Monday, August 9, 2021

Harleen - Harley Quinn Done Justice

I was going to review The Suicide Squad, but after 20 minutes of burial hardcore violence, I decided I may need to take a different direction (I still absolutely LOVED it, but I can't recommend it to anyone with any kind of sensitivity; I'm just a monster.). So instead I'm going to review another Harley Quinn work, DC's Black Label Harleen

The Darkest Label

For non comic readers, DC's Black Label line are comics that are specifically not suitable for children. The authors are given  free reign to go as dark, gory and naked as they want. For the most part this has given writers an excuse to go berserk with content, usually with mixed results. Harleen is an example of what a writer can do without restraints with a character, but is not an example in excess. The book itself is like the film Joker, where the R rating gives permission to go into disturbing topics but it's not used for a gorefest. 

So to summarize it's like how some people will watch The Patriot or Saving Private Ryan despite them being R because they're historically significant and just really good movies. 

Okay, onto the comic. 

Fleshing out Dr. Quinzell

Harley Quinn as a character has been explored extensively through film, TV shows and comics, but we usually only get snippets of the woman Harleen used to be before she met her Puddin'. Harleen starts before Harleen has been hired at Arkham Asylum and builds until she runs away with the Joker. Harleen is a psychiatrist with a theory that violent psychosis may have a common brain defect that, if treated, could deter criminal behavior, if only she had more funding for research. On her way home from a lecture she is accosted by an escaped Joker, and witnesses a battle between him and Batman firsthand, an event which will haunt her throughout the story. Given a grant by the Wayne Foundation (Yeah, THAT Wayne), she begins researching in Arkham. 

We get from the comic a more complete picture of Harleen. She's brilliant and hopeful, if a bit na├»ve believing that she could cure psychotics with a single treatment. She has a broken past, finding out that in college she had a romantic relationship with one of her professors, something that was only hinted at before, but that the relationship didn't work out and despite that she still graduated with honors. 

PTSD

Harleen's first confrontation with the Joker was extremely traumatic for her, which leads to her psychosis throughout the comic. Remember, the Joker in the DC Universe is a terrifying monster, despite not having any super powers. He has the highest body count out of all the Batman villains and his method of killing with his body changing Joker gas is a terrifying way to die. One of my favorite parts of Harley Quinn is that her villainous origin has nothing to do with superhuman nonsense. She is a person in a toxic relationship that has infiltrated every portion of her life. Her PTSD from her first encounter is exacerbated when she has to start studying and interviewing the Clown Prince of Crime, aided by the Joker's own mental manipulation. 

As Harleen's research continues, her fear of the Joker slowly turned into an unhealthy obsession, which then became an unhealthy attraction. Joker knows this and plays it like the master manipulator he is, but the comic hints that he may be falling for Harleen as well, making the relationship even more fascinating as it is unhealthy. 

Where's the R

Harleen earns its Black Label status from a generous use of swearing and sexual innuendo. The scenes between the Joker and Harleen tastefully fade to black while the swears are usually fewer and further between, but because they do exist the comic does require a discerning eye. 

If however, you want to see a compelling story about how a person slowly broken down by a literal toxic person and see it all beautifully illustrated, pick up Harleen.

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