Sunday, February 26, 2012

GN Review -- Batman: Harley and Ivy / Paul Dini, Judd Winick, Bruce Timm, & Joe Chiodo

A more cartoony, delightfully campy predecessor to Dini's work on Gotham City Sirens, Batman: Harley and Ivy explores the relationship between these two female characters that started in Batman: The Animated Series where Harley originated.  It also demonstrates the fact that, despite the overuse of the device, buddy comedies are timelessly entertaining.

Batman: Harley and Ivy collects three tales that showcase the characters' relationship.  "The Bet" focuses on Ivy betting Harley a dollar that she can get every man in Arkham Asylum to kiss her.  Things are going fine, and Harley doesn't seem to mind losing, until the Joker is suddenly returned to Arkham, and Ivy includes him in the bet.  Harley must use every trick in her charmingly demented book to thwart Ivy's attempts to kiss her man, leading to a chuckle-worthy ending.

"Harley and Ivy: Love on the Lam" starts off with Harley and Joker pulling a job in a museum when Two-Face and his men show up.  When Harley suggests a relatively bloodless solution to their problem, Joker throws Harley out on the street again, leading Harley to seek out Poison Ivy so they can pull a job and make some money.  Ivy, skeptical that Harley's doing this to get back in the Joker's good graces, agrees to do so on the condition that Harley consider working on her own, that and the fact that the company they're robbing is a major polluter of rain forests.

"Batman: Harley and Ivy" deals mostly with the antagonistic relationship between the villainous duo, as Ivy can't stand Harley's general air-headedness and incompetence, but also can't bring herself to abandon Harley completely.  After Harley botches their latest job, Ivy escapes from Arkham, intent on leaving Harley behind to go to Costa Verde by herself.  But Harley's not far behind, and manages to tag along on Ivy's adventure, causing equal amounts of grief and chaos for her begrudging partner, much to the delight of readers.

The plots are fairly light and trite, and rightfully so.  This is a focus on the characters, and it's hard not to be charmed by these two lead characters.  Not only are they gorgeous bad girls, but their comedic chemistry is undeniable.  Theirs is one of the classic comedy friends duos, with Ivy as the more uptight straight woman, while Harley gets the role of wildly demonstrative comic relief.  Ivy easily gets frustrated with Harley's childishness, but can never bring herself to really abandon or hurt her friend, despite how doubtlessly easier her life would be if she didn't have to worry about her.

The humor was very clever in places.  One of my favorite moments is when Harley knocks out an actor playing the Joker in a Hollywood production of a movie about Harley and Ivy.  The actor murmurs, "Yoda?  Dagobah System?" as he falls to the ground, a playful dig at Mark Hamill, who voiced the Joker for so long.

Art-wise, it's very delightfully modeled after the animated series look, with the exception of "Love on the Lam."  There, Chiodo's illustrations in that story, while still very cartoony, also have a more rounded, finished look that belies his work as a pin-up artist.  It's very lush and sexy in places, an obvious fit for two of the ladies who would come to make up the Gotham City Sirens.

Overall, I enjoyed this book on several levels.  The comedic team these two make up is quite a joy to behold, as are their mildly cheesecake depictions by the various artists who draw them.  If you like Harley and Ivy, or want to see the basis for their madcap relationship, definitely check it out.  If you enjoy buddy comedies, this is a good depiction of one.  Highly recommended.

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