Harley Quinn's mind is the weapon in Future State: Harley Quinn #1. Written with a verbose charm by Stephanie Phillips and given a gleaming, futuristically abstract look by artists Simone DiMeo and Tamra Bonvillain, Future State: Harley Quinn #1 finds Harley struggling in a world that has moved on.
Written by Stephanie Phillips
Drawn by Simone DiMeo
Colored by Tamra Bonvillain
Lettered by Troy Peteri
Published by DC
'Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
Gotham City has outlawed masks and the Magistrate's 'peace-keeping' forces are everywhere, rounding up the last remaining outlaws in Gotham. Harley just happens to be one of those outlaws and now under the strict care of Dr. Jonathan Crane, she is offered a choice. Help Crane and the Magistrate collect the last of Gotham's rogues and her confinement will be made as comfortable as possible.
But while that setup sounds very Suicide Squad, writer Stephanie Phillips finds a novel, immensely engaging in-road to the story. Leaning into Harley's past expertise as a psychiatrist and student of human behavior, Phillips casts her fun-loving, slightly spacey Hannibal Lecter analog. Positioning her as the expert in the field of costumed villainy, she provides Crane and his forces incisive psyche profiles to lure them into elaborate traps in exchange for things like better socks and her old costume. Though it's a little disappointing seeing her largely inactive in the story for now, Phillips' charged, slightly flighty voice she finds for Harley and her stony foils in Crane and a marauding Black Mask keep up the title's bubbly energy in fun ways throughout.
Artists Simone DiMeo and Tamra Bonvillain also impress here with fractaled page layouts and highly contrasted colors. While most of the action is confined to the interiors of Harley's new prison, DiMeo and Bonvillain provide each page with plenty of visual charm and eye-catching details. Details like Harley's first profile of one Professor Pyg. As she delivers the profile, we start to see the interior of her mind, flitting in and out of the 'action' in her mind space like a ghost. It is a striking sequence, one the art team then doubles down on with a showy single page layout of Harley in the background hunched in her cell, but the action of Crane's dialogue (an introduction to Firefly) is inlaid over the page in an X-pattern, providing the scene a slick theatricality.
And with that theatricality and the easy charm of the script Future State: Harley Quinn #1 stands as a fun slice of cyber-punk centered around a cult-favorite character. While the inactivity of Harley after the opening might leave some readers cold, the focus on Harley's mind, the futuristic trappings and tone, and the consistently cool page layouts make a very strong case for Future State: Harley Quinn being at least someone's favorite Future State effort. By being a lot more Mindhunter and a lot less 'Daddy's Little Monster,' Future State: Harley Quinn #1 reminds readers that Harley Quinn is much more than the sum of her parts.
Read Newsarama's interview with writer Stephanie Phillips on this darker, more independent version of Harley Quinn in Future State.