HARLEY QUINN #36 by Frank Tieri, Inaki Miranda, Alex Sinclair, and Dave Sharpe
Even though Tieri's dialogue is a little clunky at times, the story here is headed in a great direction. Tieri had a difficult challenge following Palmiotti and Conner's exit, but he's started to deal with Harley's mental state in a responsible way. The art is a high point of the book, from the Harley-Bat design to the portrayal of raw emotion. It's a success overall, getting this Jimmy & Amanda loyalist on board.
88 %
Winning Me Over

I don’t envy Frank Tieri one bit. Picking up HARLEY QUINN where Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner left off is a near impossible task. No one had ever written Harley like them, and no one ever will again. Yet, with HARLEY QUINN #36, Tieri has really settled in and started to make the book his own.

The Evolution of Harley Quinn

Absolutely Batty

HARLEY QUINN has always been a pretty wild book. Remember that time the citizens of Coney Island were turned into zombies because of tainted hog dogs? Yeah, that was the first thing that happened. Tieri and his team bring that kind of insanity in HARLEY QUINN #36 with an army of Man-Bats!

In the previous issue, Francine Langstrom (ex-wife of the OG Man-Bat) started using a serum to turn people into horrible bat-beasts. Why? We really have no idea. The series doesn’t have to make complete sense right away (this is the zany HARLEY QUINN we’re dealing with). After Francine transformed Tony, Harley set out to save her friend. Quinn’s rescue attempt fails and she’s turned into the monstrous Harley-Bat in the process!

Harley’s Hurtin’

So throughout this issue, the Gang of Harleys attempt to control Harley-Bat while the rest of Harley’s pals work to find an antidote. There are highs and lows throughout the narrative. Some of the dialogue is clunky, but there are also jokes that land. The book opens with a clear and blatant reference to PINEAPPLE EXPRESS that was probably funnier when Tieri scripted it, but falls incredibly short in light of the James Franco allegations. On the other hand, a Harley-Bat attacks the stand-in for Franco’s character, so that’s cool.

HARLEY QUINN #36 page 3. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Once the situation is under control and Harley is back to normal (for her), she continues to alienate herself. It’s sad, but it’s realistic. It hurts because we’ve never seen her like this, as she’s still mourning the death of her boo, Mason. We can all relate on some level. In the final pages, we get some hints as to the larger plan in place here. We start to see what Francine was up to, but a lot remains unclear. Color us intrigued.

Look At All The Pretties!

HARLEY QUINN #36 looks good. The series’ style has changed a few times, but it’s always had a signature look. Inaki Miranda’s art is pretty damn spectacular in this issue. One notable moment is Harley-Bat chomping on some hot dogs and sniffing a wild concoction of junk food at Nateman’s. The design of the creature itself is incredibly striking, so seeing something so terrifying have such an endearing moment is pretty masterful.

Conversely, Harley talking about her emotions later in the issue is an equally effective moment. Through subtle strokes, Miranda has made it clear that Harley has been crying and is struggling even more than she lets on.

HARLEY QUINN #36 page 4. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

Dave Sharpe’s lettering is also handled with finesse throughout with each screech, splat, and whomp filled with detail. Of course, Alex Sinclair’s coloring is the glue holding every HARLEY QUINN book together. It’s a constant through the series, and it really wouldn’t be the same without him.

Big Shoes To Fill In HARLEY QUINN #36

Conner and Palmiotti have made Harley the brilliant character we know and love today. They also completely broke her down before ending their run. Mason’s passing affects her deeply — it devastates her. For maybe the first time, she wants to be left alone. That’s counter-intuitive to everything Harley has ever been, but it’s also completely accurate and true-to-life.

So when Tieri steps in, he has to prove that he understands this character on a deep level right away. He needs to grip Harley-loving audiences immediately, but he can’t do it with her usual humor and charm. He has to show the emotional side of Harley — the one that’s been through some stuff. Tieri starts to do just that in HARLEY QUINN#36.

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Harley is, after all, the survivor. The emotional manipulation and physical abuse she has experienced colors everything she does. She’s strong as hell and she approaches pretty much everything with a survivor’s mentality. This woman has been through the worst, so she can get through anything. Until Mason.

Dealing With Guilt

Harley’s always been a positive person, approaching problems with a can-do attitude. Yet that’s because she’s usually reacting to issues that arise in her life. Even if Harley causes a bad situation herself, she takes control and fixes it. She’s always been successful in that regard. But this time, in her mind, she failed to react to a situation well enough to stop it.

It’s clear that Harley takes responsibility for Mason’s death. He was a target because of her, and his demise was meant to affect her in this way. HARLEY QUINN #36 proves it’s definitely working.

HARLEY QUINN #36 page 5. Image courtesy of DC Entertainment.

This is a big deal. To see someone as powerful and badass as Harley dealing with both guilt and trauma drives home the message that we all go through things like this. Hopefully, our situations are wildly different from her’s, but we all deal with pain. We all mourn, we all struggle. To feel bad is human and okay. We’re allowed to feel things without emotions making us weak. You can be strong and feel pain at the same time.

To me, that’s always been the point of Harley Quinn. So two issues in, because of HARLEY QUINN #36, this Conner & Palmiotti loyalist is on board with Tieri.

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