I’ve touched on this in prior posts about Harley Fuckin’ Quinn — as I will never, ever shut up about Harley Fuckin’ Quinn — but I refuse to read or watch or listen to works that involve her in a relationship with the Joker.

It’s a coercion/abuse thing. My Harley — because there are many different Harleys because she is nothing but mercurial and has had many writers — has (mostly) moved beyond that. Read into that as you will.

As usual, I picked up HARLEY QUINN: BREAKING GLASS — penned by Mariko Tamaki (SKIM, THIS ONE SUMMER) with art by Steve Pugh (ANIMAL MAN, HELLBLAZER) — without knowing jackshit about it. It was about Harley and it looked like fun.

I didn’t realize it was considered part of DC’s non-canon young adults imprint which, uh, is boringly named ‘DC: Graphic Novels for Young Adults’. That said, it’s more adult than a number of ‘mature’ comics I’ve read. Also, probably something that if it were on more garbage folks radars, it would probably be banned due to Harleen/Harley being part of a queer found family.

BREAKING GLASS is a twisted fairy tale-ish take an alternate Harleen/Harley’s teen years (hence the YA label). She was sent by her mother to Gotham City to live with her grandmother because, well Harleen doesn’t take shit and we’ll leave it at that.

(Not-so-brief note: I will be switching between Harleen/Harley to match the use in the book as the best that I can. As someone who did draw a line in the sand at a certain point in my life as to which name I would utilize, most Harley-centric works don’t have to juggle that, so I appreciate that Tamaki respects that and I will as well.)

Harleen found her way to the address of her grandmother’s house, only to discover that her grandmother had died, but had been overseen by the minder of the building called Mama, an older queer who oversees a number of misfits. Gotham City’s YA take on TALES OF THE CITY, if you will.

“And yes indeed, our happy heroine Harleen was happy as a kitten on a radiator.

“She had everything she needed.”

Mama takes Harleen in and Harleen starts attending high school with a bunch of — to use her phrase — boogers, boogers that disgust her because “boogers will always act like boogers.” As Harleen is prone to do here, she acts out, and gets punished for pushing against the bullies and jerks— I mean boogers — of her high school.

However, she does find solace in Mama’s queer community, as well as one fellow student: Ivy, a vegan, anti-establishment activist, and the two form a fast, if somewhat combative bond. Harley learns from her, she grows, she tries to do better and to do more and to be more supportive. (There’s nothing more Harley than her trying to grow from terrible situations, even if she consistently fucks up.)

Eventually, due to her urban reactionary behavior, she’s eventually spotted by ‘The Joker’, basically a similarly ostracized youth who has managed to wrangle a bunch of other youths to do slight terrorist actions to Gotham.

(I will note: his face is not physically altered like in the canon. He wears a mask that exaggerates the already exaggerated canonical Joker look.)

Matters escalate in the way that teen dramas do, and it’s quite fulfilling. This is a fully realized work, from the framing device of Harleen’s scattered fairy tale rendition to the exacting dialogue, to Pugh’s amazing command of color depending on Harleen/Harley’s situation, often only utilizing primary colors, and explode into vibrancy when her emotions rise.

Like all of the best young adult works it transcends ages. If I had nieces? I would totally hand a copy to them. (Not that I wouldn’t hand it off to nephews, but I know my nephews and haven’t handed off a copy.) Harley isn’t exactly the best role model but Ivy is and Harleen is improved by being in her orbit and simply listening to her.

While this isn’t the cavalier Harley of Conner/Palmiotti, it is a great take on the character and an extraordinarily well-executed and well-plotted and well-penned and dynamically illustrated and vividly colored work that deserves all of the eyeballs.

You can purchase HARLEY QUINN: BREAKING GLASS via bookshop.org!

OJO (2005)


This post contains mentions of familial death and deals with trauma. (Yes, I know I’m breaking my Horrorclature rules yet again here. I will do so one more time, unfortunately.)

Annie is a youth who lives with her grandpa and her bratty older sister, her father absent and her mother dead due to a car accident. Annie loves to care for creatures but she is awful at it, which results in the death of lizards, birds, and smaller animals.

