Comic Review: Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #1

Coming soon- Criminal Sanity #2

Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #1 was written by Kami Garcia, with art by Mico Suayan and Mike Mayhew, and letters by Richard Starkings of Comicraft. 

What do you need to know?

Criminal Santy is part of DC’s Black Label. What this means is that it is not part of continuity, but a universe in its own right. As a result, you don’t need to have any background knowledge to read this series. In this case the story takes place in a fanfiction style alternate universe. Harley is a criminal profiler, similar to the TV show Criminal Minds, with the darker aesthetic of Mindhunter, hell bent on catching a serial killer. 

What do you need to have read?

There is nothing that you absolutely HAVE to have read because it’s a Black Label story. However, I always recommend checking out Mad Love, the Batman Animated Series episode for Joker x Harley Background, if that’s something you’re looking for. As far as I can tell you don’t even need that for this series. 

Image shows the cover of issue 1. The top part shows a close up of Harley's eyes, while the bottom part shows a close of of Joker's smile.

Let’s kick things off by talking about the art style because there are some really interesting decision made regarding this element of the story. The book is mostly set in present day with a couple of flashbacks and to differentiate between the two timelines two different art styles are used.

The black and white noir style represents current day, while the past is depicted in stunning photorealism. Initially I saw this as a reflection of Harley’s state of mind. She lost someone very dear to her, and since then she sees the world very differently. The second flashback,  in which Harley is not present, suggests that she’d not the only one to see Gotham in these before and after extremes. 

In regard to this second flashback I have a working theory about who this little boy it… but I will keep my mouth shut for fear of spoiling something we’re not quite supposed to know yet. 

Image shows mother and son in a ca that has been driven into the water. They are struggling to get free, and the mother dies.

One of the reasons I love DC so much is the role that Gotham plays in Batman-centric stories. It’s a very special, if dangerous, place to me and in the hands of a good writer it becomes a character in itself. That said, how is Gotham treated here? Well, the writer goes to great pains to establish it as part of present-day America by giving us a history lesson on famous American serial killers. Yes, you heard that right. It’s almost like seeing Batman’s Gallery of rogues but with real killers. I don’t dislike it, but I’m not sure that I like it either. I think it’s the sort of thing that I’ll make my mind up about in a couple of issues. 

What I do like about this decision is that it puts the Joker in the same cannon as these serial killers and shows us just how he’s going to be treated in this story. He’s a dangerous guy, and I don’t think he’ll be using a Christmas tree as a rocket to escape Arkham anytime soon. 

Before I wrap this up, because it does seem to be getting a little long, I just want to touch upon the biggest theme of this issue: Criminal Insanity. What does it mean to be criminally insane? Harley’s explanation is fascinating and I think it will be great if, in a future issue, we get to see her sit down with the Joker and revisit this discussion. Is the Joker legally insane? Or does he consciously choose to do what he does? Plenty of food for thought for next time! 

Criminal Sanity #1 is collected is available from Comixology, or you can grab the trade from Forbidden Planet, or your local comic book store. 

Coming Soon… Criminal Sanity #2

In the meantime, why not check out… Harley Loves Joker, Mad Love by Pat Cadigan, or Mad Love by Paul Dini and Bruce Tim.

*Please note that all Forbidden Planet links are affiliate links*

13 thoughts on “Comic Review: Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #1

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