Review: Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys trade paperback (DC Comics)

 ·  1 comment

In the past, Frank Tieri's stories have been hit-or-miss for me, so I'm pleased to find that his Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys, in collaboration with main Harley writer Jimmy Palmiotti, is so good — especially since Tieri will eventually take over for a time from Amanda Conner and Palmiotti. I dare say, Gang of Harleys is really a lot better than it has any right to be, a Harley Quinn spin-off that no one necessarily asked for, full of action and humor and clever team dynamics. I've no idea if the Gang of Harleys return in Harley Quinn's Rebirth iteration, but I'd be happy to read about them again.

In a number of ways, too, Gang of Harleys serves as a coda to the New 52 Harley Quinn series which, let's not forget, is what launched Harley into the mainstream. The Gang of Harleys is here, but also a bunch of the Brooklyn crew, as well as a couple of surprises. All of that makes this feel like a true sequel to Harley Quinn Vol. 4: A Call to Arms, as well as a celebration of the series so far; again, I don't know to what extent things change or stay the same in Rebirth, but it's nice to get the gang together one last time before the shift.

[Review contains spoilers]

Gang of Harleys kicks off with some enormously narrative-heavy pages detailing the family histories of the "Harleys," — telling, let's say, instead of showing — and, despite or because of this, the fine distinctions between the Harleys are this book's weakest point. Coach and Harlem Harley distinguish themselves as the group's leaders on and off the field; Harvey Quinn is the only male member (yes, Harley, I said "member"); and Hanuquinn is series regular Sy Borgman's great-niece. But Harley Queens, Bolly Quinn, and Carli Quinn — all diminutive, two from large families and at least two with overbearing parents — seem often interchangeable, rarely distinguishable by talents or interests, nor even do their different ethnicities play a large part.

But that said, all of their banter is fun, and places where Tieri and Palmiotti do flesh out the characters — Harlem's and Harvey's respective trips home in the second issue, for instance — is particularly strong. Though the closing sequences of the Harleys fighting their way through a maniacal Harley-themed island of traps is way better than it sounds, that the various Harleys give Palmiotti a chance to show off New York's other boroughs in the opening chapters is very good, too.

One also can't understate what Eggy, Goat Boy, and especially Big Tony bring to this book. Tony, with Coach, is half the team that solves the mystery of Harley's kidnapping; neither Coach nor Tony appear on the book's covers (shame, creative team), but equally I'd read a Coach/Tony miniseries any day of the week. Between Big Tony and a villain taken straight from the Harley Quinn series proper, a pretty detailed discussion of the events of Harley Quinn Vol. 5: The Joker's Last Laugh, an island with call-outs to Harley's adventures, and even not-Popeye Captain Strong, fer goshsakes, this feels not like a spin-off, but something very deeply ingrained in the Harley Quinn "mythos" — a last hurrah, of sorts, for the series that spawned it.

I have always liked the Gang of Harleys but, as mentioned in my review of Harley Quinn Vol. 4: A Call to Arms, haven't always liked their superhero-aesthetic influence on the Harley Quinn title (including their early pitched battle with Captain Strong). That's the good thing about seeing the Harleys move from the main series to their own miniseries, but moreover, Gang of Harleys is ultimately much more in the James Bond-ian spy genre than superheroics, with weird assassins and exploding buildings and so on. As compared to the totally farcical battle between Harley, Sy, and a group of geriatric villains way back in Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Hot in the City, Palmiotti and company have come a long way to Gang's Harley Sinn — a villain who's cackling and over-the-top, yes, but who also dispatches her underlings with shocking gore. The balance here is just right.

Indeed, beyond the "beaver" jokes and Harley Sinn's father's resemblance to a certain politician, it bears stepping back and admiring for a moment how a Harley Quinn comic has come so far from the Sy Borgman schtick to this story's gripping conclusion. We genuinely feel for Harley "Constance" Sinn and root for Harley Quinn's attempt to rehabilitate her, and beyond that, it's a scene as good as in any antihero cop show when it seems Harley is going to have to strangle Constance to death instead. For Conner, Palmiotti, and Tieri to have brought the Harley Quinn character all the way from "Mister J" to this is truly something; Gang's ending — including the final fate of Harley Sinn — was really unexpected.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys

I'm next on to Harley's Little Black Book, which I'm sure will be enjoyable in its own way but won't, I imagine, run the gamut that Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys does. Can't judge a book by its cover and all that; there's a reason Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti's Harley Quinn made it big, and it's not just readily available merchandising. Probably goes without saying, but if you read all the New 52 Harley Quinn volumes, the Gang of Harleys spin-off is worth it, too.

[Includes original and variant covers]

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Reviewed Item
Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys
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Comments ( 1 )

  1. Yeah, this was definitely my favorite of Conner and Palmiotti's Harley spinoffs, too.

    Also, without giving anyway, let's just say that the events of this mini-series will come back into play down the road.


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