“I’m cursed.”

One day she discovers a sort of a nightmare of a multi-legged creature — something along the lines of a mutated spider. She latches onto it, names it Ojo, and considers herself Ojo’s new mother, even though she’s repeatedly told that she should find Ojo’s real mother, and she does upon realizing that Ojo can only survive by feeding his mother meat. Matters escalate.

“Okay, that’ll make you all better. You don’t want to go home, do you? I’m your mama now.”

Ojo was penned and illustrated by Sam Kieth. Kieth is best know for the comic book series THE MAXX, which was adapted into one of the handful of shows featured on MTV’s ODDITIES too-short-lived alternative animated programming.

Sam Kieth is a triple-threat of comics. Kieth is quite well-known for his extraordinary and multi-faceted illustration work, which ranges from extremely elaborate and realistic cross-hatched renditions that involve so many curls — both hair and torn fabric — to absolutely warped, exaggerated depictions, to energetic cartoonish portrayals and then to deceptively simple child-like line-drawings that are also effortlessly amazing with their storytelling.

“There’s a kid whose name is Mike /

“He couldn’t dance or ride a bike; /

“He couldn’t keep a beat, and he had flat feet. /


“Now Unicycle Mike’s his name, receiver of fortune and fame. /

“Cash and cars and chicks galore — tell me, who could ask for more? /

“But happiness was not to be: his life was struck by tragedy. /

“When he was on his way to Vegas… /

“He collided /

“With a /

“School bus!”

He’s also a surprisingly sensitive individual, especially for someone who was involved in the initial launch of IMAGE COMICS, which comically — no pun intended — represents the worst of young male teen wish-fulfillment, and that comes through in every work of his. THE MAXX is all about abuse and disassociation and allowing folks to help you sort out your trauma.

“Gramps, why’s she gotta wreck everything, and why won’t she won’t ever talk about mom?”

“Maybe for the same reason we don’t want to talk about her.”

“Should we talk about her?”

“Only if we’re ready to.”

“How will we know?”

“We just will.”

OJO juggles similar emotional trials and feels earnest and earned. It’s not just about Annie’s journey, her struggle trying to reckon with the death of her mother, but how that also impacted the entire family, and how Annie’s actions affect them.

OJO is backed up by some supreme talent: Alex Pardee and Chris Wisnia contributed to the art, and multi-faceted Hope Larson and Bryan Lee O’Malley (who you may know as the creator of SCOTT PILGRIM) lend their lettering expertise to the work.

It’s a brilliant, evocative work that flew under the radar, and it is absolutely stunning, both with its visuals, its storytelling, and empathy and trying to imbue to the reader the hurt and coping mechanisms of trauma.

“When you’re as young as Annie, you can’t deal with something like this directly.

“What she can’t say to Mom, she says to her pets. She’s working it out the only way she knows how.”


Anya, as portrayed by Vera Brosgol in her young-adult graphic novel, is a high school girl with traditional high school girl issues: she frets about her weight, she has crushes on boys she’d be better off staying away from, she secretly smokes cigarettes with her best friend, she tries to separate herself from her Russian past, and she’s trying to be her own person.

Oh, and she also accidentally falls down a hole and discovers a skeleton inhabited by a 90-year-old ghost who, by her account, was murdered. The ghost, Emily Reilly, seems benevolent while lingering around her. Then matters escalate.

“There aren’t any other Russian students there?”

“Nope, just your run of the mill rich white New Englander private school kids.”

An aside: I am a New Englander, but I do not come from a rich family and I attended public school. Also, I consider myself agnostic — the universe is too weirdly symmetrical for me to consider otherwise — but I am not religious. However, I was very briefly raised as Roman Catholic. (My mother rightfully got pissed off at the church and we stopped attending services when I was quite young.)

My wife, however, is Greek Orthodox. One of the fun things about being Roman Catholic? I didn’t have to convert to get married to her in a Greek Orthodox church, partially because of how Catholic Orthodoxy spread across continents. I even had the fucking paperwork to prove so. (Yes, this is an actual thing and yes, I fucking hated it, but you do what you have to do for love and legal issues.)

