While I understand the appeal of the character I’ve just never been interested in reading Harley Quinn’s ongoing adventures. But Infinite Frontier is changing that as the new Harley Quinn series is being written by Stephanie Phillips. Phillips is one of the new writers that DC Comics has slowly giving more projects. I was particularly impressed with Phillips work on Superman: Man of Tomorrow #17 that showed she knows how to write a great superhero comic. That was further showcased with Phillips work on various other comics, especially in Future State: Harley Quinn. That Future State title showed that she knows how to work within the Batman Family world. Will that continue in the new Harley Quinn series? Let’s find out with Harley Quinn #1.
Writer: Stephanie Phillips
Artist: Riley Rossmo
Colorist: Ivan Plascencia
Story Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Harley Quinn gets mad when Killer Croc destroys “I’m Sorry” cake she made as an apology to him. They both end up getting into a fight.
Later, Harley goes back above ground and reflects on recent events in Gotham City like her meeting with Punchline (Batman #92 and Batman #98). A random guy approaches Harley and calls her a circus freak. As a crowd gathers Harley holds back fighting everyone and walks off.
When she gets to her apartment Harley finds Batman waiting for her. Batman reveals he knows about Harley’s fight with Killer Croc. He tells Harley that he needs to be able to rely on her but can’t if she keeps pulling things like what she did with Killer Croc.
Harley says it was just a misunderstanding. She then shows Batman the wall of information she has put together on all the major villain activity in Gotham City post-Joker War. Batman notices an envelope with “Pam” written on it. Harley stops him from opening it.
As Batman goes to leave Harley stops him and asks if she gets her allowance. Batman reveals he does not pay the others. Harley is surprises to hear Robin and Batgirl aren’t compensated.
Batman ignores this as he gets told by Oracle that something is going on at Amusement Mile. Harley decides to tag along.
Over at Amusement Mile some Gotham City citizens are fighting the remains of Joker’s Gang. Batman shows up to stop the fighting.
As that happens one of the Joker Gang members escapes into the mirror room. Batman quickly finds him. Harley shows up and asks Batman to let her talk to the guy so they don’t just settle things by breaking people. Batman agrees and he goes off to stop a robbery in progress that Oracle tells him about.
The guy, named Kevin, heard what Harley said about helping Joker’s followers find the right path and offers to help. Harley agrees as she knows people like a good transformation story.
Later, Harley gets back to her apartment and thinks how she did miss living in Gotham City because of the character it has. Because of this she is ready to call the city home again.
Over at Rockwood Hospital For The Criminally Insane, Hugo Strange is released as Simon Saint wants him to deal with bringing order to Gotham City and eliminating the clown problem in the city. End of issue.
The Good: Even though we are seeing a smaller publishing line-up for the start of Infinite Frontier Batman Family still has a strong presence in DC Comics direction. That means we have been given a greater variety of perspectives into the post-Joker War direction of Gotham City is being established. Which is what makes the tone that Stephanie Phillips and Riley Rossmo hit with Harley Quinn #1 stand out even more. They continue the development of Gotham City in other Batman comics while adding to it by giving us Harley Quinn’s look into the city’s state.
Right away the fight with Killer Croc sets the tone that Harley Quinn is a series that is going to have more fun with the Gotham City setting than other Batman comics. Even though things are complicated in the city now Harley Quinn is still Harley Quinn at the end of the day. That means she brings a fun chaotic energy to the current state of Gotham City. The “I’m Sorry” cake being destroyed leading to the fight between Harley Quinn and Killer Croc sets up how there can be fun had in Gotham City. It’s just about hitting the right type of tone to compliment both the city and character, which Harley Quinn fits well to showcase that.
At the same time, we do get moments where we see more going on with the character than just Looney Tunes-style antics. Phillips takes the time to explore the inner psyche of Harley Quinn’s character as she is someone that knows what it is like to be on a path of redemption. Even though she may never escape the association with Joker we at least see that she is moving forward by doing better. Its in these scenes that Phillips writing Harley Quinn #1 really excels because she does write the character as someone who accepts that she does not expect to be forgiven. By accepting that reality she does learn to better self-control because while we do see visual representations of Harley Quinn going off on people, but in reality she is able to keep her cool.
This sets in well in further developing how Harley Quinn now has a working relationship with Batman. The events of Joker War taught Batman that he needs to be accepting of help from others. That includes getting help from the reformed Harley Quinn. The way Phillips writes Batman and Harley Quinn’s dynamic works well to tell a story that the former does understand that the latter has been doing her best to redeem herself. There is still some trust to be built as their working relationship is still developing but it is good that Phillips does continue the trend of Batman trusting his allies more after what they all went through in Joker War.
Which worked in well into the bigger arc that Phillips establishes as Harley Quinn looks to help others set on the wrong path by Joker get their lives back to normal. What made this plotline interesting is that like Harley Quinn there are many former Joker Gang members that are now forever marked with the association with the Clown Prince of Crime. Even if they aren’t technically working for Joker right now people in Gotham City see the tattoos and now these people worked for the Joker. Harley Quinn reaching her hand out to guys like the one she convinces Batman to allow her to help gives series a strong story build around.
Also, while it was quickly mentioned it does look like there is going to be a sub-plot built around Harley Quinn looking for Poison Ivy. The current whereabouts and status of Poison Ivy is something we saw teased in Batman books before Infinite Frontier. How Phillips builds up to the eventual reunion between Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy will be interesting to see given all that has happened since they last saw each other.
Riley Rossmo art style won’t be for everyone but it worked for the fun, colorful tone that Phillips was going for the story in Harley Quinn #1. Rossmo’s art style hits on the note of how Harley Quinn does bring a chaotic energy to every scene she is in. Which in this case, as it is her ongoing series, its Harley’s energy that drives the story. Rossmo also does a good job giving us unique frames such as the Batman fight scene taking place inside a silhouette of the character.
The Bad: The only negative I have for Harley Quinn #1 is the re-introduction of Hugo Strange. I’m disappointed how everything in Gotham City is being directly attached to the Magistrate. Reading this in just about every Batman book makes the villains in Gotham City lose the individuality that they have. Now everything is just falling under the Magistrate umbrella which does lead to it becoming too much for fans following all the Batman books. I wish Hugo Strange’s use was more related to the information on big board Harley’s villain board than just another tie to the Magistrate.
Overall: Harley Quinn #1 is a fun ride from beginning to end. Stephanie Phillips and Riley Rossmo do a good job in using the post-Joker War state of Gotham City to show us how Harley Quinn factors into all of that. While the fun, chaotic side of the character is a big focus there is depth given Harley Quinn’s current direction with Phillips establishing the groundwork for several storylines that will grab the readers attention.
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