Despite the controversy surrounding the art contest for Harley Quinn #0 back in September, DC Comics pushed forward with the series, which makes sense considering they had already invested in it. Even though I didn't get the Number Zero (after flipping through it in the store it had nothing that appealed to me) I did pick up the first issue. I might be a few weeks late with my review but I wanted to weigh in on what I thought.
The issue finds Harley zipping down the highway on her motorcycle headed toward a new life. She's been left in the dust by "Mr. J" and has been willed a place to stay by a former patient of hers from back in her life as psychiatrist Harleen Quinzel. But her new place isn't what she imagined and she's forced to seek...gasp...regular employment!
The entire issue is used as a way to showcase Harley living a, somewhat, normal existence. This doesn't focus on her life with the Suicide Squad or her time as the Joker's moll. No, Harley finally gets her chance to be her own person, even if that means getting two jobs to afford her new home. But it's not all real life boredom; it appears that people are out to get her and collect the bounty on her head. So there is some action.
When I first saw Amanda Conner attached to the issue, I assumed it was as the issue's artist but in actuality, she shares the writing duties with Jimmy Palmiotti. (Amanda is the cover artist, however.) For the most part, I liked the first issue; it was cleverly written and managed to show a more human side to Harley Quinn. Granted, she's still completely out of her gourd, but that really brings out more of the humor of the book; by juxtaposing the insanity next to the normalcy, it makes the insanity that much funnier, such as her nuclear meltdown when she sees a weiner dog being mishandled by its owner. This shows the reader that Harley has the semblance of a heart and conscience, just not when it comes to people.
What I didn't get, though, was the running gag with the beaver. Maybe it's because I haven't been following the character so closely since the New 52 started so I don't know if it's a roll over from previous comics or not but it was weird. I'm still up in the air of whether I like the joke as it made her come off too much like Marvel's Deadpool, a character I'm not too keen on. If that was the intention, then it's pretty ironic since Deadpool is just a cheap knock-off of another DC character, Deathstroke.
The art chores were handled by Chad Hardin and he brings great life to the pages. Hardin's panels are chock full of details, many of which help to emphasize the off-the-cuff characterization Conner and Palmiotti are trying to portray, like her odd record collection which includes "Sweating to Gangsta Rap" and "Polka Madness". He also manages to illustrate the depth of New York City, as evident in the way he draws the buildings and street views. But Hardin really shines in his detail of Harley, bringing so much emotion to her face. That coupled with Alex Sinclair's colors makes her eyes sparkle in a few panels.
A few things I noticed as I was reading the issue: firstly, I am happy that the book was able to rise above the controversy over the art contest. The idea of showcasing Harley committing suicide may have seemed clever and "keeping with the spirit of the character", but just came off as silly and desperate. Hopefully the memory won't tar the actual spirit of the character. And secondly, every time I read Harley's dialogue, all I can hear is Arleen Sorkin's voice. I don't know if that speaks towards the idea of Harley Quinn or the lasting effect that Batman: The Animated Series has had on me but either way, it helped to make me enjoy the book even more.