Anya is an early Russian immigrant to America, explicitly Russian Orthodox but she’s spent a lot of time erasing that. Her mother — we’re never quite told what happened to her father — moved heaven and earth to give Anya the life she has. Anya, in a traditional act of teenage rebellion, punts on attending services, although her Russian heritage is not something that she can escape.

“Shut up! You look great!”

“Are you sure it’s not too loose-woman?”

(I will note: I am not going to touch on any of the recent Russian tumult.)

As noted above: my wife is Greek Orthodox. I’ve attended a number of Greek Orthodox church events, from Greek Easters — fun fact: not even remotely the same as what folks consider traditional Easter! — to funerals to weddings, even our own of which I was not completely educated about and kind of made a fool of myself in a BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING sort of way.

Religion is weird. I don’t begrudge anyone who finds solace in it, because we all need something to latch onto, but let’s face it: the rituals are fucking crazy and abstract and the history behind them do not make much sense. (Again, no judging!)

“I’m not interested in the life you wanted, or your taste in men.”

That spectre of belief, of history, of generations and what Anya’s mother believes in and has lived through looms over Anya as she tries to navigate her high school life, even as she exploits Emily to cheat on tests and woo folks. I’ll note that Anya? She doesn’t appreciate any of the kind graces her mother or brother or friends attempt to ingratiate on her. She’s having none of it, in only the way that teens do. (Been there, done that.) She has the occasional sense of self-awareness, but — like a teen — she’s firmly fixated on her wants and needs and it’s refreshing to see this honest portrayal of a slightly shitheel of a youth.

I’ve spent many words extolling the plot and story and depth of character here, and I do not want to ignore Brosgol’s astounding artwork. The line work is lush, the character expressions are so vibrant and telling, and her panel work and visual structure is extremely stark and effective. When Anya is shocked, her eyes grow astoundingly wide in a way that makes you feel for her, and the same when she feels shame, or anger. All of the emotions are on display via Brosgol’s penmanship, and you can’t help but hurt for Anya, even though she can often be a bit of a brat.

It is a perfect encapsulation of an auteur graphic novel work, all heart both in words and visuals, with a touch of supernatural and teen horror.

“I’m human! She’s just a pissy cloud!”


This is definitely a brag, but the copy I received was signed to myself and my wife, and also arrived with a print that I want to share because it’s amazing. Brosgol does astounding work — she goes above-and-beyond. Her pieces are something special.


As I’ve been following ND Stevenson for years through his tumblr, I am very familiar with his yearly reports. At the end of each year he would lay himself bare before his audience, emotionally unfurling himself through his sequential art to his readers. Some entries were longer than others, some were more terse than others, while some were heartbreakingly earnest and honest.

While it’s one thing to read them in real-time — year after year with the distance of hundreds of days in-between — it’s another thing to read them one-after-another in a single collection. Said collection? THE FIRE NEVER GOES OUT: A MEMOIR IN PICTURES.

I won’t mince words here: I’m old. In all likelihood, I’ve already tripped over the halfway point of my life. However, this memoir covering the adventures of a late teen to twenty-something creator endlessly resonates more and more every time I read it.

With THE FIRE NEVER GOES OUT (FIRE from here on out), Stevenson details the trials, tribulations, and difficulties of discovering and reckoning with one’s self. We watch as he goes from girly churchgoer to an Eisner award-winner for a techno-fantasy about a shapeshifting gremlin of a girl, embracing their queerness, showing weakness and vulnerability, and ultimately finding their place in society and settling into willful tranquility.

It’s an epic graphic work, one that speaks just as much with panels as it does with the space left between them. (If you aren’t aware, that’s traditionally known as a ‘gutter’, but with Stevenson it’s more like troughs.) Nakedly honest and unflinching, it’s a memoir like no other; introspection peppered with grand achievements the likes of which he — or few of us — ever imagine.

