SYNOPSIS: In which our doomed doctor makes a choice she can never take back-one that seals her dark fate and gives rise to one of the most legendary villains of all time.
It’s about the journey, not the destination.
That line clearly sums up Stejpan Sejic’s masterful Black Label series HARLEEN. We knew from the beginning where Harleen Quinzel was headed, but the perfectly paced tale is full of surprises, nods, and cameos that will satisfy any comic book reader, especially Batman fans.
We last left Dr. Quinzel in a room with the Joker, crossing a line that no doctor should with a patient. In this week’s final issue, we pick up immediately after, where she continues to fantasize about her moment with him, realizing she’s crossing a line but also following her feelings. The story continues to focus on that relationship, and her infatuation, while Harvey Dent makes his moves on a mass breakout at Arkham. The two stories collide in dramatic fashion, ultimately changing Harleen to Harley in a way I won’t spoil for you here.
One-man teams are working for DC lately. Sean Murphy’s work on WHITE KNIGHT is outstanding, and Sejic is working on the same level here. His story has been perfectly paced, slowly following Harley’s descent toward villainy. By the time she gets there, we get it and don’t necessarily blame her. We know it’s bad, but we don’t hate her. A key component for this fan-favorite character.
And the credit fully goes to Sejic. I love how he keeps the story going with every page. He zones in on the key relationship, but doesn’t overdo it. He also sprinkles in little rogues cameos that make sense to the story, but also soothes our appetite for Batman’s world.
Story is always crucial, but art is also key and my oh my does Sejic shine. His world is dark and moody, but also bright when it needs to be. The coloring is also very even and pops. His layouts are so inventive and unique as well. I can’t say enough about how great this book looks.
If you’ve waited on this book, I suggest you track down the previous two issues and add these to your shelves. HARLEEN is perfect. It balances its tone with the story it wants to tell and really makes us feel for the lead character. It’s perfectly paced and looks beautiful.
It’s my favorite book of the year. Buy it, you won’t regret it. – Ryan Lower