WRITER: STJEPAN SEJIC | ART: STJEPAN SEJIC | PUBLISHER: DC BLACK LABEL | FORMAT: HARDCOVER | RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
We all love Harley Quinn, but it can be hard to properly understand her motivations and origins. How could she really go from an intelligent psychotherapist to the Joker’s maniac moll? How could she be so easily pushed into insanity by her pasty paramour? If you’ve considered these questions, then look no further than writer/artist Stjepan Sejic’s Harleen for the answers.
One of the out-of-canon tales published by the mature DC Black label, Harleen offers the darkest, deepest dive into the backstory of everyone’s favourite DC anti-heroine you’ll find. The comic puts us in the mind of the idealistic Dr. Harleen Quinzel, new at Arkham Asylum and eager to help the damaged souls who dwell there. Unfortunately, instead of pulling them into the light, she might end up being dragged into the pit with them…
With narration from the woman herself, talking us through her descent into madness, this three-issue storyline allows us to see Harley’s downfall - and the Joker, here painted as a dark, twisted romantic figure - through her eyes. As such, despite the many brilliant depictions of her over the years, this is the most human and nuanced portrayal of Harley out there.
What’s more, one of Sejic’s smartest ideas is to retell the origins of Two-Face alongside Harley’s own, creating a parallel between these two souls who only sought to save Gotham but ended up being corrupted by it. This version of Dent’s story isn’t revolutionary, but it reaches a climax that neatly dovetails Harley and Harvey’s tragic falls from grace - with a killer punchline to boot.
As fine as his scripting is, it’s Sejic’s artwork that really makes Harleen pop. The realism of his characters is second to none. In a story like this, the precision of body language is key to tracking Harley’s personality shift. On the other hand, the recurring dream sequences, which follow her increasing obsession with Mister Jay, allow Sejic to let loose with some superb surrealism.
With Birds of Prey in cinemas, there’s no better time to pick up Harleen. Come for the iconic character, stay for the beautifully complex tale from a storyteller at the top of his game. Could it be the new definitive version of Harley’s origins? Maybe. If you don’t believe us, give it a go. The proof, you could say, is in the puddin’.