DC Comics has upped its digital game with DC Digital Firsts. The digital comics have allowed the publisher to try new formats and take risks. So far, it’s been a success for readers. A crown jewel in the line is Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red. The digital anthology series features a new creative team each issue delivering a new self-contained experience. Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red Chapter Seven has Erica Henderson showing us what she’d do with the character in a very cute story fit for an animated short.
Harley is done with Mr. J. She wants to show her independence by burning up the gifts he’s given her. But, Ivy has other things to focus on, like the latest caper with Harley. The comic is just a spiraling of issues as Harley’s new focus on doing good for herself lands them both into trouble.
Henderson uses Harley’s toxic relationship with the Joker to drive the humor of the story. This isn’t an examination of their twisted romance or a look at Harley’s abuse. Instead, it’s a means to get us to the action and get us some laughs. Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red Chapter Seven is interesting compared to many of the previous chapters. The rest have dived a little more into Harley’s trauma. Here, it’s a plot point whose greater purpose is to create some friction between Harley and Ivy. It’s another example of not just how the same character but even the same character aspect can be used in such a different way by creators.
It’d be easy to go down a serious road and a dour take on Harley when it comes to the Joker. It’s not a healthy relationship and the Joker has abused her psychologically. Henderson doesn’t ignore that but more so that’s not the focus of the comic. Some of their issues are danced around but the comic is more about a woman burning her memories to move on, then causing a fire by accident while doing so. There’s also that nice addition as to Harley’s choices being wide open without the Joker to hold her down.
Part of the success of this comic is Henderson’s art. There’s a lot said in body language and facial expressions and they drive so much of the back and forth between the characters. Ivy delivers Harley a look that says everything she’s thinking when Harley declares she wants to try crime-fighting to see what that’s like. It really shows the power of the comic medium and how much it differs from prose novels. The lettering by Gabriela Downie too is key. It adds such emotion to some of Henderson’s dialogue and really sets a panel and scene.
Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red Chapter Seven is the great build-up to the joke that gets you to laugh when it’s all over. I fully expected to hear a rim shot at the end as the “sketch” ended along with some audience laughter. And, it got me to actually laugh. It’s really cute and another solid addition to the digital series. Again, it’s a prime example as to how flexible the character is and awesome to see what another creator brings to the character.
Story: Erica Henderson Art: Erica Henderson Letterer: Gabriella Downie
Story: 8.0 Art: 8.0 Overall: 8.0 Recommendation: Buy