Yesterday Jimmy Palmiotti teased the news that Harley Quinn was getting a new series, and today, DC Comics revealed the 14-part digital-first series starts today! With the first issue available now I took a dive in. This first chapter is written by Stjepan Šejić with lettering by Gabriela Downie. Considering how great Harleen was by Šejić, I consider his opportunity to start the series an absolute win.
This first chapter is 16 pages long (not counting the cover and credits page) and is told mostly in black and white save for specific uses of the color red. The lack of color is cleverly woven into the narrative on the first page (see below) as a doctor attempts to use color therapy on Harley, who is sitting in a cell at Arkham.
In many ways, this issue reads like a poem. It’s short, to the point, and makes an emphatic statement about Harley Quinn. We get a taste of her opinions on Joker and their unhealthy relationship, but also the thrill she had when it started. Šejić reminds us Harley is a complex woman and a character who has endured much, but also somehow finds a way to crack a smile and move on. She’s a fighter and a survivor, and you get that form this story.
The art by Šejić is strong, with interesting ways of conveying flashbacks. In one scene, for instance, we see Harley remembering a moment and her glasses dissolve away on her face to show an earlier time when she was still practicing psychiatry. The color red is cleverly used, drawing your eye to rage, passion, and other feelings Harley goes through as she contemplates her past. There’s an excellent double-page spread — seen in the cover — of Harley on the right in prison clothes loving life and Harley on the left in her classic costume, loving life with a mallet. You get the sense of her freedom and love of life here that reminds us of who she is deep down.
The lettering by Downie is strong with an emphatic last word that looks great to end the book. There is an energy to the lettering that’s free and suits the character. It’s not rigid and dense by any means.
This is a great start to a series that gives its creators free rein to tell any story they want. It’s their take on Harley and so far Šejić has nailed an aspect of the character that’s empowering and moving. It’s also exciting to know this character is going to get 13 more chapters from some of the greatest creators in the industry today, many of which have close ties with the character’s development of the years. Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red is empowering, moving, and creatively rich.
Mirka Andolfo takes over with chapter two which will release next Friday.