I’ve penned this many a time before, and I think some don’t believe me but: I will never, ever shut up about Harley Fuckin’ Quinn, and now is yet another one of those times.

(I’ll note: I’m still working my way through a lot of Harley works, so I may get a few facts or matters wrong. Please bear with me — there’s only so much time in the day!)

A CALL TO ARMS is the fourth collection of Amanda Conner and spouse Jimmy Palmiotti’s run on the second HARLEY QUINN monthly series, the first of which I previously posted about. Have I read the second or third volumes? No, because they weren’t available at the comic book store after I attended Chicago’s Pride parade and wanted to treat myself. Also: it doesn’t really matter because, well, comics are fluid like that.

In this collection, Harley is mostly in charge of a bunch of other variant Harleys, all of which have very uninspired names. (Harvey Quinn, for example.) However, it is very endearing and the final reveal for a cluster of her members is quite something.

One caveat: Conner is no longer on pencil duty and it suffers for that, because while Conner does have a certain flair for cheesecake, not every panel of hers was reveling in T&A, as opposed to some of the art in this collection. I’ll note: I have nothing against cheesecake or pin-up works or anything like that! However, when every fucking panel is constructed around Harley/Ivy/Catwoman taking on absurd contortions to revel in a perky breast or bountiful ass, it does a disservice to the characters and story. It’s not like that with every artist in the collection, but it is very overt at times.

Way back in college, many years ago, I was taking a post-graduate-level film theory course. My undergrad film history teacher suggested it for me and got me in. One day, the topic of the male gaze came up. Being a young punk who knew very little of the world or gender studies — again, at this point I’m a very young, dumb undergrad — I bristled against that idea.

After the class let out, one of the older classmates approached me. She said to me — not judgmentally or with malice — “The male gaze absolutely exists.” We discussed it a bit, but I mostly held my ground because at that time I was a self-righteous idiot.

I think about that exchange a lot, because obviously: I was absolutely and totally wrong, and I wish I could go back and correct how I dealt with those exchanges. It does exist, and it certainly exists in this work which is a shame because most of the artwork in the Harley Quinn comic collections I’ve read have not been like that. But, hey, I guess that’s part of the baggage that comes with reading comics.

Apologies for the digression! Apart from that, it’s a fine and funny and intriguing take on the characters that does a great job creating a broader ensemble. As usual with Conner and Palmiotti’s work, it’s fast, energetic, and hilarious, and well-worth your time.