DC Comics dropped a surprise DC Digital First series with Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red. The anthology series will be told in fourteen chapters from a rotating group of creators, a who’s who of top talent. As a top tier character who has seen numerous different iterations and interpretations, the move is a smart one and the debut chapter is intriguing that it should hook readers new and old to check out further releases from the series.
The first chapter “Harleen: Red” is by writer/artist Stjepan Šejić with lettering by Gabriela Downie. Set in the world of Šejić’s New York Times bestselling graphic novel Harleen, this story hints at a “red” that will have meaning only to Harley Quinn! Thankfully, you don’t need to have read Harleen to appreciate this digital comic, and instead, it can be picked up on its own and enjoyed.
Harley is in Arkham Asylum focused on the color red. The issue has her squaring off with another psychologist who’s attempting to break down Harley to find out what’s on her mind. She’s escaped a few times at this point and Arkham is considered a joke of an institution so there’s a focus to get this right.
The comic itself feels like a one-woman play in many ways. Šejić has Harley go off about the color red and its role throughout her life. What it reminds her of, the good, the bad, the traumatic. You can easily imagine this playing out on a stage with lines delivered to an audience. There’s a romantic wisp of it all. Harley waxes poetically about her time with the Joker and the abusive dance between the two. And there’s the eventual twist that fans of the character will see coming from a mile away. Though predictable, there’s still a romantic aspect to it all. A damsel being rescued from the castle tower in a way.
The art is amazing. The use of so few colors creates a dramatic flair and emphasizes the art in so many ways. The emotions come from Harley’s movements and facial expressions, with a dash of red highlighting a small detail. Downie’s lettering is key as it emphasizes words and phrases creating a more dynamic reading.
There’s a point that the exploration turns into abuse porn in many ways. We relive Harley’s traumatic experiences over and over at the hands of the Joker. It gets tiring and “been there, seen it”. But, this comic delivers an air of romanticism that’s not aimed at the Joker and when you get to latter moments there’s something touching about it all. Harley thinks about the horror but longs for what feels like her true love to save her. As a comic goes,the first chapter of Harley Quinn: Black + White + Red is a fantastic read and as an introduction to this series, it’s a hell of a start.
Story: Stjepan Šejić Art: Stjepan Šejić Letterer: Gabriela Downie
Story: 9.0 Art: 9.0 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy
DC Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review