Harley Quinn and the Gotham Girls


By Paul D. Storrie, Jennifer Graves & J. Bone with Brad Rader, Rick Burchett & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-9971-2 (TPB)

Harley Quinn wasn’t supposed to be a star… or even an actual comics character. As soon became apparent, however, the manic minx always has her own astoundingly askew and off-kilter ideas on the matter… and any other topic you could name: ethics, friendship, ordnance, coffee…

Created by Paul Dini & Bruce Timm, Batman: The Animated Series aired in the US from September 5th 1992 to September 15th 1995. Ostensibly for kids, the breakthrough television cartoon revolutionised everybody’s image of the Dark Knight and immediately began feeding back into the print iteration, leading to some of the absolute best comicbook tales in the hero’s many decades of existence.

Employing a timeless visual style dubbed “Dark Deco”, the show mixed elements from all iterations of the character and, without diluting the power, tone or mood of the premise, reshaped the grim avenger and his extended team into a wholly accessible, thematically memorable form that the youngest of readers could enjoy, whilst adding shades of exuberance and panache that only the most devout and obsessive Batmaniac could possibly object to…

Harley was initially the Clown Prince of Crime’s slavishly adoring, extreme abuse-enduring assistant, as seen in Joker’s Favor (airing on September 11th 1992). She instantly captured the hearts and minds of millions of viewers and began popping up in the incredibly successful licensed comic book. Always stealing the show, she soon graduated into mainstream DC continuity. Along the circuitous way, Harley – AKA Dr. Harleen Quinzel – developed a support network of sorts in living bioweapon Poison Ivy and a bizarre love/hate relationship with some of Gotham’s other female felons…

After a brief period bopping around the DCU, she was re-imagined as part of the company’s vast post-Flashpoint major makeover: subsequently appearing all over comics as cornerstone of a new iteration of the Suicide Squad, in movies and her own adult-oriented animation series. At heart, however, she’s always been a cartoon glamour-puss, with big, bold, primal emotions and only the merest acknowledgement of how reality works…

Amongst the plethora of comic books generated by the original cartoon show was a smartly sassy romp featuring those aforementioned crime cuties as well as brace of mismatched and openly antithetical law enforcers. Crafted by Paul D. Storrie, Jennifer Graves & J. Bone, 5-issue miniseries Gotham Girls was released between October 2002 and February 2003: opening with ‘Cat’s Paw’ as super-thief Selena Kyle undertakes a commission to steal something nasty from agricultural conglomerate Zehn Chemicals.

She’s still determined to open a lion sanctuary with her fee and doesn’t appreciate when the supposedly simple caper is interrupted by juvenile do-gooder Batgirl. However, as they trade kicks, punches and quips, overworked, under-appreciated and overlooked GCPD detective Renee Montoya is taking a closer look at the supposed victims and sees something dirty…

Then, as Bat and Cat ferociously but inconclusively throw down all over town, the masterminds behind the theft make their move, and it becomes clear that there’s a lot going on that needs to be properly unearthed…

‘Ivy League’ exposes murderous eco-terrorist Pamela Lillian Isley as bankroller of the heist, claiming benevolent motives to reclaim her own property from unscrupulous, world-endangering corporate creeps. However, because her bestest pal Harley is as erratic and excitable as ever, a potential Bat/Cat/Plant-girl/Dingbat alliance is thwarted by mutual mistrust and excessive, utterly unnecessary violence.

Montoya, meanwhile, is diligently following clues, interviewing greedy biologists and uncovering something at rival agri-company Kayle Corporation…

The fast-moving melee ends in leafy Robinson Park, with Batgirl holding the stolen chemicals, until ‘Harlequinade’ sees manic, attention-starved Quinn pull a martial masterstroke, delivering the bio-booty to her disturbingly abusive gal-pal and a heavy defeat to Catwoman and Batgirl. Naturally, that’s just when solid police practice explosively brings Montoya to their secret lair for ‘I Carry a Badge!’

Brilliant deduction and a standard-issue firearm aren’t much use against super-villains and giant carnivorous vines though, so it’s a good thing Batgirl and Catwoman have both independently tracked Harley and Ivy. With action amped to maximum, good girls and bad girls clash yet again, and sides are finally drawn for the climactic conclusion, with frustrated cop and masked vigilante hero united at last and resolved to end the chaos in ‘Bat Attitude’.

Of course, that means not just Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn are going to jail…

A superbly riotous rollercoaster ride for kids of all ages, each chapter also deftly explores the interior life, history and motivations of successive stars – offering canny character building and definition most mature-reading tales would be proud to deliver.

Coloured by Patricia Mulvihill, lettered by Phil Felix and with additional layouts by Rick Burchett and Brad Rader, this classy, classically cops ‘n’ robbers riot plays very much like a 1940s movie chapter-play – albeit with outrageous gags, biting dialogue and a blend of black humour and bombastic action. A frantic, frenetic hoot, this is an absolute delight, well worth the price of admission and an irresistible treasure to be enjoyed over and over again.
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