This is a big week for trades and collections, so let’s quit dawdling. It’s time to look at the releases for February 5th, 2020.
I don’t think there’s been as celebrated an entry into the Batman canon as Harley Quinn’s in the past thirty years. Harley has been a character who’s meant many things to many people. From wacky henchman to brilliant psychologist to embodiment of chaos and nearly everything in between, Harley contains multitudes. Not only that but her abusive relationship with her Puddin’ has provided opportunities to explore parts of Batman, the Joker, and more that normally would have gone unseen. So it was not surprising that Harley was a longtime favorite of Sunstone creator Stjepan Šejić. What was surprising was when, years after Šejić started posting fan comics exploring Harley, DC stepped in and gave him the keys to tell his own version of her origin.
Enter Harleen, the gorgeous retelling of how Harleen Quinzel stepped off the path and ended up our favorite Red and Black Riding Hood.
Quinn’s origin story had already been definitively told in the 1994 comic “Mad Love”, but Šejić dug into that story to find the details and connective tissues that the original lacked. Suiting Šejić’s stunning, realistic style, Harleen creates a vibrant, living Gotham City, full of men and women struggling to hold on to order and destined to hold too tight. It’s a series that really dives into the atmosphere of Gotham and the psychology of its characters, resulting in a grim but beautiful examination of people can, can’t, and won’t take responsibility for their actions.
Šejić has been a fan of this character for a long time and it shows. This is one of the best examples of an official book having a fan’s sensibilities that I can remember. It doesn’t debase itself with needless fan service, but Šejić remains tied to the emotional core that his readers are looking for, refusing to polish away the fascinating edges of his story. Harleen‘s story is a tragedy but its own that respects its lead and gives her agency as well as the dueling drive and exhaustion that pushes her into the Joker’s clutches. Even the science of Dr. Quinzel’s thesis is fascinating and the story’s refusal to dismiss caring psychological treatment in order to justify the Joker’s status quo makes it easy to hope against hope that this doesn’t end the way you came to see it end.
Plus, as I alluded above, it’s gorgeous! Šejić’s digital painting is known for its emotive force and he really wrings the spectacle out of the classic Batman villains and iconography. It’s almost hard to remember, in an age of plentiful superhero movies, but there is still something primal about seeing your comic book titans rendered in realistic and faithful fashion. Šejić delivers on this in a big way. You can feel like you’re really seeing the Joker, Mr. Freeze, and Killer Croc and, in a deeper way, Harley Quinn too.
Originally released in a series of three oversized prestige format books, Harleen will actually cost you slightly more in hardback, coming in at $29.99 MSRP. However, if you prefer to have your comics in trade I can still recommend this one. The difference is only $6.00 and you are getting a little bit for that extra money. Thankfully Šejić’s original covers are retained within the flow of the story and we also get all of the variant covers and some unused covers and concepts. There’s also a multi-page visual timeline detailing the origins of the series and a look at the author’s process. The last incentive applies only to early adopters. The first printing of the hardcover will feature an acetate dustjacket, allowing you to flip between the original cover to issue #1 and the gory reality, newly drawn for this collection.
Harleen was one of my top comics of 2019 and now you can own all of it in a single, classy package.
Die Volume 2: Split The Party
If you’ve been reading my reviews on this site, you’ll have known that this would be here. Die is, quite simply, a brilliant comic.
After a beautifully cohesive first arc, Kieron Gillen turns the tables, sending each of his cast on an individual adventure that explores their character and the hard choices that their world demands. Some are undeniably stronger than others, but this is a strong assortment of different fantasy tales and a second level class in one of the most specific and thoughtful casts in comics today. From Angela’s tearful goodbyes to Chuck’s unflinching confidence to Izzy’s explanations from a place just beyond hope, there’s loads of great character moments and plenty of new wrinkles to the world. The secrets of Angria alone are enough to hook you on this series.
More than anything Die feels like it’s thinking farther than your average comic. It keeps things clear enough, but there’s a depth and a purpose to its storytelling decisions that keeps the series feeling whip-smart and rock-solid. Plus, that literary quality never gets in the way of being fun. I mean, I’m not sure I’d describe watching five middle aged nerds relive their greatest childhood trauma as fun, but Gillen knows how to satisfy his audience and when not to and that’s something that can’t be over-appreciated.
Speaking of things deserving of praise, Stephanie Hans continues to do wonderful work on this series. With big fantasy cliches to break and rebuild and moments of blood-curdling normalcy alike in this volume’s pages, the range of this series and primacy of the characters extends to the art as well. Hans’ colors are also consistently superb, with color proving a fecund medium to match Gillen’s enthusiasm, with great splashes of red or endless blues escaping the constraints of petty lines and bounding out of, or deeper into, the panel.
The release of Die volume 2 offers tradewaiters a chance to get more of this phenomenal series and another reminder to anyone else that the barrier of entry to a truly tremendous tabletop drama is still decidedly low. The book costs a familiar $16.99 but, just as with its protagonists, once you enter Die you won’t be leaving it anytime soon and it may never leave you.
