Harleen (Book One)
Story and Art by Stjepan Šejić
Letters by Gabriela Downie
Cover and Variant Cover by Stjepan Šejić
This is a series from DC Black Label dedicated to the backstory of Harley Quinn and her first interactions with the Joker.
In this series, we meet Harleen Quinzel, before she is Harley Quinn, before she meets the Joker, before her life becomes a circus.
We find her as a doctor but not yet working with Joker, not yet trying to decipher the code inside the whacked-out mind in the world of the curious clown. It’s a biography of sorts, leading up to where she meets Joker and first gets mesmerized by whatever it is about him that appeals to her.
Is it the psychotic laugh, the creepy grin, the backwards theory on life, the constant need for fun and instant gratification, is it the repeated display of lack of remorse and responsibility, or could it be the challenge? The fact that he is reputed to be incapable of love and yet she strives to and does feel some kind of connection with him that resembles, in her mind, at least something close to love, or as close as she’s ever come…and perhaps the Joker himself.
We see Harleen go through some parts of life where she seemingly makes some not so good and some outright bad decisions. Then, of course, there are some good ones. All lead up to when she begins work at the Arkham Asylum and starts to work with Joker.
So, in this first release, we get a lot of background history on Harleen and then we get the initial introduction and we see the first few meetings. We also see where she starts to fall in love with Joker but tries to deny it to herself, as she is a professional doctor and should never feel that way about a patient.
Being the first book in this series, it does give a lot of background information for those of us who aren’t or haven’t always been HUGE DC Comics fans. It gives great insight into how this doctor turned into a twisted lovesick killer.
Beyond that, the writing is fantastic. There’s an eerie narration atop the story as it plays out. We see Dr. Quinzel in a number of professional, and personal, settings and while each of those situations unfold, we have some brilliant writing letting us into the background and the “behind the scenes” as well. Some of the narration is Harleen recalling memories, some is explaining the current situation, some is just her thought process and her own explanations for her motivation and drive. It really is an amazing way to get the most out of a comic book and I applaud the writer. I feel this was a very creative technique to cram as much info into this series as he could. (I think it’s only a three book series, if I remember right. So it makes sense that the makers would want to pack as much punch in as possible, most bang for the buck, ya know?)
The artwork is also fabulous. The art definitely adds the perfect imagery to the narrative being told. The artist has a genius way of using the color palette to take certain tones to imply particular time frames, albeit past or present, with bright bursts and flashes of color to emphasize the Joker’s presence.
Additionally, with this series being from DC Black Label, it DOES have a darker, more sinister undertone to it. It’s not that it’s outright vulgar, crude or more violent per se, it just has an ominous and disquieting feel to it as you read it. I do, however, recommend this first book. I think the second, which I already have, is going to really get things going and be incredibly packed full with amazing art and some killer action. We’ll see.