When I saw the list of this second round of "Joker's Asylum" creative teams, I was most interested in this one, because I've never seen Joe Quinones draw anything that was less than amazing.
It certainly had nothing to do with the title character.
Harley Quinn, as a character, probably ranks at the bottom of my ranking of favorite Batman supporting characters, a few rungs below the KGBeast and Aunt Harriet. Whenever Harley Quinn appears in a comic, I can't help but hear Arleen Sorkin's supposedly humorous shrill voice, and I cringe. It's not that I despise all the episodes of "Batman: The Animated Series" she appeared in, but there were oh so many of them, and they were not the ones I enjoyed the most.
Yet, here's Joe Quinones, doing his art thing on a Harley Quinn book. And new writer James Patrick (well, he's new to DC) making a strong debut with a story that pushed past my biases and gives me a Harley worth reading about. It's a well-told story, a story that plays up her most annoying qualities, but in a way that's not grating -- even with that Sorkin voice echoing in the distance.
A quick glance at this issue might lead you to think that Quinones is doing a Mike Allred riff here, and the thick holding lines and general whimsy certainly give that impression, but Quinones has a three-dimensionality to his panels that Allred often does not. I wouldn't say Quinones is better than Allred, but his charms are a bit different. His hard-rubber characters bound around inside the panel borders, expressively claiming their space. He's a pretty good choice for Harley Quinn, as you can imagine, but his stern Batman (who briefly appears here) is also a treat, and his Joker is perfect. On the final page of the story Quinones gives us a Joker aside, "I honestly don't care either way," he says, and it's one of the best-looking Joker images you'll ever see. It's lounge lizard Joker, knowingly addressing the audience. So perfect.
The James Patrick-penned story is basically about Harley Quinn busting out of Arkham to find the Joker on Valentine's Day, and the gag is that she can't quite catch up to him, and the breadcrumbs he leaves behind become increasingly ridiculous (and dangerous). Patrick has a great ear for dialogue, and the story whips along without an overabundance of words, giving Quinones time to detail the physical space of this Gotham City romp.
It's good. It's fun. It looks great. And Patrick and Quinones made me enjoy Harley Quinn for, possibly, the first time ever. I hope to see a lot more from both of them (though if they leave Harley behind, that's more than okay with me.)