DC Comics has outdone themselves this week with a mixed media, procedural crime comic that feels more like a document of evidence than a traditional comic book. Written by Kami Garcia and Ed Kurz, M.D.(listen to Kami talk a bit about her work with Kurz on the AIPT Comics podcast) with art by David Mack, Jason Badower, and Mico Suayan, this work puts us into Harley Quinn’s shoes as she attempts to profile and capture the Joker. The one-shot aims to transport us into the detective chair and it does a stellar job doing it.
This is the kind of comic you’ll want to prepare yourself for before reading it. Wash your hands, pull back your hair, and make sure your phone is off before delving into this complex work of mixed media and creative design. It’s basically a retelling of Harley’s work as she profiles Joker’s murders in Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity but also peels back the curtain on the types of documentation a profiler uses when trying to capture a criminal. It’s thoroughly done and I’d wager everything here is something you’d actually see in a police department.
As you turn each page a new discovery is found, like the psychological profile report, coroner’s report, and artwork by the Joker himself. The art is done exceptionally well, with David Mack drawing Joker’s mad watercolored pieces. Like I said, these tend to used mixed media — a key on top of art with spreadsheets and quotes intertwined with the watercolor — further adding realism to the comic. Interspersed is art from Jason Badower and Mico Suayan as well as vividly real reports. It all comes together in a beautiful bit of chaos and magic that is certainly not a traditionally told story, but a fun experience.
This one-shot comes at an opportune time too, since in Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity #4 Joker and Harley finally come face to face. This book serves as a primer on who Joker is as we get to the meaty conflict between the characters. While reading this I kept thinking this is Silence of the Lambs-quality psychological drama condensed into a creative comic book format.
The only way DC could have topped the production value of this book is if they released all the documents and art in a box set for the reader to handle as if the reports were real. That said, the non-traditional storytelling going on here will likely not be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s also a slight bummer this version of Joker isn’t in canon, although based on what Kami Garcia has said about the research that went into this series it’s as real as Joker could ever be.
Each piece shines a light on the personality of Joker in the most realistic way possible. If you like your comic books steeped in heavy reality, don’t pass on this one-shot. Joker/Harley: Criminal Sanity Secret Files is an experience unto itself with as realistic as possible detective work.