HARLEY QUINN: MAD LOVE – quite possibly, the finest, most nuanced piece of comic-book-based fiction that I have ever read.

Posted: January 4, 2019 in Uncategorized

Comic books are such a unique artform. The combination of text and images must be perfect so that the right emotion in the right dose gets to the reader. Obviously, some of the most iconic figures in popular culture have sprung from the loud, colorful pages of comic books.
An exception to this rule that was so well-developed that she became comic book canon afterwards, is Harley Quinn, who was created for the acclaimed „Batman” animated series which turned Kevin Conroy into a 90s icon for many kids, myself included.
The book I am about to review represents the biggest honor in my lifelong comic book fandom. I am talking about HARLEY QUINN: MAD LOVE, the prose adaptation of the comic book which is, in its turn, the adaptation of the episode that turned Harley Quinn into a household name. I have had the privilege of receiving a copy of this book, signed by the lovely Ms. Pat Cadigan, co-written with the iconic Paul Dini, a name very familiar to „Batman TAS” enthusiasts, for which I am truly and wholeheartedly grateful. Diaclaimer out of the way, I will say that every single thought that you will read about this book if you decide that this review is worthy of your attention is my own. And such a gem of a book deserves it!

First of all, this is not merely an adaptation of a comic book story. In the deft hands of Ms. Pat Cadigan, this becomes the definitive origin story for one of the most iconic supervillains in all of comic-book history.

Harleen Quinzel, a “tough cookie” from Brooklyn, starts out seeing very bad people doing very bad things to her small-time crook father Nick, whom she adores. Readers get hints that her life at home, with her parents and three baby brothers, is not at all a bed of roses. She needs a way out, and finds it in two things: gymnastics and psychiatry. Though intending to keep a healthy body AND a healthy mind, things do not go as planned once she gets to work at Arkham Asylum, home to some of the most dangerously psychotic individuals in Gotham City. All thanks, of course, to Batman, the polarizing Dark Knight, my favorite vigilante of all time.
It is at Arkham City that Harley will encounter the man who becomes a turning point in her life: The Joker. Known only by that moniker(apart from others like “Puddin'” and “Mistah J” the garish clown-visaged maniac is initially a study subject for the brilliant Harleen.
And herein lies the brilliance of this awesome book, because readers spend a lot of time with her as she grows in physical aptitude and in knowledge, only to get to see her becoming progressively warped as her relationship with the Joker transcends the boundaries of what is normal between a doctor and a patient.
I love how an apparently zany, and yes, cartoonish character is fleshed out here as a woman of great intelligence and passion, a woman who grows to believe in herself after experiencing a great deal of trauma, and ends up losing herself to the sheer diabolical genius of a gleeful maniac. It is a tragic story, in its essence, but one can definitely feel the fun that the author had telling it to the audience. I see it as the one Harley Quinn story that the world never knew it needed. This. Is. A. MUST. If you are into all things Batman, do yourself a favor and read this tale. The nuanced characters, the big themes, passion, madness, identity, morality, justice, all make HARLEY QUINN: MAD LOVE a masterpiece of comic-based novelizations. The finest I have ever read. Thank you, Ms. Cadigan. AMAZING job! Solid, well-earned TEN OUTTA FIIIVE! HAHAHAHA!

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