Since mid-2016, when Harley Quinn marched herself into Coney Island, Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner have led her into uncharted waters, exploring a character that, until then, had been largely relegated to a battered sex object at the beck and call of one of Gotham’s most sadistic villains. Her introduction in 1992 was a throw-away on Batman: The Animated Series, never truly meant to be more. Since then, she has appeared in, as Conner herself points out in a delightfully destructive fourth-wall breaking dream sequence, numerous DC comics titles, video games, a feature film, and even a best-selling Halloween costume. In issue #34, Conner and Palmiotti say goodbye to the good doctor in their own particular way. What a fun ride it’s been.
This issue is truly a series of goodbyes for Harley and the many characters that have entered her life. After a raucous evening ending in a post-karaoke jail cell, Big Tony makes his final exit as Harley and Ivy reunite with Harley’s parents and brothers. An after-hours jaunt to the local zoo brings Harley back in contact with her pet hyenas, abandoned long ago after they became too vicious to be around others. Being forced to say goodbye to these long-time pets (and their adorable puppies) seems to hit a bit harder than some others she’s had to lose in the past several issues. One by one, the support system created by Conner and Palmiotti seems to be slipping back into the wilds of imagination, like Coney Island was all a dream.
Another rescue by the inimitable Poison Ivy leads the duo to leave the Quinn residence, possibly for good. It is during a car nap that we get to that dream sequence where Harley invades the Palmiotti/Conner residence and trashes the place, yelling about being forced into continuity and a stream of new supporting characters. In the end, we very nearly get everything that the series has promised. Harley and Ivy, sailing off into the future (literally…they’re on a luxury yacht from who knows where) together, ending with another dirty joke on the way out.
My single frustration with the issue and, really, the series, is the continued teasing of a real relationship between Harley and Ivy. I wish I knew why they have never been allowed to be an actual couple “on screen,” as it were. There have been hints and allegations, to quote Paul Simon, but for all Harley’s flirting and cuddles and Ivy’s constant love and companionship, they just have never taken that last step. Perhaps Harley is barely capable of having a serious relationship and Mason Macabre was an aberration. Maybe she is just attracted to attractiveness and Ivy is just hanging on, continually unrequited in her love for Harley. I wish I knew and I’m not sure now that we’ll ever know.
Whatever dreams may come, this series has been a true bright spot in comics, fleshing out a character beloved by many. Whether or not their tenure as Harley’s caretakers was accepted by all, it was a special run, highlighted by giving Dr. Harleen Frances Quinzel something she has sought since the first time she popped on screen: her freedom. Thank you, Jimmy and Amanda for all the laughs.