Harleen #2 is published by DC Comics under their DC Black Label imprint with story and art from Stejpan Šejić (Sunstone) and letters by Gabriela Downie. The previous book left off with Dr. Harleen Quinzel finally getting funding for her research on the mind’s ability to corrupt its own fight or flight response after being overused. After landing herself a part on the medical team at Arkham Asylum, Harleen finally has the chance to speak to the Prince of Crime himself, the Joker. As Harleen relives the conversation through the eyes of her current self, Harley Quinn, she realizes this was the tipping point and a key moment that led her to her path of villainy.
In addition to continuing to retell the origin of Harley Quinn, Harleen #2 also details the start of Harvey Dent’s path towards becoming Two-Face. Dent gets a deadly mix of chemicals poured on half of his face by Salvatore Maroni. Following his arrest, Maroni is captured by unknown assailants who kill him on live television. The violence was more than unsettling to Harleen and only furthered Joker’s words, “Gotham is full of people like that, hands twitching as they dream of violence. Shivering with barely suppressed rage.” However, despite the obscene violence, Harleen continues her work and proceeds with interviewing the GCPD about her work no matter the danger or the road it will lead her down. With the unrest in Gotham and the distrust among the police department, Harleen questions her own morality in regards to her research and turns to none other than the Batman himself.
The pacing in Harleen #2 suffers at the beginning. This is partially because Harleen’s conversation with the Joker ends up being anti-climatic, which, considering Harleen herself frames it as one of the most important conversations of her life, is disappointing. The latter half of the book compares Harleen’s complicated morality to Batman’s and in doing so creates an interesting dichotomy I haven’t seen in a Batman-related story. Traditionally, Batman is compared with Joker, so seeing Harleen attempt to find meaning in Batman’s morality, specifically the reason he doesn’t kill, makes for an interesting conversation and deep dive into her character.
When Harleen returns to Joker, wanting to know more about his thoughts on the monsters he believes inhabits Gotham, she sees it all through a new lens after having heard Batman’s thoughts. The two viewpoints, Joker and Batman’s, sit opposite of hers, almost symbolizing the extremism within Gotham and foreshadowing the invisibility that no one can stay neutral in a city constantly at war. Harleen quickly loses her state of neutrality herself, falling right into the Joker’s hand.
Šejić continues to add to Harley Quinn’s origin but with a darker twist. Additionally, his art is beautiful, with many panel designs that visually show the dichotomy between characters, particularly Harleen and Joker. The clever visual panel designs and layout add to the intensity of the conversations between the characters. Overall, Harleen #2 is a strong second issue. The issues with pacing are not nearly enough of a hiccup to deter from rereading the series over and over again before the next issue hits stands.
Harleen #2 is available now in comic book stores everyone and online.
Overall, Harleen #2 is a strong second issue. The issues with pacing are not nearly enough of a hiccup to deter from rereading the series over and over again before the next issue hits stands.