Review: ‘Harley Quinn’ #1 – A Fun (If Slight) First Issue Of A Sorry Harley

by Richard Bruton


Stephanie Phillips and Riley Rossmo‘s new Harley Quinn gives us plenty of fun with an all-new Harley wanting to turn over a new leaf and say sorry to a hell of a lot of people.

It’s by no means a perfect first issue, but it’s certainly setting up what could be a good series. It might be too slight an issue, with not enough meat on the bones of the story – but at least it’s entertainingly slight, getting the silly, the sad and the mad of Harley’s character pretty much right, all through some great looking artwork.


Another week, another #1 to try out… this week I’m over at DC with the new Harley Quinn, which might fluff its job as a #1 but does it entertainingly well.

This week I grabbed Harley Quinn #1 from the review/read pile of new first issues, the result of that nagging voice that, every so often, tells me I should keep up with more Marvel and DC comics.  Thankfully, it’s better, a lot better, than the pile of steaming something or other that was the Captain America King In Black thing.

Harley Quinn #1 finds Harley back in Gotham, but it’s a slightly different kind of Harley, one who’s trying her darndest to make amends and undo some of the bad she’s done in the past to so many people in this fair city.

Trouble is, all of this is taking place in the aftermath of the ‘Joker War’, so there’s been a fair bit of shifting the goalposts in Gotham recently and the locals aren’t all that fond of costumes anymore, especially not costumes who’ve been so close to the Clown Prince of Crime in the past.

It’s a hard life being Harley, especially a Harley who wants to be good…

After that, it’s a meeting with Bats – because that’s pretty much contractual for a Batman Family comic first issue it seems – who’s really not sure about Harley and her whole making amends thing she’s into right now. And after that, Bats heads off to deal with a few rioting clown types, leaving Harley all convinced that they’re now working together.

And that, dear reader, is that for plot in this debut issue. It’s basically simply Harley setting things up, establishing the whole new schtick she’s got going on, and introducing a few themes that will be, no doubt, recurring through this series.

Harley Quinn #1 is an enjoyable thing, it’s a well-done thing, with both writer and artist delivering the goods with what’s there on the page.

BUT, there’s one problem for me with this one – it’s simply way, way too slight for a first issue.

I’m reading it through and I’m rather enjoying it, seeing how well writer Stephanie Phillips and artist Riley Rossmo get the tone right for Harley… and then it was over and done without really saying or doing as much as it should have done. It’s something that always bugs me, the way that first issues fail so often to be what first issues are meant to be, and although this Harley Quinn series does plenty very well, despite it being just about enough to tempt you into keeping going with it, it’s still a poor first issue because there’s just not enough in here.

But, putting that problem aside, even though it’s so slight, it’s rather enjoyably slight, with writer Phillips and artist Rossmo showing us this new side of Harley and really getting into the character’s dichotomy, that mix of wackiness and profound sadness that’s been there in all the best Harley stories right from the classic ‘Mad Love’.

So for every gag they throw into the comic, there’s also a reflective air about it all, the idea that she’s struggling so much to deal with this new path of being the good-super-type rather than the psychotic, violent, ridiculous villain she was before.

Thankfully, Rossmo is great at doing both reflective and funny. His Bats looks great, he’s got a very nice line in moody, rain-soaked Gotham buildings, and he’s got a fine flow to his artwork all the way through this first issue.

But of course, this is Harley, so there’s always going to be a lightness to go with the shade and a likeability to the character. And that’s all here, with Harley’s bluster and confusion, with her motormouth delivery, and with some very nicely played gags, mostly coming out of the strange new relationship that Harley seems to think she has with Bats now.

Here – this one, all about the money… and the gag is there in all the Harley confusion…

So, as a first issue for Harley Quinn goes, this one is a fair bit of fun and it’s real nice to look at, but dammit, it should have either been longer or packed more story into the page count.

However, it’s setting at least some of the stage for what might be a really nice series for everyone’s favourite ex-psychopath with a big hammer.

Harley Quinn #1 – written by Stephanie Phillips, art by Riley Rossmo, colours by Ivan Plascencia, letters by Deron Bennett. Published by DC Comics and available now.



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