returning to Gotham, Quinn teams up with the Birds of Prey to get revenge for her destroyed dreams and maybe get one over on Joker at the same time.

Bringing together Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey #1-4 and #12 from Harley Quinn Black + White + Red, The Hunt for Harley follows Harley Quinn after her emancipation from Joker in her attempts to live an adult life. But in standard Harley style, her flighty nature means everything she has touched has failed, and she is on the next phase of her development, learning how to handle setbacks without killing everyone.

The story itself is clever, with Harley using her criminal underworld knowledge to help herself legally. Her kill count is pretty low for her. Instead, she causes mayhem wherever she goes, manipulating the nature of others to her own end. Yet, this highly intelligent cunning is delivered by someone with no personal boundaries and eats with her mouth open. Typical Harley.

Amanda Conner and Chad Hardin’s art combined with the bright colouring from Alex Sinclair, Paul Mounts, and Enria Erin Angiolini provide an appealing, easy-to-follow feast for the eyes. Its quite similar to the comics of the same characters brought out for younger audiences, but don’t be fooled. At times, the art is at odds with the violence but isn’t that Harley Quinn all over.

There are some cameos from some DC big hitters. My particular favourite is Alfred. He discovers Quinn has inadvertently broken into Wayne Manor, gotten drunk, left a load of messages on Ivy’s answerphone, and then passed out in Bruce Wayne’s bedroom. Considering the personalities and antics of the Batfamily members, I can only assume this was a bit of a quiet night for Alfred, and he handles it stoically.

I did have a couple of sticking points with regards to The Hunt for Harley, however. The first is the size of the cast. Harley is often surrounded by people, whether they are the Birds of Prey, the plethora of villains Gotham has to offer, or the young people Harley has taken under her dubious wing. Conner and Harding manage this without confusing the reader, yet the amount of speech on these panels slowed my reading. Not something you want during an action sequence.

My other issue is all the beaver jokes. Harley takes a taxidermied beaver with her everywhere; it is her sidekick, conscience and portable punchline all in one mangy package. It is mildly amusing at first, but the jokes are so overdone that reading them became a chore.

The part I enjoyed the most was how Joker was depicted as the ex who hasn’t moved on. He is as brutal in his behaviour with his new girlfriend, a pale imitation of Quinn, but now he has another trigger for his outburst, Harley herself. He cannot stand it that she had made a new life without him or that she’s capable of stealing from him to make her own life better. Joker’s vindictive, controlling revenge attempts are the perfect vehicle to demonstrate how complete Harley’s own changes are.

The Hunt for Harley is a wild ride giving some closure on her abusive past, reconciling her dodgy present, and giving us hope for her future. She is an antihero with a heart of gold, a tenuous grip on reality and no personal boundaries. Precisely what we Harley fans are looking for.