Review: Old Lady Harley trade paperback (DC Comics)

Old Lady Harley

Frank Tieri has already demonstrated himself to be a capable pinch-hitter for writing Harley Quinn’s adventures, penning among other things the exceptional Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys miniseries with Jimmy Palmiotti. His Old Lady Harley, too, is another winner in the genre of ancillary Harley Quinn miniseries. My chief concern was that with no foreknowledge of Marvel’s Old Man Logan nor the Mad Max movies, most of the jokes might be lost on me, but happily that wasn’t the case. Rather, Old Lady Harley is fairly centered in the pseudo-future of Palmiotti and Amanda Conner’s Rebirth Harley Quinn run and that’s about as much reference as you need.

Once again, Tieri achieves both the zaniness and sudden, unexpected emotion of a good Harley Quinn story. I put off reading this one because I thought it would be pretty far outside the Harley Quinn “mainstream,” but with a host of familiar characters, indeed Old Lady Harley felt like coming home.

[Review contains spoilers]

Tieri’s Old Lady Harley miniseries picks up almost right where his lead-in story from Harley Quinn #42 ends, including the presence of Harley’s kooky sidekick Red Tool. Red Tool was a fixture of the Rebirth Harley era, a character who initially seemed like a one-note joke who grew to be a central part of the Rebirth crew, and whom we’ve seen almost not at all since Sam Humphries took over the book (Humphries is doing his own good thing, but it doesn’t involve Red Tool). In this way, immediately Old Lady Harley has a kind of old(ish)-school vibe, a throwback to a Harley era past.

That continues throughout. Big Tony has already come and gone in the prologue, but other Harley stalwarts appear — Power Girl, Eggy, Killer Croc, Catwoman, Lobo, and so on (Tieri saves the best cameo for last). There’s a strange appearance by a digital Barbara Gordon in a bathtub, wearing sunglasses, that seems like it’s supposed to be Harley character Coach, if not that Tieri already established Coach is dead (kind of) in this timeline. All of this is predicated too on Harley’s conflict with the Penguin — often shown in Tieri’s Harley stories — coming to a lethal end, such that this really feels like a legitimate continuation of Conner, Palmiotti, and Tieri’s Harley run and not just a parody of post-apocalyptic media.

Not to mention, Old Lady Harley kicks off not just with the appearance of a classic-style Azrael (who turns out to be a robot), but also with the visage of Batman Beyond. Obviously this is largely a Harley Quinn story, but Tieri has something for everyone, offering a couple nods to DC future stories in general, too. There’s a bizarrely mutated Aquaman that factors into the plot; Lex Luthor, president of “Lexico,” in what feels like a potential outcome of the “Year of the Villain” storyline; and a plausible future Justice League. And Tieri’s humor is on point, from an alter kocker Arkham Asylum to Cat Grant clones to Lobo staring down the wrong end of middle age.

But it wouldn’t be a Harley Quinn story without hitting the reader right in the feels when we least expect it — the revelation that Old Lady Harley is not plagued by the Joker, but by the son she couldn’t bring herself to raise. It’s a wonder that we haven’t seen more “Harley pregnant by the Joker” stories, as obvious as it seems, though there’s surely plenty of writers that would sensationalize it ad nauseum. Tieri gets the right mix of pathos, horror, and disembodied heads in robot bodies to do the turn justice and to make this more than just another Harley vs. Joker story. Throughout, Inaki Miranda’s art has the right amount of grit to elevate this beyond just a comedy tale.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Old Lady Harley



Harley Quinn is looking for a writer right now; there’s a variety of prospective contenders for the job, including sometime-Harley writer Mark Russell and even the mad option of Brian Michael Bendis taking the series. Frank Tieri is a safe choice, a known quantity, and honestly, his run on the Harley series proper wasn’t my favorite. But with minis like Old Lady Harley and Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys, Tieri shows a talent for Harley just off the beaten path, and maybe there’s a series to make out of that yet.

[Includes original and variant covers, Inaki Miranda sketches]


Post a Comment

To post a comment, you may need to temporarily allow "cross-site tracking" in your browser of choice.

Newer Post Home Older Post