Chances are, if you aren’t reading Harley Quinn, you at least know who she is (come on, if you don’t, how did you even reach this blog?). The petite, agile, psychotic psychologist from Arkham Asylum returned in 2013 to helm her own series for DC’s New 52 – and managed to surprise everyone in the process. Quinn is a character specifically invented for Batman: The Animated Series from Bruce Timm and Paul Dini, who gained extreme popularity in recent years due in part to her involvement with The Suicide Squad and appearances in Batman: Arkham Asylum and Arkham City. She was a fledgling psychologist, who sought out contact with The Joker during one of his many stints at Arkham, and the two began a torrid relationship. Quinn’s relentlessly hopeful demeanor and the team of thugs that follow her around, too fearful to laugh at her love for abandoned animals, made her an instant fan-favourite when Amanda Connor and Jimmy Palmiotti took the reins for her New 52 series.
Harley is out on her own now, frequently accompanied by an unexplainable taxidermied beaver named Bernie and her good friend Poison Ivy. Connor and Palmiotti have successfully transformed Harley from a psychotic villain into a respectable anti-hero, who has resumed her work as a psychologist at a retirement home, taken over the job as a landlady, and spent some time as Power Girl’s sidekick.
Despite the unmistakable lesbian overtones with her friend Ivy, Harley is no longer involved with any of her other previous buddies from the beginning, allowing her to pull herself together and build a decent circle of friends. Harley manages to join a roller derby team, meet a new love interest, and, in one issue, gains the begrudging respect of Batman, with her puddin’ nowhere in sight. It is no mistake that Quinn’s newfound independence and strength as a woman has transformed her into one of the most popular DC characters around. The unwavering insanity that marked Quinn’s character in the beginning has definitely not disappeared from her reimagining, but Ivy seems to be the person that stabilizes Harley, and is there to save her butt on more than one occasion – usually from herself.
Connor and Palmiotti made a perfect decision when they decided to work with Chad Hardin to bring their stories to life, Hardin’s artwork makes Harley a likeable, if somewhat deranged version of what we expect her to be. Hardin manages to capture Quinn’s expressions perfectly, and when paired with Palmiotti’s writing, Harley is the perfect anti-hero for a new generation.
Many of us were introduced to comic books because of the obscenely huge popularity of TV shows like Arrow and Gotham, and because of the success of the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy but Quinn makes it easy to settle in to DC’s world for someone who is just trying to find their feet.
Harley Quinn #17 is on sale July 10th.