Hey everyone! If you couldn’t discern from the title of this post, Rek will be reviewing DC’s Black Label Harleen (2019) by Stjepan Sejic and is currently up for around $15.79 as a hardcover on Amazon when this post was written. So, let’s start talking about the Mistress of Mayhem!
So, to start this review, I find it necessary to mention that this was one of three Harley Quinn graphic novels coming out around the same time. I tried reading each one and Sejic’s work was the best by far! Although I did hear that Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki was pretty good too. There is no contest put against the others! This graphic novel was one of the early Black Label titles announced by DC and one that I was remotely interested in since I am a fan of Sejic’s art. It was one of the reasons that I read through Justice League Odyssey and I decided to give the first issue a shot. I kept up with each issue on release and loved it! I, finally, had the time to purchase this New York Times Bestseller off Amazon and read it all together in one sitting. In conclusion, you need to read this book and here’s why!
Usually I would start discussing the brilliance of a work and the storytelling, but since I first reached for this novel due to the art, let’s start there. The art is beautiful, expressive and a reason to buy this work alone. The colors create a horrific smile on the page. The city of Gotham is at times painted as optimistic and hopeful like the young doctor Quinn. Yet, it is paralleled with smoky streets, fiery rage, and mobs of monstrous voices shouting for justice and murder. The characters are brilliantly expressive from the first page to the last. Harley’s struggling through a maze in the criminally insane minds of Arkham, Joker’s manipulative seriousness, and even Harvey Dent’s bipolar and manic episodes showcase the twisted tales of mental illness in the faces of Batman’s soon-to-be rogues gallery. The characters’ passion and anxiety envelop this story and there were panels and splash pages where I just stopped to look at the art because it was genuinely beautiful.
On to the story, it is a twist on the Harley Quinn origin story that detracts slightly from Paul Dini’s Mad Love by combining Harleen’s tragic fall in love with the clown prince of crime with the poisoned beginnings of Harvey Dent. Which I thought was strange on the first read when they were coming out weekly, but in one sitting Dent’s story is significant in proving Harleen’s point she makes in the first few pages about the illness Gotham breeds.
I’m really trying not to spoil this story for those who want to read it, but it is a fantastic read. One of the parts that I really enjoyed was the way Sejic implements these nightmare sequences. The foggy path down Gotham’s streets and the Bat symbolism and the image Harley paints of the wounded Joker are spectacular!
If there is one thing that I wanted to see more of, it would probably just be more Harley. Her character is just so tragically enjoyable and, as a reader, we’re situated outside of this soon-to-be toxic relationship. Sejic just has this strong understanding of the character and I kept turning the page until I reached the end wanting more of Harley.
Overall, it is a read for any Harley Quinn fan and especially if you pick up comics with different art styles. It is a beautifully drawn, tragic tale that belongs on everyone’s bookshelves.
(How good is the story? Does it stand up to others?)
(Does it tell the story? Does it work well with the character?)
(Does this story need to be told? Is it helping the Character?)
(Is the character represented well? Does the writer understand the character?)
Total: 18.5 / 20