Review: Harleen #1 By Stjepan Sejic

Harley Quinn is getting the Black Label treatment from DC Comics courtesy of Stjepan Sejic. (Black Label is DC’s new mature audience line with standalone titles). Since her debut on Batman: The Animated Series back in 1992, we’ve seen an evolution of the character along with different variations on the big and small screen as well as in numerous comic books. Despite having her own ongoing comic series along with past miniseries, the spotlight is being turned on Harley once again with an even bigger focus.

Harleen #1 is the first in a three-issue prestige format series that explores Harley Quinn’s origin. The fan-favorite character’s backstory is pretty well known to most readers. Because of the psychological layers to Harley and the luxury of the Black Label format, Sejic is showing us there is more to her story than we may have realized.

Harleen #1 cover by Stjepan Sejic.

I first became of fan of Sejic’s art during his Witchblade run with Ron Marz. Sejic’s art style easily creates a unique vibe to the stories he works on. I wasn’t sure if we really “needed” a Harley Quinn story focusing on her origin, but Sejic’s art made checking it out a no-brainer. Sejic has already established his writing skills with Death Vigil and Sunstone. Working on the complexities of Harley will push his writing even further.

It’s immediately clear Sejic understands who Harley is. We’ve sadly seen some two-dimensional portrayals of Harley in the past. Because of her background as a psychiatrist and the questionable relationship she formed with Joker, Harley isn’t a character writers should take lightly. She shouldn’t be portrayed as a ditzy, semi-homicidal villain with a clown theme. She’s a brilliant person who unfortunately fell into an abusive relationship. Having her move beyond being Joker’s love interest has been a great development. This is something Sejic will explore within the series.

Harleen #1 variant cover by Stjepan Sejic.

The beauty of the Black Label prestige format allows us to get a deeper story with less constraints than normal comics. The sixty-plus page first issue starts off before Harley meets Joker. She has a working theory on how to cure the madness of Gotham City’s criminal element. This is an era of Harley’s life we don’t often see in great detail. Sejic even tweaks a relationship Harley had with a professor, which serves to give Harley more credibility. Seeing how she first encounters Joker and arrives at her position at Arkham Asylum is a fascinating look at Harley.

Along with making Harley more than just Joker’s girlfriend, Sejic bravely tackles the intricacies of Joker’s personality. Is he insane? Is he evil? These are questions sometimes given a focus when Joker’s presence isn’t just used to create chaos. What makes things even more interesting is Harley’s first reaction to him. It makes you wonder how she could have become so enamored with him given their early interactions . This “origin story” feels more like a journey through Harley’s life instead of just looking at certain events.

The first few pages of Harleen #1 show this is more than just a book about Harley with beautiful art. Rather than take the easy route of simply telling a bombastic story featuring Harley and Joker, Sejic aims to delve deeper into what makes them tick. The issues will take a look at Harley’s life before, with, and after Joker. The gorgeous art and intricate look at Harley’s way of thinking and her early ambitions makes this a curious read. I’m looking forward to seeing how Sejic handles the next two chapters with Harley and Joker.

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