Review: Harley Quinn: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 3 hardcover (DC Comics)

With Harley Quinn: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 3, the Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti run with this character goes out with a bang. When they finish, one faces the dilemma one always faces at the end of an instant-classic run such as this: would it be better to end the series, expecting that nothing that comes after could be as good as this, or to keep it going so that we still have Harley Quinn, even if what comes after, if lesser, tarnishes the overall reputation of the run?

Fortunately, things are not so bad as all that. To be very sure, Harley loses a step when Conner and Palmiotti leave and Frank Tieri takes over, but a couple factors work in favor of Tieri's stint: he continues what has already been a storyline of his own so far; despite a tonal shift, there are some interesting ideas within Tieri's story; and as it turns out, though it seemed momentarily that Tieri would be Harley's new ongoing writer, he actually isn't. If anything, maybe in the original offing Tieri's story should have been set before the end of Conner and Palmiotti's run, not after, so that Conner and Palmiotti could still have the last word and closing image, but it is what it is. Conner and Palmiotti get seven issues here, Tieri gets eight, and ultimately the good in this book outweighs what's rougher.

[Review contains spoilers]

As with the Harley Quinn: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 2, this volume is even more focused than the last as Harley speeds to its conclusion. I thought we might get some procedural content in Harley's run for mayor — finding a platform, seeking campaign funding — but rival Mayor DePerto hires the Scarecrow almost right away and we're off to the races. What is pitched, in Americana covers by Conner and Frank Cho among others, as "Ms. Harley goes to Washington" is instead an increasingly dark crime- and revenge-drama. With only seven issues here instead of the usual 13, nearly all of Conner and Palmiotti's material here is the same "Vote Harley" story rather than episodic two- and three-parters.

Indeed, in the final two chapters of "Vote Harley," this book is about as bloody as it's ever been. I'm reminded of the latter issues of Gail Simone's Secret Six or the movie Boondock Saints, in which the crimes committed are so heinous that the audience can't help but cheer, even with their hands mostly over their eyes, as Harley takes violent revenge. There is emotion and drama aplenty, as when Harley pauses on the drive to avenge a murdered loved one to vomit on the side of the road. I've said it before, but it's amazing how far this book has come from the satirical fight in a zoo with elderly assassins in Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Hot in the City, but also, as with scenes like Harley's drive, how far the character has come from "puddin'" and "Mister J," to something akin to Kill Bill or Ed Brubaker's Catwoman.

Over in Tieri's "Angry Bird" story (in which Harley becomes a Man-Bat), there's a lot of reference to Harley's time in the Suicide Squad, including significant material with Killer Croc and King Shark. One might shrug this off as Tieri's mandate to hew Harley closer to the DCU; as popular as Harley Quinn and this title has become, I expect DC has wished it could be more connected to the mainstream continuity for a while now. But I thought it a nice touch that, here at the end of Conner and Palmiotti's run, when they've played fast and loose with Harley's Squad presence throughout the book, that a major reversal in "Vote Harley" turns on Harley having once been in the Squad, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

As mentioned before, among the positives of Tieri's "Angry Bird" is that it wraps up a long-simmering Penguin side-plot in Harley, which Tieri himself participated in for at least one issue. I don't know that I'd have considered it unfinished if Penguin had never been mentioned here again, but at least Tieri's story is tied in. And the story gets especially strong, again, when Tieri brings in Killer Croc and ties at least one version of Croc's origin to Harley's Coney Island, a clever idea that I don't think anyone's presented before.

At the same time, Tieri's Harley gets too superheroic for me, especially in a couple lengthy sequences where Harley doesn't appear at all and it's just the Gang of Harleys and crew (I did, however, enjoy Tieri's Gang of Harleys miniseries very much). Chalk it up, understandably, to Tieri just having a handful of issues here, but he doesn't get in to the vagaries of Harley's life like Conner and Palmiotti did (though "Angry Birds" does deal with fallout from "Vote Harley," which is also nice). And a lot of the story turns on Harley's encounters with "Frank Frank," a local souvenir salesman who I initially thought was the book's Nate-Man's hot dog guy, based on his appearance; I can't recall we've ever seen Frank Frank before, but Harley takes a lot of advice from him (like she previously did from Nate-Man), and so who this was and what their relationship was confused me.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Harley Quinn: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 3

Harley Quinn: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 3 is a great conclusion to Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti's Harley Quinn run, with an average epilogue pinned on the end. That's not a great portent for the Harley series going forward, in general; the pressing question will remain whether anyone can do for this title what Conner and Palmiotti did. I'll keep reading, especially now that DC has wisely tied the title to Justice League's "Year of the Villain," but I'd like it if subsequent reviews didn't always have to note that the series is not as good as it was.

[Includes original and 15 variant covers, cover line art]

Review Date
Reviewed Item
Harley Quinn: Rebirth Deluxe Edition Book 3
Author Rating
4.5 (scale of 1 to 5)


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