Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass

DC Ink. Sept. 2019. 128p. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781401283292.
Gr 9 Up–Teenager Harleen Quinzel is from everywhere and nowhere—the type of kid who wanders the world with just five bucks and a knapsack. The story begins when she steps off the bus in Gotham, a city experiencing rapid gentrification led by the ultra-rich Kane family. Harleen is taken in by Mama, a club owner whose cadre of drag queens embrace the teen and her manic enthusiasm for life. While joining new friend Ivy’s protest to get the school’s film club to screen movies by women and people of color, and hanging out backstage at drag shows, Harleen grows to love dressing up as a clown. When someone calling themselves “the Joker” tries to enlist her on a mission to take down the Kane family, Harleen must choose between joining a rebellion to protect her new community and staying on the right side of the law. Tamaki’s reimagining of Harley Quinn’s origin as a teenager deeply embedded in countercultural movements is thought provoking. Through Harleen’s evolution, readers engage with complex ideas of community action, gentrification, and protest. The author also explores drag culture and identity politics and even makes nuanced references to the AIDS crisis. Tamaki’s Harleen is no white savior, nor is she a manic pixie dream girl—she’s curious, funny, and deeply original. Pugh brings this unique character to life with moody shadows and wildly expressive eyes; his artwork shines at emotionally heightened moments.
VERDICT A modern, funny, and satisfyingly fresh take on the origin of a superhero revolutionary

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