Harley Quinn Black + White + Red is without a doubt one of the strongest new series out today, let alone digital series. Its approach is clever, each issue has a different creator to explore the character in their own way, it’s affordable at just under $1, and it harnesses the incredible power of Harley Quinn. In issue #3 (read the preview), Saladin Ahmed and Javier Rodriguez team up to tell a tale utilizing a plot device similar to the classic Akira Kurosawa film Rashomon.
This book focuses on a few thugs who stole something from Harley. As the tale unfolds, we realize each of their interpretations of what happened is a little different, and very different visually. Ahmed essentially gives Rodriguez full reign to play around with space in each panel and show off the wacky and wild nature of Harley Quinn.
Like in Rashomon, each thug gives alternative, self-serving, and contradictory versions of the same incident which also comes complete with a different era of costume for Harley. It’s a clever method to pay homage to many of her looks, from classic to punk, to a little more modern. Each version plays around with space well too, creating a cartoony confrontation in one — Harley’s teeth literally spell out “hahahah” — and a trippy Alice in Wonderland nonsense altercation. This leads to a conclusion that cements the fact that Harley is a true hero, but also a bit batty.
Rodriguez puts on a masterclass here of maximizing space. Even with about half of a standard comic book page, Rodriguez plays with how you read with incredibly well-paced panels. Even when delivering on a splash reveal, we get a sliver of Harley up close to show us she means business. In an incredible climactic final battle, the page is made up of six tall panels that repeat and help draw your eye and slow it down as it reads top-down each panel from left to right. The final two pages then use the same amount of space to show off four panels over two pages, letting you drink in the scenery and mayhem Harley has left in her wake. A comic book professor could easily use this short comic to teach a lesson — it’s just that good.
Oh, and I didn’t even mention Rodriguez’s use of color, which is stellar. It’s used in creative ways throughout, mixing things up, showing up subtly, or playing a key role in adding emphasis. It’s a great use of red.
This is another fantastic chapter in the excellent Harley Quinn Black + White + Red series. It’s starting to get to the point where 14 issues of this series aren’t enough, as we’re three down and I’m thirsty for more. Harley Quinn Black + White + Red #3 is a feast for the eyes and the imagination.