Again, I’m far older than Stevenson, but his message of opening up to people, to finding your crowd, to reckon with who you are and what you want is ageless. Stevenson skirts the issue of therapy — he does briefly discuss being bipolar early on in the memoir, and he closes noting that he finally entered therapy and reluctantly embraced meds — but, as with Julia Wertz’s IMPOSSIBLE PEOPLE, both come to the same conclusion that standing with others helps the most. That facet is something I’ve come to embrace over the past few years that I’ve been in therapy.

If you’ve previously read my words, it probably comes as no surprise that this blog — to use the outmoded term — is often my own sort of memoir. Several years ago I had a number of interactions where I realized the friends around me had no fucking clue who I really was. They had no idea of my past history, no clue about my inner life, no knowledge about any of the weird shit I’ve endured, and especially didn’t realize just how severely fucked up I am.

I realized I had buried most of my past. It was something not to be seen. Every once in a while I’d let loose with it — a piece I wrote for my now-defunct games criticism site that went viral was overtly self-reflective. Offhand remarks to friends that often resulted in shocked looks. However, those have been exceptions. This site has been a way to passively address that, to tell my own story, albeit in a way that I hope doesn’t feel like it’s an exercise in self-indulgence or nosedives into ‘too much information’.

There’s so much in FIRE that I can’t help but relate to. From an obsessive, myopic approach to work, to burnout, to feeling broken, to guilt and debilitating depression and wild upswings, to fully and completely reckon with one’s self; there’s a lot of harsh realities laid bare here. I am still somewhat shocked that publisher HarperCollins read his tumblr and thought: “Yes, this is a viable piece of entertainment content” because it feels so intimate. It is so very much of a certain over-sharing internet age that to put it into print almost feels sacrilegious, but I’m very happy they did so.

I first read FIRE as a collected work in 2020, right before I dove into some pretty intense therapy. (Fun fact: it’s only become more intense!) Upon rereading it three years later, I was shocked to read how many terms he used that mirrored my own, both with my partner as well as my mental health professionals. He uses terms that encompass feelings of guilt, of responsibility, of exhaustion, of frustration, of self-loathing.

FIRE isn’t a fictional work; it doesn’t wrap itself up into a nice, neat bow. It is a portrait of a life lived, a life learned, a life changed by experience and self-reflection and self-examination.

Upon my reread, I’ve found that his journey resonates louder than before. This isn’t a pandemic thing; it’s simply a matter of coming to terms with who the fuck you are and how you want to present yourself and endure the outside world.

I realize I’m privileged enough to live in a part of Chicago that doesn’t think twice about someone who paints themself up. No one here gives two shits about your gender identity or your pronouns; most folks just roll with it. I reside in a land of ostracized people; an area of living misfit toys.

In-between my initial read of FIRE and my reread I was diagnosed as bipolar, as well as suffering from acute anxiety and PTSD and dissociative disorder. Additionally, I came out as pansexual to a few folks. (I guess a few more folks now, if you’re reading this. Yes, I’m trying to come to terms with this.) Does it externally affect anything about me? No, it does not. However, like with Stevenson, it does require a lot of internal re-centering and a lot of recalibration and reflection.

We’re all just beings, living on the fumes of whatever societal and artistic and physical means we can. We want and want and want. We want to be heard, we want to be embraced, we want to be seen for who we are, but often settle for being seen for who we think others want us to be.

I’m happy that Stevenson figured that out earlier in their life than I did, but I’m also happy that I finally made some sort of peace with myself. The fire never goes out but, as Stevenson notes with hopefulness: You can “control your fire so that it warms instead of destroys.” I thank him for instilling that comfort.

You can — and should — get your own copy via Bookshop.


Stevenson currently has a Substack and officially labels himself as bigender and you should definitely subscribe to it.

I’d like to call your attention to The New Yorker review of FIRE, which I discovered after penning the final draft of this post. We’re very much on the same page, although Stephanie Burt is far more eloquent and exacting and less navel-gazing than myself.

Lastly, Tasha Robinson’s write-up for Polygon is well-worth reading, as she dials in on a lot of what resonates about his work.


