Which female characters do you think of first when I say DC Comics and Gotham? For me, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, and Catwoman are top of the list. But I don’t think Harley Quinn’s origins have ever received the same attention as Pamela Isley’s or Selina Kyle’s. So the opportunity to review Titan Books’ latest contribution to their DC Comics Novels line was my perfect opportunity to find out more.
Harley Quinn: Mad Love
“When she was only seven years old, Harleen Quinzel witnessed her father being beaten up by thugs, and then arrested by the police. That night she ran away but was pursued by the men who brutalised her father, and she witnessed unimaginable horrors.
Years later, Harleen has put her past behind her, and used her intelligence and ambition to escape her childhood of poverty with a career in psychiatry. Assigned to her first position at Arkham Hospital, she will discover, deep in the asylum, something dangerous, alluring, and quite unlike anything else she has ever known before: The Joker. Because why would you settle for love, when you could have MAD LOVE?
From the moment Harleen finds a rose on her desk, to the moment she dons her harlequin hat, this is the definitive story that chronicles the obsession, the burning desire, the manic laughter, and the birth of one of the most controversial and popular comic book DC Super-Villains ever created: Harley Quinn.”
Harley Quinn: Mad Love is the second standalone novel in Titan Books’ brand new DC Comics Novels line in collaboration with DC and WB Consumer Products. It follows September’s publication of DC Comics Novels – Batman: The Killing Joke and precedes February 2019’s DC Comics Novels – Batman: The Court of Owls.
Harley Quinn is available as an eBook and hardback from Amazon UK.
About the authors
Pat Cadigan is a science fiction, fantasy, and horror writer, three-time winner of the Locus Award, twice-winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and one-time winner of the Hugo Award. Paul Dini is a multi-award-winning writer of scripts for Batman: The Animated Series, and his comics work includes Batman: Black and White and Batman Adventures.
Firstly, the artwork is just stunning, isn’t it? Both the front cover with Harleen/Harley and the back cover with her diary notes about The Joker. But what about the actual novel? The comic book origins are obvious, the characters are larger than life, and the pace fairly skips along with plenty of cliffhangers to keep you reading on. There are also lots of threads running all the way through the story, one of which in particular is resolved right at the end of the book, in a twist that I did not see coming.
The narrative is mainly told from Harleen/Harley’s point of view with the occasional shift to The Joker’s and Batman’s perspectives. The whole concept of what makes a villain is brilliantly explored: nature or nurture? I’m tempted to say nurture (or rather, lack of it) in Harley’s case. Her early experiences as a poor street kid from Brooklyn make it easy for a psychopathic, intelligent character like The Joker to manipulate her.
Although it might be tempting to dismiss Harley as emotionally needy, that’s doing her a disservice. She is intelligent, resourceful and, to begin with, has a genuine desire to help people. In the book (albeit not in any comics or films I’m familiar with) she does wise up and things don’t go all The Joker’s way. To say more would be a plot spoiler, so, frustratingly, I can’t expand on that here!
Would I recommend it?
I’ve always been a fan of DC Comics and this book certainly didn’t disappoint. As I said earlier, Harleen’s transformation into Harley isn’t that well documented so this is a fascinating insight into and take on her story. She’s a strong female lead character, completely deserving of her own stand alone book instead of being relegated to her usual position as The Joker’s crazy sidekick. Whether or not you love DC Comics, or know someone who does, I think this would make a perfect gift for anyone who’s interested in how and why we become who we are.
I ended my previous book review with a quote and I’m going to do it again, because it’s a clue to Harley, without being a spoiler (as well as a stratagem worthy of one of my Renaissance heroines, Catherine de Medici):
“The Joker’s greatest desire was to be seen by everyone everywhere, all the time.
But he was totally clueless.
He’d never understood that you were most powerful when you went unnoticed.”
Huge thanks to Titan Books for organising a copy of Harley Quinn: Mad Love for me to review, I absolutely loved it. And I don’t know if any sequels are planned, but the ending of the novel is certainly giving me hope 🙂
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