After recovering from the final issues of Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s Harley Quinn, a good palate cleanser is needed to reset expectations and prepare for upcoming changes to Harley’s life and the comic as a whole. For an effective come-down we need a tight story, character development that moves the story forward, and some light-hearted fun. Did the “Batter Up” storyline deliver? Well, mostly.
As with any change, there will be those intransigents (like me) who will grumble and nit-pick at things that are in any way different from what came before. I will refrain from that here unless duly necessary. We pick up with Harley, distraught at the loss of Mason Macabre, separating herself from her Coney Island crew and dealing with the disappearance of Big Tony alone. Of course, no one respects what she wants. After discovering what appears to be Man-Bat harrassing the fine citizens of the boardwalk, the team, sans Harley, head to Arkham Asylum to make sure Kirk Langstrom is still locked up.
With Langstrom in tow, the team searches for evidence of the new bat creature. Harley, meanwhile, has been taken by Langstrom’s wife Francine, whose plan is to turn everyone into bat creatures. Solid plan, Francine. While the covers of both issues show an honestly adorable Harley-Bat, the interior art from Inaki Miranda is, frankly, horrific. Harley-Bat and Tony-Bat are nightmarish creatures. While I’m not a fan of the changes in Harley’s look in general, Miranda has done a bang-up job on the creature details.
Of course, the day is eventually saved, people cured, etc. Kirk Langstrom does escape, so there’s that thread left dangling, but all in all, things worked out. In the end, Harley realizes what she has to do to be left alone: she has to leave Coney Island and restart her life. It’s a good way to reboot her story a bit and move her – and the comic itself – from living with the memories from the before-time. Writer Frank Tieri has done a fine job picking up the pieces left by Conner and Palmiotti’s departure and is moving the story forward in his own way. As a bit of hand-holding as we tentatively move into the new era, Amanda Conner has teamed with artist Hi-Fi to create the covers of both issues. This would be fine, except that it contrasts so greatly with Miranda’s art, which leaves something to be desired. The final reveal of Harley’s next big foe was marred by some unusual artistic choices that just seem out of place. I’m going to give it a shot, but I have concerns for the future of one of my favorite characters.