Review: Harley Quinn Vol. 4: A Call to Arms

Writers: Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti

Artists: Chad Hardin, John Timms, Alex Sinclair

Collects Harley Quinn #17-21, DC Sneak Peek: Harley Quinn #1, Harley Quinn Road Trip Special #1

Arriving just in time for her big screen debut in Suicide Squad (in theaters August 5), the latest volume of Harley Quinn is exploding with humor, adventurism, and more dirty jokes as smooth as Harley’s beaver (read the book before you complain). Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti manage to make each volume of this series remarkably different from those that preceded it. Sure, we kind of know what to expect in certain regards, but this series often dishes out more surprises than most. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s not keen to exist in any kind of comfort zone that helps contribute to its success and not just the immense popularity of the character. Considering that mainstream popularity doesn’t always translate into comic book sales figures, something tells me I’m probably right.

Chad Hardin and John Timms lead the charge of contributing artists as usual. Their styles are quite distinctive from one another, yet continue to feel so right for the character. I especially love how Hardin draws Harley (I’m not trying to sound like I’m playing favorites) and superstar colorist Alex Sinclair proves to be an invaluable ally, bringing a certain shine to Hardin’s work. If I ever wanted to get pulled into a comic book “Take on Me” style, it would be here.

I’m guessing a fair percentage of those of you who are reading this review have sampled the current mini-series Harley Quinn and Her Gang of Harleys. While one can certainly jump right into that title, I think you should check out this book because the first few chapters see the official start of the Gang and how each of them received their names. This acts as a rather nice companion book and, yes, I realize saying that sounds a little silly because the mini-series was spun from this.

In their first heroic outing (for a fee, mind you), the crew find themselves facing off with Captain Horatio Strong, a Popeye analog who is addicted to some kind of space seaweed that gives him superstrength while messing with his noggin. Harley, of course, samples some leading to a hallucinated swashbuckling adventure. Like I said, you never know what you will get with this series.

There’s much more than laughs to be had as Conner and Palmiotti prove that a balance with drama can be attained. A shaky alliance with the mayor and Harley’s complicated relationship with Mason Macabre not only add multiple layers to the story, but they intersect and effectively make life difficult for our heroine. Be sure to keep this stuff in mind when you eventually read the fifth volume.

The second case explored sees Harley venture to Los Angeles in search of a girl who was supposedly kidnapped by a cult. As it turns out, Deadshot has taken the same contract and their paths collide rather violently, but their squabble is brief enough to not distract from the main narrative. The situation with the supposedly kidnapped Sparrow takes enough interesting turns to make it worthy of prime time.

By now you know that no Harley Quinn collected edition is complete without the inclusion of at least one of her one-shot specials. In this case, it’s the Road Trip Special and sees her joined by Poison Ivy and Catwoman in a bit of a Gotham City Sirens reunion that is a real highlight. Every character is played to their strengths and there’s never a dull moment. We even get to see more of Harley’s tender side than usual.

While I think Kiss Kiss Bang Stab remains my favorite volume in the series, A Call to Arms is certainly no slouch and is not to be missed by any Harley Quinn fan.

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