I like to think of Future State: Harley Quinn as a pilot for the upcoming, rebooted, main-line Harley Quinn series by Stephanie Phillips and Riley Rossmo. Propelled by the events of the Joker War, Harley has a new direction for 2021. She wants to make up for the terrible things she did at the Joker’s side, as readers have already seen in the pages of Batman last year.
Future State is the next logical leap. In the first issue we saw Harley and Jonathan Crane form an alliance to take down some of Gotham’s most dangerous criminals and hand them over to the Magistrate. It appears Harley already has already built a crime-fighting reputation for herself. Using her wit, sense of mischief, and psychological expertise, Harley brings in Professor Pyg and Firefly with ease. Her next target is Roman Sionis, a.k.a. Black Mask.
In this issue, Harley tells Crane to put on the mask and become Scarecrow once again, insisting the only thing Black Mask is afraid of is “another guy in a mask.” Crane insists he will not bring back Scarecrow, but when the Magistrate team sent to go after Black Mask gets killed, Crane realizes it was all a set up by Harley to ruin his reputation. Now, Crane believes he must become Scarecrow so he can get his way. Some truly great reverse psychology by Harley here.
Phillips’ re-emphasis on Harley’s early career as a psychiatrist, before all the clowns and crime stuff, allows for wonderful scenes of villains walking directly into her trap, only to get their comeuppance. In previous iterations, Harley Quinn had been a more comedy-focused series with all the meta-jokes and fourth-wall-breaking that come with the territory. Here, she’s just as much a member of the Bat-family as Nightwing or Catwoman, and it appears she’ll be a big player in Gotham when the main-line books return in March.
This issue in particular feels a little rushed, both in terms of plot and production. It has the heavy burden of continuing a story that only started one issue before and also wrapping up that same story. As a result, the book moves at a steady clip, never lingering on one scene for too long. As the month goes on, this may appear to be a pitfall other books in the Future State line stumble into. It’ll be interesting to see how other creative teams handle the limited page count afforded to them by the event.
Simone Di Meo’s anime-inspired art is striking, not only in his character designs but in his layouts and the position of the camera as well. The opening scene where Black Mask poisons the Senator is tense and perfectly executed. The close-up of the food and the wide-shot of the entire restaurant that follows drive home a sense of impending doom for the Senator. Then, thanks to Tamra Bonvillain’s robust color palette, Black Mask’s entrance is imposing and ominous. The oranges of the first page turn to deep pinks and purples, something is off in the scene and we’re about to find out why.
Di Meo isn’t the only artist on duty in this issue as Toni Infante takes over for about half of the book. Infante’s art may not be as tense as Di Meo’s but he nonetheless has a great sense of pacing and action. The two use similar blurring effects and less traditional layouts that make for clean handoffs from one artist to another. Again, Bonvillain’s colors are a joy to look at and provide a sort of visual glue that ties both artists together.
Future State: Harley Quinn #2 may not be the most elegantly executed comic, but it makes for a great proof of concept for where writer Stephanie Phillips is taking Harley next. And thanks to an immensely talented art team, the book is one of the most visually striking of the Future State line.
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