There’s no doubt that Harley Quinn is one of the most popular comic book characters around. Once she was amputated from the Joker’s side, Harley’s independent journey has only become better. Harley Quinn Rebirth, however, might be too manic to make sense of. Her chaotic movements and objectives beg the question: how do you effectively write a crazedd, yet neutral, character?
Like many of the other DC Rebirth books, the Harley Quinn Rebirth #1 tries to combine the character’s origin story with the seeds of her first major story arc. Unlike last week’s Red Hood Rebirth, which brilliantly wove in Jason Todd’s origin throughout the whole book, Harley Quinn Rebirth hits you with the whole Harley mythos like a shotgun blast.
The comic starts leisurely enough, with Harley and Poison Ivy enjoying a nice spa day together. They shoot the shit, find out what’s going on in each other’s lives, and talk about butt massages. Then Ivy asks how Harley’s businesses are going, and she explains about how she also now has several crews and a building she owns.
Then there’s a quick transition to her new origin story, an introduction to her circus buddies, and then another introduction to her “Gang a’ Harleys”. That’s before bringing in mentions of Power Girl and Poison Ivy to complete the crew. Only it doesn’t stop there. The audience she is addressing that night is comprised of her most recent romantic suitor, Red Tool (who’s been around for a couple issues now), and an actual genie named Jimm Salabim.
Her entire story, from her origins to her most recent comic arcs, are delivered in such a way that the reader is lucky to understand half the characters who make appearances in the book. While the introductions are meant to be as fun as possible, with Harley’s commentary on each of her newfound family members, there’s just not enough time or reason for them to be introduced all at once as they are. After all, most of them disappear once the zombies show up.
It’s not to say the issue is bad, per se. Harley’s characterization continues to evolve, and it’s interesting to see a mini Harley-verse develop within the larger DC comics universe. The art style is equally popping and zany, with the mayhem brought on by the sudden zombie invasion pretty in-line with the new Harley stories. The problem with this issue is that of the many Rebirth number ones, Harley Quinn Rebirth might have inadvertently become one of the deep cuts in the DC Rebirth library.
It makes sense given that Harley is a character with a devout fan following. Her character has fans who have followed her through much of her comics and spinoffs, and are probably better versed in the many characters and backstories. But as Suicide Squad hits theaters, there’s no doubt that DC Comics is capitalizing on the crossover appeal between the film and the comics, and I’m just not convinced that Harley Quinn Rebirth is the comic to ease in new fans.
As a series, it’s a testament to how far Harley Quinn as a character has come from being just the Joker’s sexy sidekick. It’s really great knowing that Harley is at the center of a fun universe full of characters and villains. Unfortunately as the first issue to a very important relaunch for DC’s library, it might be just a bit too much to have new readers begin with Harley Quinn Rebirth.