Overall, I'm enjoying "Harley Quinn" a great deal; it's silly, it's funny, it's irreverent. But in the case of "Harley Quinn" #5, we're starting to see a bit more a problem that's begun to crop up. Namely, every now and then, Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti and Chad Hardin's comic starts to meander off into rambling tangents, though sometimes those strange side-trips work to the book's advantage.
In "Harley Quinn" #5, Conner and Palmiotti give us two such sidesteps. The first, as Harley encounters the burlesque show in her building for the first time, is a little pointless. But at the same time it's also fairly amusing, as Harley goes from eagerly cheering audience member, to storming the stage herself. It's a little goofy and it makes Harley seem a little more addled than normal, but it's the sort of digression it works because it holds a certain amount of charm.
On the other hand, immediately following it is a three-page dream sequence that lacks that sort of charm. It feels much more pointless than the burlesque stage side-trip, and aside from giving us the faces of all of Sy Borgman's targets, there's nothing to really take away when it's over -- except, perhaps, having three less pages of story this month. It's frustrating because the issue ends with the sensation that things have finally gotten moving forward, only to get cut short. With those pages from the dream sequence allocated elsewhere, I think "Harley Quinn" #5 would have flowed a bit more smoothly and felt more robust.
Hardin's art still looks excellent, though, and he's a great choice for the title. Sy Borgman, the scooter-bound senior citizen cyborg, looks wonderfully ludicrous, for instance, especially when he and Harley are bursting through the hospital window. His characters in general come across very smooth and expressive; just look at Harley's face when she's getting socked by the tomatoes, or on the panel below when what she's done is really sinking in. It's also great to see Coney Island drawn so well. With random background businesses and the graffiti on the walls, this feels like a real neighborhood, not just a few people standing on a generic street.
"Harley Quinn" #5 looks as fantastic as ever, but I hope the writing tightens up a bit. The occasional digression in this book is fine (and should even be expected), but there also comes a point where you need to focus on the plot more than the random meanders off to other points. Here, I feel like the meandering took away a little too much from what the readers would be more interested in.