Harley Quinn #1 Review (2021)

by James Caudill on March 25, 2021

Harley Quinn #1 Cover (2021)

“I can do this. I can help...for once, I think I can actually do something good for Gotham. Let me at least try”--Harley Quinn


Harley Quinn #1 Review by James Caudill


Stephanie Phillips: Writer

Riley Rossmo: Artist

Ivan Plascencia: Colors

Riley Rossmo: Cover

Derrick Chew & Yoshitako Amano: Variant Covers

Dave Wielgoz: Editor

Ben Abernathy: Group Editor

Publisher: DC


As an avid comics reader before I came over here to Comics the Gathering to write reviews, I had noticed that DC Comics was beginning to feel a little stale in their main continuity. All the good books had been moved over the Black Label and everything else was just kinda “meh” with a couple of exceptions. But, then DC announced Future State and then Infinite Frontier coming right after. They have my curiosity. Fast forward and I’m over here with Comics The Gathering writing reviews and they asked “Can you review Harley Quinn #1 for us?” Being the new person here, I said “sure, let’s do it” but I had my doubts about the story. Sometimes, writers and artists get Harley right...and sometimes...not so right. 


I did not need to worry about Stephanie Phillips and Riley Rossmo writing and drawing Harley Quinn #1. Any kind of doubts that I might have had, immediately went away as soon as I opened this book! 


Harley returns home to Gotham City after Joker War with one goal in mind: to atone for her past sins and try to do some good. Right off the bat, as we have already found out from the Previews, Harley Quinn gets a new look and this new outfit, hair style, etc really has a nice nod to Harley Quinn over the years. It is something entirely new but also gives a nod to the roots in Batman The Animated Series where she was first introduced. Rossmo certainly went through great pains to make sure that Harley had a Harleyish outfit as was mentioned in the back of the book in the interview. With all that detail...wow!! 


The art continues to amaze. It really does make you think...this is Harley Quinn. There are instances that you see an oversized head or bulging eyes, and in any other book, that would be a problem. But with this book, you are seeing the world through Harley’s eyes and it is everything you could imagine it to be. Some readers might need some adjustment time for this art style and that can be understood. It is a little jarring to see the art that way, especially when you add color, which we will get to. Rossmo definitely plays up a little Picasso inspiration in this book but it is not extreme. Just a subtle hint and that makes all the difference in the world in Harley Quinn #1. 


Plascencia picks up where Rossmo left off and really amazes with the colors that were used in the comic. Plascencia uses this wonderful palette of intense, mind blowing colors that really makes you feel like you are inside Harley Quinn’s head. Those color choices kind of reminds me of Delirium in The Sandman books from years past. Really bright colors! But this is also in Gotham, so there is still that muted tone in the background. The colors mixed with the art style gives a psycho pop feel to it. I do love those bright colors against the drab Gotham background. But, Harley certainly brings the colors from her mind to the page and Plascencia does a magnificent job with doing that. 


Finally, we get to Stephanie Phillips. Phillips really understands where Harley has come from and the kind of dangers that can pose. But, Phillips certainly has this new road ahead for Harley that is exciting. Phillips also gives Harley a great voice in this comic. It is a mix of Batman the Animated Series and the new-ish HBO Max animated series of Harley Quinn, but it is also uniquely Phillip’s own Harley voice. You can see hints of the Phantom Clown panic that hit in the 1980s and again in 2016 in the writing in this comic especially after Joker War. Of course, Gotham has a long history with psychopathic clowns. 


Between the art in this book by Rossmo, the colors by Plascencia, and the writing by Phillips this is certainly a truly phenomenal first issue for the new run. I can not wait for the second issue of this book and see where Harley goes in this story. While typically in comics, a villain-turned-hero is a often used trope, I hope that Harley stays in this hero in training (or trying) mode for a while. Typically, when this approach is taken, it will last a few issues and the writers (possibly influenced by the higher ups) are like “okay, we have to go back to the villain thing” but I think that Harley has room to grow into a heroine in her own right. While we see that in the Murpheyverse (Batman White Knight), I think there is room for Harley to grow in the main continuity. While I hope the writers and the rest of the team keeps the core of what makes Harley entertaining and fun, I think it’s time for Harley to evolve and I hope it sticks for a while.  I for one, will be saving this book back to be signed whenever comic cons are back. I’m also hoping that I can nab an original piece of art from this Harley Quinn run because this artwork is lovely. 


Our Score:


A Look Inside