REVIEW: ‘Harley Quinn,’ Issue #1

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Harley Quinn #1 - But Why Tho?Harley Quinn #1 is published by DC Comics. Written by Stephanie Phillips with art by Riley Rossmo. Colours are from Ivan Plascencia and letters by Deron Bennett.

Harley has returned to Gotham, feeling guilty after the events of Joker War. The first scene sees her enter the sewer, resulting in an altercation with Killer Croc. Batman pays her a visit at her apartment to try and figure out what her plans are. She shows him a list of all of those in the city that she has angered, keeping tabs on them. When an attack starts at a nearby circus, Harley joins Batman. But they have very different intentions on what to do when they get there.

The plot of the issue is action-packed and exciting. From the very first page, the pace is set with a lively fight scene. The concept of the series is set up and explained well, with multiple sub-plots beginning to show themselves. After the Joker War, there is a citywide hatred of clowns, resulting in many of them getting attacked or hurt. This is evidently going to be a key theme within this series as Harley tries to redeem trust in her and her adopted profession. While there is a lot of exposition, it blends into the actual plot of the first issue nicely. There are two surprises at the end of the comic that will certainly affect the direction of the rest of the series.

The tone of Harley Quinn #1 has different factors to it without being too abrasive against each other. There is that trademark humour that Harley has been synonymous with ever since shifting into a hero, the wisecracks and motormouth aspect to her speech. It’s fun and chaotic but toned down much more than in other series. There is a trust starting to build between Batman and Harley, but Batman still worried about her, hence why he pays her a visit. But there is a sadder side to the issue as well. Harley is longing for redemption, trying to apologise and make peace with those she has hurt. She wants to move forwards with her life, but much of her past is still out there and can come back to hurt her. And with some, she isn’t close to being ready to consider facing them yet.

Phillips writes a fantastic Harley. The writer depicts her as someone who is ultimately good-natured, with a charm that always makes the reader smile. Her demeanour is a great counterpart to Batman, something that puts them at odds in the climax of the issue. She believes in redemption and not just for her. Harley can still fight, but echoes of her past appear within scenes that show how much more violent she used to be. This scares her, causing her to try and find peaceful solutions to problems. 

Batman is also well-written, fitting the light-hearted tone of some of the issue. He will always carry this ominous presence, that can’t be removed. But when he visits Harley, he is willing to listen to her, finding out what her plan is in Gotham. This shows an open-minded approach that we don’t often see from the Caped Crusader. 

The art of Harley Quinn #1 is adorable and perfectly suited to the comic. Quinn’s new costume works really well in Rossmo’s cartoonish style. Proportions are very exaggerated, which allows for brilliant expressions to be depicted. Harley can often be seen pouting or sulking, but there are also opportunities for her to deliver terrifying snarls and heartwarming grins. For Batman, he is treated as this huge but fluid mass. He is much bigger and taller than anyone else in the comic but will slink out of the way when someone swings at him. His cape is almost always wrapped around him like an ever-moving shadow. Rossmo also features some really ingenious fight choreography, with incredibly interesting panel layouts that change each time a set piece happens.

The colours are superb. The palette changes depending on the location, helping to set the scene. In much of Gotham, it is dark and dingy, in particular inside Harley’s new apartment. There’s some light shed on her wall that shows those that have angered her, an orange glow, but beyond that, it is mainly darkness. This shows that this is a new place, yet to have Harley put her soul into changing it. Within the circus, this bright neon returns, bathing the air in a haze. The lighting shifts several times within this location, as the different attractions become places for Batman to hunt for criminals. The one source of constant, vibrant colours is Harley herself, always donned in a red that is iconic by now.

The letters are terrific. The font style within the word balloons has been adapted by Bennett to suit the art style of Rossmo. The word balloons are very large and easy to read.

Harley Quinn #1 is an energetic start to a new series. There is a unique art style that absolutely captures the tone of the issue. Harley is starting again, but there is also a recognition of history. Batman as a guest star within this series is a fantastic foil to Harley’s positivity. Phillips provides a fresh take on both heroes, adding new attributes to their personalities. At the same time, they are authentic and their voices are natural. The book relying less on chaos and madness shows just how much Harley has changed over the years.

Harley Quinn #1 is available where comics are sold.

4

TL;DR

Harley Quinn #1 is an energetic start to a new series. There is a unique art style that absolutely captures the tone of the issue. Harley is starting again, but there is also a recognition of history. Batman as a guest star within this series is a fantastic foil to Harley’s positivity. Phillips provides a fresh take on both heroes, adding new attributes to their personalities. At the same time, they are authentic and their voices are natural. The book relying less on chaos and madness shows just how much Harley has changed over the years.