“…The whole thing felt like one of those trashy romance tales where a plain, ordinary girl meets Mr. Tall, Sexy and Dangerous. In those stories, the girl helps the beast regain his humanity. In those stories, the beast loves the girl. I assure you, mine is not one such story. No, my story ended up being something completely different. My story’s the one where the girl dances with the devil, and he takes her with him on a long road to hell…”
My local library finally reopened (with all the usual reopening stipulations, of course) though my car was the only one in the lot, with two librarians and myself the only people inside. The new releases shelves appeared to still have the very same books I’d seen on my last visit back in mid-March. But I was determined not to leave empty-handed, and walked out with the 2020 hardcover of Croatian artist Stjepan Sejic’s magnificent Harleen, collecting the three issues from last year which reimaged the origin of Paul Dini’s and Bruce Timm’s memorable creation, Dr. Harleen Quinzel, AKA Harley Quinn. Here the brilliant young Dr. Quinzel embarks on a study of empathy (or the lack thereof) among the criminals incarcerated in Gotham’s Arkham asylum. She also has a terrifying run-in with the puddin’-to-be. And, frankly, she has some personal issues. All of these things converge, leading Dr. Harleen Quinzel to (or driving her towards) an inevitable conclusion.
Sejic isn’t just the artist on this project, but the writer as well, which is masterfully done – a terrific tale, beautifully scripted. Still, good as that is, Sejic’s art is what lingers with me, he being one of the very few artists (IMHO) who strive to capture subtleties of gesture and facial expressions, his deft touch with body language matched by few comic artists working today. There are no tedious panel sequences of talking heads here, even though most of the tale sidesteps big action scenes.
If you’re a Bat-verse person and/or in the mood for an extended story about the mallet-wielding crime queen that’s considerably less comical than you’d expect, Harleen is a dark but incredibly poignant tale I’d heartily recommend.