The issue reveals that Harley’s a long-time Wonder Woman fan (a little too long-time given the Nu52’s relatively short time span). When Harley learns that her hero is in danger, she rushes off to London to knock Diana unconscious and take her place in the pending attack. So no, that cover with Harley and Diana wearing each other’s clothes isn’t just a visual gag; it’s part of the story. But can Harley make a better Wonder Woman than Diana does?
As far as first issues go, it’s fine. Honestly, the issue feels very much like any other issue of the standard Harley Quinn book. Harley’s cast from the main book doesn’t appear (except her talking dead beaver), but given the dominance of her personality in the main book, you won’t really miss them. In fact, I just finished reading the second Harley Quinn hardcover which includes the Power Girl team-up, and I’m struck by how similar in tone the stories read–right down to a common scene where Harley strips both heroes naked while they’re unconscious. This raises questions as to why DC feels that a second Harley Quinn book by the same creative team is needed, because Harley’s Little Black Book effectively serves as just more of the other title.
Which isn’t to say that it’s bad. If you like Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner’s mapcap self-aware take on Harley, then there’s plenty to like here. And it’s not completely zany: just as Harley is her usual looney tune self, Wonder Woman is written as the fully-confident female powerhouse she’s known for. There’s a particularly impressive slow-motion scene (which is hard to pull off in comics) which I’ll keep spoiler free, except to say that it pretty effectively captures who Diana is with just a simple gesture.
Two things hurt this book. One is that while Amanda Conner draws most of it–and it’s a real treat to see her fun, carefree style since she doesn’t draw as much as she used to–the art chores are shared with John Timms. Although a relative newcomer, Timms is no stranger to Harley and has done several issues of the main title. The problem is the shift from Conner to Timms, back to Conner for one page, and back to Timms again is a little jarring and breaks the flow of the story. This is a larger problem in comics, and it’d be nice if a publisher could nail down a one-artist-per-story-arc rule.
Two, there doesn’t appear to be an overarching story here. Harley’s Little Black Book #1 is as standalone an issue as you get. That’s fine if you’re looking for a done-in-one book, but it raises the question as to what’s going to keep the reader coming back other than “more Harley.” I could see this book becoming repetitive and formulaic pretty quickly. Worse, this appears to be a bi-monthly book, with the next issue due in February. It could be tough for this book to maintain our interest if it’s essentially a supplement to the main book and it’s not being released on a regular basis.
Oh, who am I kidding? It’s a Harley Quinn book. It’ll crack the top 20 and sell like crazy no matter what.
Rating: Four out of five puddin’s.