Story: Stjepan Sejic
Art: Stjepan Sejic
Colors: Stjepan Sejic
Letterer: Gabriela Downie
What They Say:
Resolutely defiant in the face of all of Arkham’s attempts to psychoanalyze her, Harley Quinn is suddenly compelled to reveal some of her most vulnerable thoughts – and hints of her future — when confronted with the simplest of prompts: “What does the color red mean to you?” Another stunningly beautiful story from the world of Stjepan Šejić’s bestselling HARLEEN!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
With so many Harley Quinn series out there it’s easy to get burned out on the character in general. It’s reminiscent to me of Wolverine in the 90s where you just couldn’t get away from it. The arrival of this series, dropped out of the blue last Friday as part of a fourteen-week/issue event, made for an easy pickup, however. With different creators working on it with each issue, the digital-first format, and the color design, it left me hopeful for something that would be creative and try to do a few new things along the way. Starting off with Stjepan Sejic was certainly smart as they’re style is great and the use of the red throughout the black and white issue was spot-on.
The premise for this one has Harley in Arkham once again with the head of the facility intent on keeping here there and not escaping. She’s currently being seen by Dr. Leah who remembers that Harley used to be a therapist herself when she was Harleen and she actually admires that Leah knew that and is trying to use it, coming up with ways to connect with her. She works the color cards and meanings there, a fairly discredited approach going by what the two say here, but she latches onto the red color when asked to tell Leah a story and she remembers back to key events to set the stage for newer readers of Harley’s story. We see her falling for the Joker, the bond the two shared, just how much she loved him and the time there. But it gets darker and more violent as it goes along, at least in the tell, as it touches on her realizing her time as Harleen was at an end and violence was in her future.
It shifts well to her taking on the Harley persona and the chaos there but it thankfully doesn’t have her going into heavy detail of her time with the Joker, showing the way she shifted away from him and fought back to be her own person after the breakup. It delves well into how Harley’s handling her time in Arkham and the way she seems to uncharacteristically patient as well, simply sitting and waiting most nights and just repeating the word red. Once that was revealed it made clear what the out/gimmick of it would be with the color here with how she was being rescued and it’s a beautifully fun moment with great artwork and designs as her savior comes in to whisk her away. It delivers the right kind of glee and payoff at the end.
I can’t say I’m super excited for this series because it’s a lot of Harley but I’m definitely curious and open and hopeful to be impressed by it. Sejic is a strong opening creator and my favorite with Mirka Andolfo is next, so I’m not expecting bad works here in the slightest as it’s opening strong. Sejic’s story covers a lot of the past and setup for the character so that has me hopeful the rest will explore other stories and not dwell too much on well-known events. The design here is great, the use of color fantastic, and the story itself is strong throughout both as recap and to showcase a new escape plan taking root.