Review: Harley Quinn and Power Girl trade paperback (DC Comics)

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Way back five years ago when I reviewed the New 52 Harley Quinn Vol. 2: Power Outage, I praised that the book looped in some superhero elements (in the form of Harley teaming up with an amnesiac Power Girl), finding it more accessible than the first volume, Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Hot in the City. Half a decade later and I'm playing catch up on my Harley Quinn reading, starting with the spin-off from that volume, the collection of the Harley Quinn and Power Girl miniseries.

The mere existence of this book is somewhat astounding, the teaming of a 1970s Justice Society character with a 1990s figment of animation in a six-issue miniseries in 2015, as sure an example of Grant Morrison's imagined living DC Universe as anything. Though what brings these two together, of course, has not so much to do with the characters themselves as with creators Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti (with Justin Gray), whose former Power Girl series was something of a warm-up for Harley Quinn — so in some respects, what Harley Quinn and Power Girl is, is a slice of the Conner/Palmiotti-verse writ large.

This book is plenty entertaining, and I thought it was interesting especially some of the ways the writers dealt with picking back up with Power Girl. There's some good parody of sci-fi properties, and it seemed to me the writers perhaps had a license to be a bit more ribald than they are in the Harley Quinn title proper (or maybe this is just an example of expanding permissions as the Harley title grew more popular).

As an example of how tastes change over time, had this been within the Harley series proper, I might've felt more impatient than I did with it being an offshoot. On second read I'm finding more interest in Harley's mundane adventures with her Brooklyn neighbors than I am with the more far-flung sequences. But this is as fine an entry into the Harley Quinn extra canon as the comic con parody or others, and again, merely its existence is something of a wonder.

[Review contains spoilers]

One need not necessarily a character basis for a Harley Quinn and Power Girl miniseries — the excuse to see Harley riding, essentially, Battle Cat really ought be purpose enough — but a sequence that I thought particularly clever was when Harley freed Vartox from alien mind control. Vartox is a classic DC character who appears here via the writers' Power Girl series, so this rather crucial scene of Harley and Vartox together is very much of the crossover; Harley's supporting cast doesn't appear here, but insofar as Power Girl had a supporting cast, the strapping Vartox was one of them. To snap Vartox out of the spell, Harley speaks of her own experience being "controlled" by the Joker; in the way of these writers, what Harley says is silly but also deceptively poignant, and I thought this was a good way in which disparate elements of these two series corresponded.

Equally interesting, too, was that the solution for defeating the book's big, bad "Bighead Space-God" was for Harley to let out her inner "Mistah J.," turning the creature for a time into a cosmic Joker. Though I grant that the Harley Quinn series doesn't quite line up with the exterior DC Universe, if I understand it correctly it seems that Harley is still "with" the Joker as of the New 52 and does not make a formal break until the Rebirth series (or, after Scott Snyder's Death of the Family, or something). To that end, I've been curious to see Harley's references to the Joker in these books and how those evolve, and this really rather intense sequence with Harley "Jokering out" seemed important — Harley embracing, rather than rejecting, the Joker's chaos. Obviously, in this too, we see this book weighted much more toward Harley Quinn than Power Girl and her cohorts.

Notably, however, when it comes to Power Girl, the writers actually choose to posit this as not "their" (pre-Flashpoint) Power Girl, but the New 52 Earth-2 Power Girl. One might have expected the writers just to leave this all unexplored, given that Harley Quinn is hardly the most continuity-tight series anyway, but indeed, there's a running discussion that this is the Vartox who was in love with the past Power Girl, but that this is not that Power Girl. This plays out sometimes with Kara Zor-L having much more knowledge about herself than she's supposed to — since when these events happen in the context of the Harley Quinn series, Power Girl has amnesia — but still this was an extra twist in the story I hadn't expected.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Harley Quinn and Power Girl

So, Harley Quinn and Power Girl is fine, a bevy of Star Wars and "free love" jokes. I don't know if the events come up later in the Harley Quinn series but if not, you won't miss anything by skipping this one; at the same time, it's tonally on par with the Harley Quinn series and I imagine if you like that, you'll like this too.

[Includes original covers and variant cover for issue #1]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Harley Quinn and Power Girl
Author Rating
3 (scale of 1 to 5)

Comments ( 1 )

  1. I actually had to tap out during this miniseries... just felt it lacked the heart of Palmiotti and Conners' previous work with Power Girl... and Vartox!

    Rather than actually smiling and/or chuckling during the read, I just noticed the spots where I was *supposed* to.


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