REVIEW: ‘Future State: Harley Quinn,’ Issue #1

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Future State Harley Quinn #1 - But Why Tho?

Future State: Harley Quinn #1 is published by DC Comics, written by Stephanie Phillips, drawn by Simone DiMeo, colored by Tamra Bonvillain, and lettered by ALW’s Troy Peteri. Taking place as part of the larger Future State event in DC, Future State: Harley Quinn is a two-issue miniseries following Harley as she’s recruited by the former Scarecrow, Dr. Jonathan Crane, to help clean up Gotham.

Batman is dead, the Magistrate is in control, and superheroes and villains are outlawed. And after being captured by the Magistrate, Dr. Crane wants Harley to help them out by ridding Gotham of its remaining masked villains and vigilantes. Something that is easier said than done because even when she’s down, you can’t count Harley Quinn out. 

The dialogue in Future State: Harley Quinn #1 is top-notch. Dr. Crane is smart but incredibly arrogant and full of himself. He has to feel like he’s the smartest in the room, even when he has to ask Harley for help. He needs to be in control, and Harley understands this. She understands how to work within the rules he’s set to get what she wants. Dr. Crane wants to believe he’s in charge—that he controls all of the variables—but that doesn’t change the fact that until he had Harley’s help, they couldn’t round up these villains. Harley could run circles around him. 

Phillips writes Harley perfectly, truly understanding the character. Yes, Harley likes to goof off and have fun, but she’s also incredibly smart and perceptive. Harley uses her knowledge of psychology and the human mind, as well as her first-hand knowledge and experiences as a supervillain to get to the core of what drives villains like Professor Pyg, and how that can be used to capture them. And through this, Phillips shows the reader that beneath the colorful clown-inspired exterior, there’s this incredibly calculating, strategic mind. By including both Harley’s love of acrobatics and witty remarks in battle, as well as her deep understanding of how the human psyche works, Phillips portrays a fully realized Harley Quinn. Harley may no longer be the practicing Dr. Harleen Quinzel, but she’s never lost that aspect of her personality.  

Future State: Harley Quinn #1 marks the debut of a very different but still very quintessential Harley Quinn look. Gone are the pigtails she’s sported in many previous looks, replaced by a short, angular cut and split-dyed light pink and light blue hair. It’s got a very futuristic-dystopia feel that fits in perfectly with the chaos that is Gotham in Future State. And while her costume may be different, she’s still sticking to the black and red color scheme she’s known for. New series, new time period, new but also familiar Harley Quinn.

DiMeo draws a very dynamic Harley when she’s in battle. She’s highly acrobatic and moves around with ease. Future State: Harley Quinn #1 features a lot of visually interesting panel layouts that help facilitate this movement, providing snapshots of Harley’s action in battle. The comic later shifts the focus between Harley and Dr. Crane and the villain they’re trying to take down. In some panels, the image is that of the villain in question, going about their evil tasks, but the speech bubble features Harley’s dialogue. And in some panels, Harley’s image is blended with the scene showing the villain’s actions, making it seem like Harley is an omnipotent narrator, as though she’s the voiceover in a movie scene. 

The placement of the speech bubbles in these panels is the key to making them work. Peteri’s lettering is concise but legible, taking up no more space than it needs to and staying towards the top or bottom of the panel. This allows DiMeo’s art to flow through the panels, helping the reader know exactly where to look next. 

The state of Gotham society may be dark and oh-so bleak, but the art in Future State: Harley Quinn #1 is anything but. Bonvillain’s colors turn the world into a neon wonderland that’s soft and not grating on the eye. Harley’s cell is a melancholy soft blue in comparison to the warm reds used for villain scenes. Not only does this help create visual contrast, but it also contrasts their very different roles. Harley may have been a villain in the past, but she’s not quite one right now.

Despite seeing Harley in what first appears to be a rather bleak situation as a prisoner of the Magistrate, Future State: Harley Quinn #1 is a fascinating journey through Harley’s brilliant mind as she faces off with monsters from her past. 

Future State: Harley Quinn #1 is available now where comics are sold.


Future State: Harley Quinn #1
5

TL;DR

Despite seeing Harley in what first appears to be a rather bleak situation as a prisoner of the Magistrate, Future State: Harley Quinn #1 is a fascinating journey through Harley’s brilliant mind as she faces off with monsters from her past.