Out of the gate I’ll note that, of the ~20 volumes of LUMBERJANES, I’ve only read the first arc: BEWARE THE KITTEN HOLY, which solely collects the first four issues of the series. (Yeah, I know — I expected it to contain six issues too, instead of umpteen variant covers at the end.)

However, LUMBERJANES: BEWARE THE KITTEN HOLY (KITTEN HOLY from here on out because while it’s a great title, I am very tired of repeatedly typing out overly long titles) immediately knows what it wants to do, knows how to do it, and knows what you expect from it.

In short: it’s a series about a pack of teen-ish youths at a very rural summer camp. I’m old, so I’m not really sure if teens still go to summer camps, but I certainly did and KITTEN HOLY encapsulates the surreal nature of temporarily living in the middle of nowhere, surrounded mostly by water and trees and bug juice.

To extrapolate: it’s about five wildly different girls who manage to bond with each other, and the strange supernatural events they end up being entangled with. There’s Molly, the tomboy with the Davy Crockett headpiece; April, the sprite-like nerd who replaces all of what would normally be curse words with the names of feminist artists; Ripley, who is overly-active and overly-physical; Jo, the level-headed one who still stands up for herself; and Mal, who would rather fade into the background but is damn smart. Oh, there are also the camp heads, Jen and Rosie. Jen’s all about rules, while still being empathetic, while Rosie is all fun and games and unruliness.

Did I mention that the camp is named Roanoke? I should have led with that.

Also, it does feature a quality amount of queerness, which I can’t help but appreciate in a YA work.

ND Stevenson provided a lot of the foundation of the series, both with character designs and themes, but it’s most certainly a collective effort. Brooke Ellis’ pencils and inks are so exuberant; Maarta Laiho’s colors pop like wildfire, and Aubrey Aisee’s lettering is singularly personal to the characters. This is a work that embraces the energy and wildness of youth, and of comics. It’s loads of fun and, well, if I had nieces, I would certainly gift them copies.

ND Stevenson

This (slightly short) week has been a long time coming. ND Stevenson is an astounding craftsman and creative artist and writer, and I’ve loved everything he has penned and willed into the world, even though I haven’t been able to read or watch all of their works.

The works I have imbibed have deeply affected me, hence this week.

If you aren’t familiar with his pieces, I hope this provides the impetus to do so. If you are? I hope you revisit them, as my revisiting cast a significantly different light.

Welcome to ND Stevenson week.


As always, I’ll preface this by saying that I will never, ever shut up about Harley Fuckin’ Quinn.

That said, there’s so much Quinn content that I have no idea where I even am in her storyline now.

Apparently she’s hooking up with Ivy now, which yes — her one true love! — and that’s great! But somehow I missed that along the way of oh, say, the number of collections I’ve already read (except for NO GOOD DEED, which takes place far later and I still have no idea what happened there). I recently was under the impression that apart from the animated series (and the animated series comics) that they were never formally partners. Nonetheless, no complaints here!

I realize I brought this upon myself by willfully ignoring the numbers on the spines of the collections, but it used to be that comics followed a pretty straight-forward numbering system: #1, then increment that number until you’re cancelled. It’s how DETECTIVE COMICS (you know: exactly what DC’s acronym stands for?) has over 700 issues.

Nowadays, it’s reboot upon reboot and apart from creative teams and endlessly trawling comic book websites — which I do not have the time for — it’s very difficult to figure out exactly how to follow along with these storylines unless you’re buying them each-and-every-month.

(Also something I don’t have the patience or attention span for.)

Regardless, a book that features Harley Quinn doesn’t quite care about continuity. It’s reckless, prior actions are hand-waved away, and it’s simply chaotic fun. That said: while I’ve been digging into just how many Quinn collection I have left to read, it is daunting and confusing in a way that could be made far more simpler. I love comics, and every time I dive back into them I wonder why I ever stopped, but geez, I’m well-versed in this publishing world and if I’m confused, just wonder about those who are newbies.

