Batman : Mad Love And Other Stories

The Suicide Squad movie hits theaters this week, so if you are the type who likes to read the book before seeing the movie, may I suggest Batman : Mad Love and Other Stories? It is the origin for Harley Quinn (the woman with the multicolored hair on the movie posters).

Harley’s development as a comic book character is unusual. She was originally a henchwoman in one of the animated television series, becoming popular enough with viewers to find her way first into the flimsies, then into computer games. and now into cinema. Her character arc was also unusual: she’s an abuse victim who can’t seem to break free of the mental control of her abuser. That’s not particularly dark territory for a Batman comic, because many of the characters are unhealthily obsessive. What’s odd is that as a plucky, funny anti-heroine, she doesn’t seem to ever get a happy ending.

Mad Love is Harley’s origin story. She begins as the Joker’s psychotherapist, and gradually, but voluntarily, loses more and more of her agency, until she’s become his toy. This comic uses relatively bright illustration, and humorous dialog, so that the terrible things that Harley is doing to herself aren’t hammered home. The author’s restraint is exceptional for superhero comics, which are a melodramatic medium.

This book is easy to recommend to those familiar with the character from other media, or who intend to see the film.