Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #1 is published by DC Comics under their mature imprint DC Black Label. This issue is written by Kami Garcia (Teen Titans: Raven), with art by Mike Mayhew and Mico Suayan, and letters by Richard Starkings of Comicraft. The nine-issue psychological thriller follows Dr. Harley Quinn as she attempts to track down the Joker following the death of her roommate, Edie. Harley is a forensic psychiatrist and profiler consulting for the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD) and so far has solved quite a few cases. However, the Joker continues to escape justice.
But after Edie’s murder, the Joker disappeared and any chance Harley had of capturing him vanished as well. Now, with the GCPD overwhelmed with cases, the chief wants to reclassify Edie’s case as a cold case, meaning it may never be looked at again. Given this, Harley feels even more motivated to track down the Joker and bring justice to one of the most disturbing killers Gotham has ever seen.
Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #1 is a true-crime spin on the classic Gotham duo. The issue references a lot of real murder cases, including Ted Bundy and Richard Chase who was nicknamed “The Vampire of Sacramento.” And with Harley’s new reimagining as a forensic psychiatrist, she explains the nuances of being declared criminally insane. Despite the number of real killers that are clearly mentally disturbed, very few can win a case by reason of insanity.
As explained by Harley in the comic, the insanity plea means the accused can not tell right from wrong or could not control their behavior because of severe mental defect or illness and therefore should not be held criminally responsible for their behavior. However, the legal test for insanity varies from state to state.
Harley’s new characterization feels fresh and works in this Elseworlds story. That being said, it also does not feel like the classic Harley Quinn fans know and love. But as someone who is fascinated by true crime and often regrets not going to law school, Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #1 is a must-read.
In addition to Garcia’s innovative take on Quinn, Mayhew and Suayan work incredibly well together on the art. While the majority of the book is in black and white, the flashbacks are in color. This works not only to differentiate the time periods but also to highlight just how much Harley lost when Edie died. The art style is incredibly unique and feels like a series of real-life photos that have been painted over with thick, broad brush strokes. The realness of the art style works well with the real-life elements that are within the story. It is all grounded together and while most Batman or Batman-adjacent books are grounded in reality, this one feels more real than anything I have read from the publisher.
My main qualm with the issue is that it ended abruptly. The issue also takes its time fleshing out the world so the pacing feels a tad slow. But overall, this is a fantastic start to the series. Fans of true crime and Harley Quinn absolutely need to pick up Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #1. And while there are currently two Harley-related DC Black Label series running, I am happy to report they are both very different and very good.
Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #1 is available now wherever comic books are sold.
Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #1
My main qualm with the issue is that it ended abruptly. The issue also takes its time fleshing out the world so the pacing feels a tad slow. But overall, this is a fantastic start to the series.