Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity Review

Written By: Kami Garcia

Artists: Mico Suayan, Mike Mayhew, and Jason Bodower

This comic series is under the DC Black Label title which is DC’s mature imprint, so this comic and the content within is intended for an older audience. If you’re fascinated by the minds of the criminally insane then this is the series for you. It’s a delightful yet eerie murder mystery series. With each issue, the plot further advances, and we’re left wondering what else the team will stumble upon next. The tone is great and consistent throughout the series, although with a bit of a slower pace.

As of issue three, this series thus far has followed more of a true-crime type feel, rather than an origin story for either Harley or Joker. Although it seems like the issues progress, we are learning more about both character’s past. The entire series especially the last issue is outlined in great detail.

The Introduction

Harley Quinn is a forensic psychiatrist and behavior analyst alongside Gordon. She’s assisting the GCPD in an investigation of heinous crimes occurring in Gotham City. This series introduces readers to a much different Harley and Joker like never before. The illustration of this comic series is the best part. The flashbacks are in color, whilst the modern segments are in black and white. It’s a very different, yet interesting take.  Harley is assisting GCPD with a string of murders occurring in Gotham City. Harley is haunted by an unsolved case, from five years ago. Where one night she came home to find her roommate (who she saw as a family) murdered by the hands of the Joker, who was never caught or seen after the murder.

The first murder the team arrives on was a victim named Mick Kelly, who was left mutilated on a park bench. He wasn’t the best of characters. After his wife’s death, he blamed him a son and physically abused him, while drinking himself into misery. His son, however, ironically wound up missing the same day as the murder, so that made him somewhat of a prime suspect.

Shortly after the first murder, we are already introduced to the second. This one was much different than the other and depicted a more gruesome murder scene. The body was dismembered and posed much like Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man.

While forensics gather evidence from the scene, Harley makes her way to speak in front of a body of students at Gotham University. She discusses her knowledge about what qualifies a person as a psychopath or just criminally insane. As examples, she discusses some of the most famous serial killers, such as; Ed Grein, Richard Chase, Ted Bundy, and John Wayne Gacy.

Joker/Harley (DC COMICS)

Scratching the Surface of Our Characters

We begin this issue with yet another crime scene, much like the previous one. A body dismembered and posed like Salvador Dali’s Nobility of Time. Harley then makes her way to GCPD, to gather her evidence and notes in an attempt to find something that will lead her in the right direction. As the process of elimination, she calls Dr. Crane to ensure that Victor Zsasz is still in lockup and hasn’t escaped. At the GCPD John, Mick’s son is taken into custody covered and blood and confessing to murdering his father. Harley interviews him and he states that he attempted to murder his father but failed. That his father only wants him to believe he’s dead. At this point, we can see John is obviously delusional, and his father is in fact very dead. Harley tells the team that although they might have solved Mick’s murder, they still have another serial killer out there for the other two murders.

We see a little bit of Harley’s past childhood, and the flashbacks of abuse she endured as a child from her mother. We’re left assuming that her mother is presumably dying after being told by her brother she only has limited time left. This also is showing audiences a much different childhood of any Harley Quinn we’ve previously seen. This issue we do get a bit of the Joker, scratching at the surface. We see a very quick scene of him entering a bar and stabbing an associate in the hand for not having his product ready.

Down the Rabbit Hole We Go

Harley tries to connect the dots of the Mick Kelly murder as well as the other two gruesome murders. She goes on a trip down to Gotham High to speak with the dean there to see if John had shown any psychopathic behavior characteristics before. He tells Harley that he actually was an exceptional student and was on his way to Wayne School of Tech, but was a bit of a loner at school. At this point, there hasn’t been any mention of a Wayne until this moment of the comic. It is still unclear if there is a Bruce Wayne who is Batman in this universe.

Harley continues investigating the Joker, as well as the ongoing murders.  As she investigates and is on a trail, the Joker takes her into notice. He realizes he might have underestimated Dr. Harley Quinn. As she continues, she might be at the forefront of danger with the Joker. We also learn a little bit about the Joker this issue. Although, I will say at times the flashbacks do feel a bit out of place.

The Joker anonymously drops off photos to Gotham Gazette of a deceased woman, and the photos make their way to GCPD. Harley and the team gather, trying to decipher any background images. They use their great detective skills and are able to determine the background of the photos to a nearby museum. Once they arrive, they find another victim. This victim was posed like Salvador Dali’s sculpture Venus de Milo with drawers.

We see a little bit more of Harley’s past and can understand more the dislike she has for her mother. When seeing the tragic abuse, she endured you can understand more why she doesn’t seem to care about her mother’s soon coming death. And, she has no intentions of attempting to rekindle the broken relationship between her and her mother.

Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity

Overall Rating 3/5

In conclusion, this series does struggle a bit with the narrative feeling slightly off and does seem to fall a bit short compared to other DC Black Label series that are currently ongoing. However, I don’t want this is to discourage anyone from this comic series. It’s a different take and a very interesting plotline. With each issue, you have no idea what to expect in the next.