The long-awaited Birds of Prey movie (aka Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) has arrived and it’s been a rather weird weekend. Dude-bros on YouTube fell over themselves in a rush to declare the movie the biggest bomb ever and inform everyone that they just didn’t find Ramona Flowers attractive now that she was killing people with a crossbow instead of using a giant Manga hammer as God intended.
The only reason I’m wasting valuable comics reviewing time discussing this is the resulting irony. It seems that marketing surveys this past weekend showed that the teaming masses who don’t pay attention to comic books were somehow unaware that Birds of Prey and the Emancipation of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was a Harley Quinn movie, despite an advertising budget that was double what the film itself cost to produce. (In fairness, most of that money was spent in China, where nobody is going to the movies because of the Coronoavirus. Oops.) So in an effort to try and save face, Warner Bros. officially changed the title of the movie from Birds of Prey and the Prisoner of Azkaban to Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey. Which is practically the title of the tie-in comic to the movie, which we are looking at today.
Get it? Got it? Good.
Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey #1 picks up where Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s run on the monthly Harley Quinn comic ended. This first issue is largely concerned with two goals; explaining the story so far to newbies who haven’t read all of the frankly amazing Conner and Palmiotti Harley Quinn comics and setting up a scenario where the Birds of Prey would team up with Harley.
The issue is largely successful regarding the first point. While the basic gist of how Harley got into her current predicament is set-up well enough by Harley pouring out her heart to a semi-sympathetic Power Girl, the book is less successful in explaining certain running gags and introducing the supporting cast. For instance, Harley is sharing an apartment with her Gang of Harleys but just who they are isn’t clarified. Neither is the existence of Red Tool – a somewhat familiar but legally distinct character who resembles a certain mouthy mercenary who works for the Marvelous competition.
The second point is accomplished much more smoothly and the pacing of the issue improves dramatically once Harley returns to Gotham City to have a chat with the gangsters who did her wrong. Enter the Birds of Prey (who bring in Cassandra “Orphan” Cain as extra muscle) and GCPD Detective Rene Montoya, who step-in to get Harley out of Gotham before all hell breaks loose as various people who want her dead start tearing the city apart trying to get to her. Hilarity ensues.
If you’ve read Conner and Palmiotti’s Harley Quinn what follows will offer few surprises. This is a DC Black Label book, so Conner and Palmiotti are completely unrestrained in allowing Harley to curse like a sailor and offer a 2 for 1 special on innuendo. Actually, given that Harley outright asks Power Girl to take a shower with her, calling the suggestive content of this comic “innuendo” is crediting it with far too much subtlety.
Conner also works a copious amount of ultra-violence into the artwork, in her usual animated and unimitable style. Conner is highly regarded as an artist and rightly so and her work in this first issue adheres to her usual high standards, with a cartoonish sense of clarity despite the intricate details worked into every panel. The artwork may look cute and kid-friendly based on the vivid coloration, but this is very much an R-rated comic book.
Bottom Line: If you’re a fan of the Conner and Palmiotti run on Harley Quinn, you’re going to love this. If you just saw the movie and want to read a comic in the same vein, you’ll get a good sample of the material that inspired the movie. (Seriously. The movie cribbed SOOOO much from Conner and Palmiotti.) If you’re a Birds of Prey fan looking for a comic featuring your favorite team… well, they ARE in here, but as in the movie, the focus of this issue is firmly on Harley, but that may change as the mini-series continues. And if you’re a Cassandra Cain fan wondering if they wrote her properly in this issue, rest assured that they do. Cassandra is as silent and deadly as she should be.
Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey #1 releases on February 12th, 2020!
Written by The Critic The Internet Deserves, but not the one it needs right now…. Matt Morrison. He’s a smart-ass guardian. A sarcastic protector. A Snark Knight.