Review by Megan Sinclair
Harley Quinn’s Coney Island adventures continue as the ex-Mistress of Mayhem tries to juggle her responsibilities and blossoming relationships into a new lifestyle, which is just as manic and chaotic as she is. Kiss Kiss Bang Stab features three continuing internal chapters and three more stand-alone specials.
Within the internal story, Harley comes to the realisation that she cannot balance her work and leisure commitments in addition to trying to make the world a better place. To solve this dilemma she advertises for a vigilante group, resulting in ‘The Gang of Harleys’ (who like Power Girl in the previous volume have their own spin-off series with Harley Quinn). The newfound superhero gang are as mismatched and morally complex as Harley herself, but like the titular character are willing to go to extremes for the greater good. These episodes set up an exciting and very Harley-esque, fun-filled, crazy plot. The creators continue to develop Harley as a character while having fun with some pop culture, a common series trope. From ‘Hot Topic’ Harleys, to ‘hunnerd shades’ and ‘Mad Manx’, like the general atmosphere of the volume, there are many playful, often meta references throughout.
Chad Hardin provides the art for the continuing story, his work blending perfectly well with the madness of Harley’s world. He is a very expressive artist which suits the highly emotional Harley. The art, like the writing, is full of heart, much like the beloved title character and the creative team’s passion and love for Harley Quinn shines through.
In addition, the specials also engage the readers, most prominently the ‘Scratch and Snuff’, which as the name suggests has different scents throughout that Harley directs the readers to scratch and smell, in doing so pulling them into the comics page. In a quest to save Poison Ivy, the readers sniff an array of aromas from pizza, to banana butter, to leather and hypnosis potions. Added to that, as is common with Harley Quinn, the readers are taken into her mind via fantasy hallucinations and dreams. These sections are unique and offer the creators the opportunity to explore metafictional sequences, such as Harley’s own superhero creation Hurl Girl. We saw her in Hot in the City, and she reappears to fight alongside Harley. They also provide great comedy scenes, such as Bruce Wayne and Harley’s romance in her Valentine’s Day special.
These moments additionally give guest artists the opportunity to work on Harley Quinn. A series highlight is that so many faces in the comics industry, old and new, can put their own stamp on the character. It is something that seems so naturally suited to Harley Quinn, who within Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti’s work is a wonderful mix of nostalgia and modernisation. Blended throughout the volumes is the idea that Harley Quinn is a flexible and adaptable, and the jumps in narrative and aesthetic both suit this concept and the very nature of Harley’s personality.
Kiss Kiss Bang Stab continues to re-define the previous incarnations of Harley Quinn as she ventures far from Gotham and proves herself as a worthy standalone character. On the surface it is an easy, often silly read, but there are so many clever twists and nods to both Harley herself and comics in general. The series continues with A Call to Arms.