Harleen: Book 1 Review - Finally a great Harley Quinn Story
The only selling point I had for this series was the art by Stjepan Sejic. I'm not the biggest fan of Harley Quinn to start and never got the appeal of the character beyond simply being a sidekick for the Joker. Her background as a brilliant psychotherapist was generally played for laughs or during brief moments of clarity.
Harleen: Book 1 provides a definitive look at Harleen Quinzel and is the most mature and thoughtful take I've seen on the character. The book is entirely from Harleen's POV and the impression I gathered was that the book is generally being honest about her past and origins which is a big contrast to deep dives to Joker's origins
We get a look at Harleen's early life before getting into her first encounters with the Joker. What surprised me as I was reading was the reveal that Harleen became a villain at the age of thirty. I don't know why, but I always saw the character as early to mid-twenties. It may be a throwaway line to most, but it stuck out to me because setting the character at thirty works to give her a bit more agency in her decisions.
This isn't a wide-eyed girl being groomed by the Joker. Harleen was a grown-ass woman prior to her journey into madness. Sejic also establishes a pretty basic and relatable reason for why Harley may have been drawn to a destructive personality like the Joker's in the first place.
Speaking of the Joker, I had a friend mention that Sejic's take on the character was ridiculous.
I agree that Joker's look is definitely different, but with the story being from Harleen's POV it stands to reason that we're looking at a romanticized version of the character. During the scenes where the characters interact, Joker's personality was in line with most interpretations of the character. I just took the sudden good looks as emblematic of Harleens infatuation with him.
I loved everything about this book. It's honestly the best Black Label book I've read since the line was launched. The 6.99 cover price is more than a standard comic but the book is square-bound, fits nicely on a bookshelf and clears 64 pages. The art is stellar and really complements the writing without overpowering it.
I rarely draw attention to a book cover but this is one of the best covers I've seen in a long time. It definitely jumped out at me as the fractured mask of the harlequin reveals a broken woman beneath. The cover is a story in its own right.
I follow Stjepan Sejic on Twitter and Deviantart. I'm familiar with his art but I had no idea he was also this great a writer. On the strength of this book, I decided to order a couple of his other projects. Harleen is near the top of my list of 2019's best.