Well, that was unexpected. Everything you need to know about Harley Quinn: Die Laughing #1 is already right there in the title: Death and laughing.
This first issue of the Rebirth series seriously had me in stitches; not only because of the intended humor but also because of the way the story turns itself upside down after every few pages. Never has the Ron Burgandy “Well that escalated quickly” meme been more appropriate, as Harley goes from having a spa day to a circus presenter to a zombie hunter in a matter of pages. And for the most part, it actually works.
Writers Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner were clearly having fun bouncing ideas off one another when they were planning this series. I expect the “anything goes” frame of mind infected them just as much as the Mad-cow-alien-sausage-zombie-virus (yep) infected the unassuming crowds of Coney Island.
The relationship between Harley and both Ivy and Red Tool continues in this series, even if those characters, especially Ivy, gets sidelined for the sake of the new central conflict that involves a full blown Zombie apocalypse. The lead up to this event takes a bit long, but the way in which it happens may be the funniest part of this issue.
Readers hoping that this series will blend The Walking Dead’s action and intensity with Harley’s humor and playfulness may be a bit disappointed as the writers never really spends any time explaining the global impact that the zombies will have or explain the mechanics on which their zombies operate. Are they infectious? Do they solely want brains? Is this a global thing? Time that could have been spent on answering some of these questions is rather devoted to reminding us of the relationship between Harley and Red Tool, a relationship in which I am done trying to invest. I expect Ivy to return in the issues to come, which would be a welcome addition seeing as that relationship is the one I’m truly invested in.
Artist Chad Hardin keeps all the visuals in place from Harley’s previous solo outing, opting rather for bright visuals and thin line work rather than the heavy shading and washed-out colors that have become synonymous with zombie-related comics.
The real star of the story, of course, remains Harley. Her liveliness and sex appeal remains strong throughout the story, with Palmiotti ensuring that her Tara Strong persona shines through with every sentence. The first issue leaves us with a surprising cliffhanger; not surprising in a Walking-Dead-character-death way, surprising in a Harley Quinn-laught-out-loud way. I’m hoping the next issue will clear up some world building issues and answer some questions, but if the story can remain as solid as it did throughout this issue, this should be a fun and memorable saga.