Harleen #2 Review - A Tragic Waltz with the Devil
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Of all the different versions of Harley Quinn out there, Harleen presents the most realistic, relatable, and honestly pitiful takes on the character. Harleen doesn't tread new ground. This is the Harley Quinn origin we've seen floated for about 20+ years now but the book still comes together nicely on the strength of the writing and art direction. StJepan clearly gets this character and treats her seriously. Other writers tend to treat Harleen like a broken clown and never really dive beneath the surface of the Harley Quinn tragedy.
Although I think we all know where the series is going I appreciate that StJepan doesn't portray Harleen as a victim or brainwashed groupie. We all have our vices or hangups. Harleen's problem is that she makes shitty decisions. She also has the unfortunate hangup of being attracted to and attempting to rehab broken men. How many people can relate to the destructive behavior that comes along with those personality traits regardless of gender or sexuality? Unfortunately for Harley, she falls for the worst guy available in The Joker.
What makes Harleens fall so tragic is that she literally has everything going for her aside from her unresolved personal issues. She's great-looking and is the model career woman but still falls short. This is the type of role I'd really like to see taken up by Margot Robbie eventually. The story details Harley's fall but never takes agency from her or her decision making. This is what we also see in most modern takes from writers trying to soften Harley Quinn into an anti-hero.
The book focuses on Harley and her growing infatuation with the Joker. The title also continues detailing the parallel origin of Harvey Dent aka Two-Face. This is also one of my favorites depictions of the character that I've read since getting back into comics.
The presentation here is flat-out gorgeous. Stjepan and Mike Mayhew are the only writers working today that seem to be able to draw realistic characters without hitting uncanny valley territory. I've seen some complaints about Joker being too handsome but considering that the book is written entirely from Harleen's perspective it makes sense that Joker isn't presented as a twisted monster but as an idealized version of himself.
I have one more issue of the series to review and I expect the transition from Doctor to Supervillain will be completed by the end of the series. The script is solid and the story is as heartbreaking as I expected it to be walking into the series.
The origin of Harley Quinn has been retold countless times over the years but it never becomes less tragic. There are a lot of Harleens out there and I think the series is doing an amazing job of highlighting how lust and infatuation can lead to self-destructive outcomes.