Future State: Harley Quinn was an interesting tonal shift for its titular whack job. Sure, it was still pretty funny, but it wasn’t absurd. Of course, this was a future timeline, with a particular set of circumstances setting the stage, but I always figured that writer Stephanie Phillips was setting her own stage—that Future State was her first few steps towards the sort of book she wanted to write on the main title.
Spoiler alert: I was right. So:
As Harley Quinn #1 opens, old Harl is caught in a conflict. Or, more specifically, she is trying to make amends with someone she’s wronged, and it’s not going well. It’s a great few pages, most especially because of Rossmo’s playful storytelling and the gloriously dingy detail he and Plascencia bring to the environment.
While the hijinks ensue on the page, Phillips takes the opportunity to voiceover Harley’s broader state of mind here in the wake of Joker War, and it isn’t long before Gotham answers her musings the way only Gotham can. Harley Quinn #1 is the story of Harley more or less making it official—she’s one of the good guys now—but it’s clear that she’ll have substantial challenges along her new path.
What did I like?
While there is some dialogue that makes me scratch my head, this book does what any #1 should do: it makes you like the hero and care about what happens to her. I know there were fans of madcap Harley, but it’s nice to see a version more akin to the pre-New 52 take: a Harley that is still plenty entertaining, but who also has depth: desires, insecurities, fears. The humor is here, of course, but it isn’t the only draw. There are a few sweet moments—emotional, but not sappy—that made me smile, too.
I love the artwork. From a purely aesthetic perspective, Rossmo’s weird shapes and proportions are a delight. It’s not as Cronenberg-y as Night of the Monster Men (which, I believe, was his first work on a Bat-book) or Martian Manhunter, but it’s still super weird and quirky, and a perfect fit for this book. Harley’s life has always been a bit funhouse mirror, and Rossmo’s style is a glove. (expand the spoiler tag if you don’t mind having a minor thing spoiled, but want to see a crazy-good two-page spread)
[caption id="attachment_117565" align="alignleft" width="1920"] Credit: Riley Rossmo, Ivan Plascencia, and Deron Bennett[/caption]
Deron Bennett lettered the book, and it’s incredibly readable—balloons and boxes are where they need to be to guide you along the page (with one exception that wasn’t really his fault), and I like the typeface he went with for the dialogue—the broad footprint of the glyphs makes them comfortable to read (at least for me), and it’s a good neutral look for all of the characters to share.
What didn’t I like?
The second scene of the book is the weakest link. Fresh after making amends (or trying to), Harley finds herself in a second confrontation, and the logical flow is bit murky. Specifically, the fight’s instigator comes out strong, backs down immediately, but then inexplicably finds his cojones again. There is a possible explanation for the shift, but it’s too subtle to be useful, in my opinion.
It’s a minor gripe, because it isn’t constant, but there are moments—particularly in Harley’s apartment—where Batman (yes, he’s here, too!) doesn’t sound like Batman. This wouldn’t have mattered as much in Harley’s previous run, where the tone allowed much more room for interpretation of established characters. But here, even when peppered with jokes, Harley’s relationship with Bats is framed as something we should take seriously, and I think Phillips could stand to spend a bit more time getting that voice right.
Would I buy it?
Yes. Sadly, I can’t buy every book that I would buy, because I don’t have that kind of money. But this is a solid #1, and it’s definitely worth reading. It’s good on its own, but I think if you give it a chance, you’ll agree that Harley’s journey to the light is charming and compelling, which makes the prospect of pulling a new title pretty appealing.
- You’re a fan of Harley, but…
- …you liked her when she was less Deadpool
- You dig Rossmo’s crazy stuff
Harley Quinn #1 is a solid—dare I say strong?—relaunch to a title that needed it. Some fans may have a problem with the clear shift in allegiance, but if you keep an open mind, you might be surprised. And with plenty of fun and frenetic visual hijinks, there’s a lot to entice you to take that chance.