Review: Harley Quinn Vol. 6: Black, White and Red All Over hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

It seems that Harley Quinn is one of those that for whatever reason hung on a little longer in the New 52 continuity before Rebirth. That's no so important in terms of Harley's storylines so much as it was, for instance, when Teen Titans did the same, but for those who keep an eye on this sort of thing, it does mean that the Harley Quinn series has one additional volume in the DC You era, a third, where most other titles just had two.

What we get then is Harley Quinn Vol. 6: Black, White and Red All Over, a tertiary side story that doesn't continue the plots of the previous volumes so much as tell its own "done in one(ish)" as we wait for the decks to clear. Given that Harley continues however with new numbering but the same creative team, there's nothing to say the events of Black won't be referenced later on. So, it's a tad clear that Black is tacked on, but that's not such a bad thing necessarily.

[Review contains spoilers]

Of the five issues collected in Black, three involve Harley's dealing with Red Tool, an obsessive assassin who might be just as crazy as she is. "Red Tool" is obviously a stand-in for Marvel's Deadpool, so the high concept here is Harley Quinn vs. Deadpool; one rather wishes there was enough camaraderie between the two companies for such to actually happen (with Lobo. And Wolverine).

As someone who's admittedly never read a Deadpool comic, all of this wasn't as much a thrill to me as it might have been for some, though I can generally see how writers Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti aped Wade Wilson's origins and his oft-unusual word balloons. It's to the writers' credit that despite no familiarity with Deadpool, they did a fine job interesting me in the Red Tool character and convincingly transforming him over the course of the story from a bizarre stalker to a bizarre stalker that Harley can see a relationship with. Reading about this story in solicitations, I thought Red Tool sounded silly, frankly, but now I'd be happy to see him come back when the Harley Quinn series restarts with Rebirth. (As well, the writers use Red Tool to deliver a four-page psychological profile of Harley that's breathtaking in its detail, depth, and clarity.)

I do wish Conner and Palmiotti had revealed the connection between Harley and Red Tool this time around, however. We get his origins — which suggest, if I didn't misunderstand, that Red Tool is much older than I think Harley realizes — but we're never told explicitly when he encountered Harley previously that caused him to have such animosity (it comes and goes) toward her. That'll come in time, I hope, and if it happened within this series (as with Harley skewering Zena Bendemova on a rhino's horn), I could probably just look back and find it, but it felt like a missing element in the course of the story.

Between "Red Tool" and the fourth one-issue story, which sees Harley piloting a vehicle that changes from car to robot, Black also seems like the writers bringing forth their most timely ideas (see also Harley's new "cinematic" hair style). Yes, Harley does Transformers here, which is fine — that the single issue is so clearly gag-based further emphasizes it as a one-off, and that might be bothersome except I don't think there's material here for more than an issue, and mecha feels like a tough fit for Harley as anything more than a lark. Indeed even series artist Chad Hardin looks off in this issue — his characters a little wooden, a little over-detailed — such to further suggest this penultimate issue might not have been firing on all cylinders — though, there's sure nowhere else a reader's going to find Transformers pooping missiles than here.

And, while artist Elsa Charratier does a fine job on the very final issue (with shades of Otto Schmidt), it's a shame Hardin (or other series artist John Timms) couldn't finish out this title, even though both come back with Rebirth. Otherwise, however, that final issue is nicely poignant, with five pages of Harley as Dr. Harleen Quinzel bringing some peace to a nursing home patient, which is the kind of sudden, weird non-superhero-comics stuff that this book does that makes it a real wonder to behold.

Though among the DCU books, Harley Quinn had about the least to fear from Rebirth, this issue is all about fear of that particular change. The issue reminds of the concluding issue of Wonder Woman: Odyssey, just before Flashpoint, in which Diana wonders whether her relationship with her mother will stay the same in the new reality; here, Harley wonders aloud much the same to Poison Ivy. "Is it so bad ta stand up fer the good ol' days?' Harley complains to her friend Big Tony, though ironically, the "good old days" in this context is the New 52 of this Harley Quinn series' origin, when most other books expressed fear of the New 52 and welcomed Rebirth heartily.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Harley Quinn Vol. 6: Black, White and Red All Over

So, with Harley Quinn Vol. 6: Black, White and Red All Over, we come to an end, though not really since all the principals will be back again next "month," essentially. This Harley run has had situational drama, it's had crime drama, it took a dip into the prison systems; I'll be curious to see if there is indeed a marked difference between the New 52 and Rebirth Harley Quinn series or if it's all essentially the same under different branding.

[Includes original and variant covers, cover sketches]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Harley Quinn Vol. 6: Black, White and Red All Over
Author Rating
4 (scale of 1 to 5)


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