Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #1 – Kami Garcia, Writer; Mico Suayan, Mike Mayhew, Artists
Ray – 8/10
Ray: Black Label is going through a bit of Joker overload, with Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #1, a Harley Quinn-led thriller coming only two weeks after Stepan Sejic’s Harleen, and only three weeks before Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino’s Joker: Killer Smile.
But novelist-turned-comic writer Kami Garcia wisely keeps the clown off-screen in this first issue as she creates a Harley radically different from any we’ve seen before. No longer a lovestruck Arkham doctor, she’s now one of the country’s most renowned criminal profilers with a very personal connection to the mysterious serial killer known as the Joker.
Her late wife – an original character created seemingly just to die – was one of the many victims of the clown’s serial killer streak before he disappeared, and Harley has been obsessed with finding him ever since. More Harley dating women rather than Joker is always good, but I’m not sure giving her a dead wife really works for me – not only is a Harley defined by tragedy so radically different from the original, but another dead woman, especially an LGBTQA character, in comics is just that, no matter who she’s motivating.
But it’s hard to blast Garcia for including dark and violent themes in her books – this is in her DNA as a writer, and she’s well-known for creating some truly loathsome villains in her work. This couldn’t be a more different book than her work on Raven for the DC Ink line – it’s pitch-black, with Harley giving profiles of some of history’s worst serial killers in graphic detail.
It’s also executed very well, with a pair of artists – Mico Suayan on the present-day segments, and Mike Mayhew on the flashbacks – delivering photorealistic art. Unlike most Black Label comics, Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #1 is a nine-part series told in slightly oversized regular issues, and that makes the pacing of this series feel a bit off. It doesn’t so much end as stop, with Harley observing something we don’t see yet – but we’re assured that it’s awful.
It feels like it could have been a chapter break rather than an issue end. It’s a strange comic, but it’s also a very good one – both the art and Harley’s internal monologue are executed near perfectly, and the creeping sense of tension throughout works very well to get Joker’s presence across without him being seen. I like the idea of a Harley/Joker story where she wants to destroy him, so let’s hope she gets her wish by the end of this series.
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Disclaimer: GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.