FUTURE STATE: HARLEY QUINN #1/ Script by STEPHANIE PHILLIPS/ Art by SIMONE DIMEO/ Colors by TAMRA BONVILLAIN/ Letters by ALW’S TROY PETERI/ Cover by DERRICK CHEW/ Variant Covers by JENNY FRISON, GARY FRANK & BRAD ANDERSON/ Published by DC COMICS
Gotham City is a fascist state. Sometime after a new mayor got elected riding a wave of anti-vigilante fervor into office following the Joker War, a corporation called The Magistrate came in. The city was split up into zones, shoot-on-sight orders were given and soon Gotham City was the sort of place only the crazy and the desperate would try to live. Not that Harley Quinn or any of the other people stuck inside Gotham City were given much choice about staying.
Unfortunately, effective as they are at keeping the common citizenry in line, there’s still a lot of malcontents and misanthropes trying to disrupt the new order. And distasteful as some may find it, The Magistrate has begun cutting deals with so-called supervillains and offering them a piece of the pie to keep the more dangerous masked villains in-line. Which is how Dr. Jonathan Crane, formerly the Scarecrow, came to Dr. Harleen Quinzel with an offer; work for us or rot in a cell. It’s not much of a choice but Harley’s played thief-catcher before. Besides, it’s sort of satisfying to know the Scarecrow had to admit that she was better at getting inside bad guy’s heads than him.
The visuals of Future State: Harley Quinn are what stuck with me the most after my first read-through of this issue. Simone DiMeo’s art is unlike anything I’m used to seeing in Western comics. There are many panels in this issue that look like stills from an anime, such is the sense of motion DiMeo conveys. Paired with the color art of Tamra Bonvillain, the final effect is quite stunning and their cyberpunk take on Gotham City, which is all dark alleys backlit by LED neon, gave me Blade Runner flashbacks. The lettering by Troy Peteri is also praiseworthy, with some wonderfully stylized balloons, such as Scarecrow’s opening narration being delivered on what looks like dry, straw-colored sheets of parchment.
One odd incongruity is that as much as the artwork conveys a continual sense of motion and vitality, there’s surprisingly little action in this issue after the opening scene in which Harley is abducted by the Magistrate. Most of the issue is Harley and Dr. Crane talking, with quick cut-scenes showing Harley’s plans for catching various villains play out. These scenes are surprisingly brief, but Stephanie Phillips’ script does a fantastic job of showing us Harley’s intelligence; an aspect of her character too many writers downplay and the artwork prevents this from being a book full of talking heads. The whole book comes off as a twisted tribute to Silence of the Lambs, though its unclear just who is playing who in the battle of wits between Crane and Quinn.
Future State: Harley Quinn may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but fans of the Queen of Clowns will definitely want to check this one out. So will Batman fans who want to see more of the new Gotham City and fans of neo noir cyberpunk. You might even try sharing this one with your manga-reading friends who turn up their nose at superhero comics.