2020 hasn’t slowed down the flood of comic collections and OGNs one bit. Here are Diamond’s complete listings to sift through for yourself if neither of these are hitting that perfect part of your comics-brain.
- DIE TP VOL 02 SPLIT THE PARTY (MR) $16.99
DARK HORSE COMICS
- DISNEY FROZEN ADVENTURES: SNOWY STORIES TP $10.99
- EC ARCHIVES PSYCHOANALYSIS HC $39.99
- LEGEND OF KORRA TP PART 03 RUINS OF EMPIRE $10.99
- ORVILLE SEASON 1.5 TP VOL 01 NEW BEGINNINGS $19.99
- PLANTS VS ZOMBIES HC BETTER HOMES & GUARDENS $9.99
- MY LITTLE PONY FRIENDSHIP IS MAGIC TP VOL 18 $17.99
- STAR TREK YEAR FIVE TP VOL 01 ODYSSEYS END $19.99
- TMNT RISE OF THE TMNT TP VOL 03 SOUND OFF $9.99
- WHY DID WE TRUST HIM TP $14.99
- BATMAN ARKHAM VICTOR ZSASZ TP $19.99
- BATMAN TALES ONCE UPON A CRIME TP $9.99
- BOOKS OF MAGIC TP VOL 02 SECOND QUARTO (MR) $16.99
- FLASH HC BOOK 11 THE GREATEST TRICK OF ALL $24.99
- GREEN ARROW TP VOL 08 END OF THE ROAD $19.99
- HARLEEN HC (MR) $29.99
- HIGH LEVEL TP (MR) $16.99
- JLA THE WEDDING OF THE ATOM & JEAN LORING HC $69.99
- ADVENTURES OF X-MEN GN TP TOOTH & CLAW $9.99
- AGENTS OF ATLAS TP PANDEMONIUM $15.99
- BLACK PANTHER POSTCARD BOOK HC $19.99
- GHOST-SPIDER TP DOG DAYS ARE OVER $15.99
- OLD MAN QUILL TP VOL 02 GO YOUR OWN WAY $17.99
- PUNISHER EPIC COLLECTION TP JIGSAW PUZZLE $39.99
- STAR WARS AGE OF REPUBLIC HC $34.99
- SWORD MASTER TP VOL 01 WAR OF THE ANCIENTS $17.99
- VENOM BY DONNY CATES TP VOL 03 ABSOLUTE CARNAGE $15.99
- X-MEN VS APOCALYPSE TWELVE OMNIBUS HC $125.00
- BLACK BADGE HC VOL 03 $29.99
- GIANT DAYS TP VOL 12 $14.99
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS
- BLOODBORNE TP VOL 04 VEIL TORN ASUNDER (MR) $16.99
- BOARDING SCHOOL JULIET GN VOL 10 $10.99
- CARP ON CHOPPING BLOCK JUMPS TWICE GN (MR) $13.99
- CITRUS PLUS GN VOL 01 (MR) $13.99
- DEKOBOKO SUGAR DAYS MANGA GN $14.99
- GOLDEN AGE HC GN BOOK 01 $29.99
- GRANBLUE FANTASY GN VOL 03 $12.99
- HILO GN VOL 06 ALL PIECES FIT $13.99
- HINAMATSURI GN VOL 07 $11.95
- J & K HC $39.99
- JUJUTSU KAISEN GN VOL 02 $9.99
- KASESAN & YAMADA GN VOL 01 $13.99
- MONSTER ALLERGY GN VOL 03 $10.99
- MY ANDROGYNOUS BOYFRIEND GN VOL 01 (MR) $13.99
- MY HERO ACADEMIA GN VOL 23 $9.99
- MY HERO ACADEMIA SMASH GN VOL 03 $9.99
- OUR WONDERFUL DAYS GN VOL 02 (MR) $12.99
- PEARL HARBOR FROM PAGES OF COMBAT GLANZMAN CVR $9.99
- PRE CODE CLASSICS STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES HC VOL 03 $45.99
- PRE CODE CLASSICS STRANGE SUSPENSE STORIES SLIPCASE VOL 03 ( $55.99
- SCARLET GN VOL 01 (MR) $12.99
- SERAPH OF END VAMPIRE REIGN GN VOL 18 $9.99
- SHORTCAKE CAKE GN VOL 07 $9.99
- SILVER AGE CLASSICS SPACE ADVENTURES HC VOL 02 $45.99
- SILVER AGE CLASSICS SPACE ADVENTURES SLIPCASE ED VOL 02 $55.99
- STICKY DILLY BUNS TP VOL 01 $19.99
- STIG AND TILDE GN VOL 02 LEADER OF THE PACK $13.95
- TAKANE & HANA GN VOL 13 $9.99
- TWIN STAR EXORCISTS ONMYOJI GN VOL 17 $9.99
- VEI GN VOL 02 $29.99
- WE NEVER LEARN GN VOL 08 $9.99
- YONA OF THE DAWN GN VOL 22 $9.99