With that rant out of the way, this is yet another banger from Conner & Palmiotti and artist John Timms. There are mobsters, corrupt mayors, surprisingly uncorrupt cops, a lot of a violence and dismemberment, and all of the puns and verbosity from Harley you’d expect. However, it also features an entire issue that — unless I’m wrong — owes a significant debt to the very memorable anime series MAZINGER G, even down to uh, bombs and missiles being launched from body parts you ordinarily wouldn’t expect to serve up loaded vehicles of gunpowder.

As always, it’s a joyful thrill ride, and exactly why I always look for Conner & Palmiotti’s names when trawling through my local comic book shop’s back-catalog.


As I’ve stated before: I will never, ever shut up about Harley Fuckin’ Quinn. Also, I’m reading all of the Harley Quinn works out-of-order. At first it wasn’t intentional, but now I’m reveling in it! It’s a weird sort of fun, this sort of fractured storytelling.

Frankly, I expected RED MEAT to be mostly filler material. Between reading the first and then fourth volume, I could see the progression of Harley and crew, but didn’t quite see how it could those volumes could fill six-to-twelve issues.

Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti proved me wrong. This is a fucking wild ride. While it doesn’t quite concentrate on Harley’s progression from villain to anti-hero or whatever you want to label her, it does surround her with a number of absolutely brazen, bat-shit-crazy circumstances that endlessly entertain.

For one: there’s the mayor and his assistant employing cannibals to eat the homeless. Then there’s also a Terminator-esque antagonist, sent back in time to kill Harley because, apparently she killed Batman in the future.

Yes. Killed Batman. In the future.

Also? This terminator? She wasn’t the first one sent back to kill Harley.

And that plotline is dropped like a fucking anvil and is never spoken of again, at least to my knowledge. (I’ll note once again: I have not read all of the oeuvre that consists of Harley Quinn, so I am probably wrong about this, but I really hope I am not.)

[UPDATE: I’m currently replaying the Arkham Trilogy and apparently that’s semi-canon, but not really? Either way, the fact that folks accept that Harley could kill Bats is pretty awesome, especially considering later storylines.]

Comics! God bless ‘em. There’s no other form that audiences accept this sort of lunacy from, and I fucking revel in it.


Yet again, I will never, ever shut up about Harley Fuckin’ Quinn, and this Conner & Palmiotti volume (number five, for those keeping score at home) is one of the best of I’ve theirs I’ve read. (I’ll note: I haven’t even come close to reading their oeuvre, much less the entire panopticon of other Harley works, so please bear that in mind.)

I’ll admit: I have no fucking clue where Harley and Ive are relationship-wise in this series. Ivy seems to be very invested in Harley, but Harley is off fucking Madame Macabre’s son and Ivy is visibly very happy for her. They talk to each other like a couple, but apparently they aren’t? Maybe I’m dumb at interpreting this — wouldn’t be the first time — but it’s hard to tell solely based on this volume.

Yeah, I probably shouldn’t have skipped volumes number two and three — inevitably I’ll circle back — but it’s more fun this way.

All joking aside, this volume is not flip. I will not spoil anything but it goes dark and Harley goes through a lot of shit. Tonally, VOTE HARLEY departs quite a bit from the Conner & Palmiotti Harley works I’ve previously read. Actions have significant consequences, Harley tries to rectify them and, in traditional Harley manner, it falls apart.

The six issues of this arc takes turn after turn, culminating in a wild fourth-wall breaking scenario that I did not see coming, and it was utterly delightful while also being quite disturbing.

While I always miss Connor’s pencil work, I always welcome John Timm. His renditions are always vibrantly expressive, focusing more on eyes and grins than T&A, although his fluid body language also helps to amplify some of this volume’s heavier moments.

I don’t want to say that this is a great introduction to Harley — after all, it is the fifth volume of a long-running character — and while it’s far more somber than we normally see Harley, it’s a very well-crafted story that, while not exactly self-contained, also isn’t inaccessible for newer readers. It’s a hell of a ride, albeit probably not one Harley wanted to take.



In honor of the latest season drop of HARLEY QUINN: THE ANIMATED SERIES, I couldn’t help but make another Harley Quinn post because I will never, ever shut up about Harley Fuckin’ Quinn.

