Harleen HC Review

by Jess Roth on February 15, 2020

Writer: Stjepan Šejić
Artist: Stjepan Šejić 
Colours: Stjepan Šejić
Letters: Gabriela Downie

Sometimes you’re gifted with a book so intensely gripping, so unexpectedly electrifying that you want to climb onto the roof of your house and yell down at everyone on the street: “HEY YOU. YEAH YOU. GO BUY THIS BOOK. BUY IT AND READ IT AND LOVE IT. THEN TELL ALL YOUR FRIENDS ABOUT IT.”

Harleen by Stjepan Šejić is exactly that kind of book. I don’t even have the words to express how amazing it was to read this comic for the first time; the best way I can think to explain it is when you’re really craving your mom’s chicken noodle soup, and after awhile of stomaching inferior broths whipped up by commoners, you finally get it, and dang, does it hit the spot just right. Which is a little bit surprising, since it’s the reinvention of Harley Quinn’s origin story, but I can honestly say that Harleen not only surpassed my preconceived notions, it’s probably the best comic I’ll have the pleasure to read in 2020.

Everybody knows Harley Quinn’s origin story, but through his almost-poetic dialogue and Wonderlandian art, Šejić turns it into an inevitable highway accident; an awful reality fed to you via a deliciously slow IV drip. You know Harleen Quinzel, respected psychiatrist, descends into madness to become the mad moll Harley Quinn, but you’re waiting with bated breath anyway, watching her unravel on the page as if maybe, just maybe, things will be different this time. But perhaps the coolest thing about Šejić’s time with Harley is his exploration of her not as brainwashed, blameless victim of Joker’s tyranny, but as a strong, capable agent of her own destiny. She knows she’s going down a crooked path, but she takes it anyway, unable to resist madness and the Joker’s ghoulishly grinning siren song as he beckons her into the fires of Hell with a wanton laugh. In fact, under Šejić’s reign, you begin to understand Joker’s charm and why someone like Harley might be drawn to the Clown Prince of Crime (sidenote: yes, it does make me uncomfortable that the 11-year-old version of me would think Joker, drawn like a sleek anime hero, is cute and therefore worthy of redemption. If you hear a slight chattering, it’s my skin crawling in revulsion. The ignorance of youth).

I truly believe that in 5 years’ time, when a bright-eyed young writer is taken to task by their editor with the directive of listing essential comic book stories that permeated the culture and changed the game, Harleen will be the centerfold of that list.

On a personal note, I really recommend buying this as a physical copy. Not only will you get the delight of a gorgeous, sturdy hardback book to put on your shelf, but the art itself is worth showcasing, and the colours chosen are nothing short of sublime. This is shown off particularly well during the confrontation between Harleen and Harvey Dent, their heated argument framed by a lush outdoor scene: crisp reds, regal oranges, an exquisite blend of light and shadow. If you stare at that page long enough you can almost feel your eyes wanting to squint at the brightness of the morning sun, and your ears somehow hear the crackling of dead leaves. All I’m saying is: owning this book is a must. Reading this book is a must. Sharing it is… well, you get the point. Harleen is a riotously good time with a deviously twisted sister, Šejić has weaved a modern masterpiece out of the safe and familiar, igniting the Harley mythos with a spark that will burn for years to come.

Our Score:


A Look Inside