It was my birthday recently and I traditionally treat myself to some new books. This year, I dropped into my local comic book store — I’m lucky enough to live in an area that still has one within walking distance: Alleycat Comics and they’re fantastic — and I perused the Harley Quinn section because, yet again, I will never, ever shut up about Harley Fuckin’ Quinn. (So much so that I’m thinking of making this a weekly feature, as there’s certainly enough Harley Quinn material out there.)

They had re-stocked Conner & Pamiotti’s Vol. 2 and Vol. 3 — which I have yet to read — but then I saw it, something I didn’t even know existed. (I’ll note that’s not out of laziness or a lack of research, but simple willful ignorance as I like to have some small surprises in my life.)


THE HUNT FOR HARLEY is from spouses Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti, who penned and Conner often illustrated Harley Quinn’s iconic run, the run that let Harley be her best self. (Well, at least a better self.)

I’ll note: their Harley, while being very close to the recent animated Harley I hold near-and-dear, is not my favorite Harley, but it is a very quality Harley and my favorite Harley wouldn’t exist without them. Yay, comics!

This collection consists of four issues of the DC Black Label mini-series, and it is a gorgeous collection. Super-luxurious paper stock, brilliant and vivid colors, and it’s gleefully over-sized. I am always a sucker for magazine-sized graphic novels. I felt like I was reading an EIGHTBALL collection as opposed to what’s normally a substandard comic trade paperback.

If you aren’t familiar with DC’s Black Label, it’s yet another attempt to recreate DC’s Vertigo imprint; it’s ‘for mature readers’ and leans heavily on pre-established characters. In the case of Harley, it means she’s not Harley Frickin’ Quinn or $#@!ing Harley Quinn, but Harley Fuckin’ Quinn, and there are even more beaver jokes. (So many beaver jokes.) Also, a lot of bloodshed. (So much blood.)

This is Conner & Palmiotti unbridled, and it’s glorious. Conner is (mostly) back on artist duty and it’s a comfort to see her Harley renditions. However, the real pleasure of this series is the character work and the humor. Conner & Palmiotti leaned on a lot of innuendo in their initial Quinn run to barely be PG-13 smut; there was a lot of tip-toeing around language and acts, but they were very good at doing so in a winking manner.

They no longer have to hold back with THE HUNT FOR HARLEY.

What I really appreciate about Conner & Palmiotti is how they delicately thread the needle between fun lewd and outrageous lewd, without ever actually being distasteful or exploitative. Are they mostly portraying deviant folks on the outskirts of society that don’t feel bound by societal norms? Yes. Do they still portray them as humans, and Conner do so in a way that is visually striking and isn’t just for the male gaze? Yes.

Anyway. I’m getting sidetracked.

THE HUNT FOR HARLEY reads like an Earth-2 version of the film BIRDS OF PREY. (I’d normally say that HUNT is the Earth-1, but the film BIRDS OF PREY predates it.)

(Yet again, I’ll note: I’m still working my way through all of the Harley Quinn stuff, so please don’t fault me for not knowing the entire history. There is a lot of Quinn material out there!)

The gang’s all here: Montoya, Huntress, Cassandra Cain, and Harley is — as noted in the title — being hunted. Cassandra Cain and Montoya are …different. Costumes and backgrounds do not necessarily match. However, at the heart of it of the tale is what I know and love as Quinn and her interactions with The Birds of Prey.

It’s a sparky lark and relentless fun. My only quibble is: I’m so fucking sick of the Joker showing up in Quinn’s tales, especially to re-introduce her trauma. (A brief aside: that’s one facet I love about HARLEY QUINN: THE ANIMATED SERIES; they quickly dispense with him being Harley’s edgelord. While he does pop up most unexpectedly in Season Three, he is, well, I won’t spoil matters but he is radically different.)

THE HUNT FOR HARLEY is a spectacular and mostly self-contained work that I would recommend to anyone of age to read it. (Or, hell, anyone who isn’t of age because youths will discover this stuff on their own.) Everyone is firing on all pistons and it’s such a propulsive, while also heartfelt, work.

If you’d like to read Conner’s thoughts on the work, I highly suggest this BUST interview!