Harley Quinn: Mad Love by Paul Dini

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Title: Harley Quinn: Mad Love.
Series: No.
Writer(s): Paul Dini & Pat Cadigan.
Publisher: Titan Books.
Format: Hardcover.
Release Date: November 13th 2018.
Pages: 336.
Genre(s): Science-Fiction.
ISBN13: 9781785658136.
My Overall Rating: ★★★★★.

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Novelizations are a tricky terrain to venture on. After my initial experience with the adaptation by Christa Faust of Alan Moore’s classic masterpiece The Killing Joke, it was now time to check out DC Comics’ latest novelization and it is different in the best of ways. How so, you wonder? It is different because the writer behind the original Mad Love comic book story arc is co-writing the novel with Pat Cadigan. In doing so, the idea of a novelization in itself became completely seductive as you can imagine that there is no better person to give you more out of a character than the creator himself. While it is difficult to completely single out Paul Dini as the reason for the crystal-clear authenticity that came with this novel, his contribution is non-negligible. And thus, Harley Quinn: Mad Love sets the example of a perfect novelization that every fan of the original piece would adore. 

What is Harley Quinn: Mad Love about? It is the definitive origin story of the infamous villain and partner in crime of the Joker. In this novel, Paul Dini and Pat Cadigan co-write Harleen Quinzel’s evolution from her days as a child when she learns the truth about her parents and the police to her days as a psychiatrist in the madhouse known as Arkham Asylum to her debut as the Brooklyn-accented, highly-spirited and extremely dangerous harlequin who finds herself charmed and enlightened by the Joker. With never-before-seen insight into the life of Harley Quinn before she became what she is known for today, the story broadens the reader’s understanding of the character’s tumultuous past and inevitable future. 

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Having read Batman: Mad Love and Other Stories, I had a feeling that it was going to be essential for the authors to look elsewhere if they were to add more juice to the story than just what was presented in the comics. This is where it would always feel risky beforehand as there’s so much that would have to be taken into consideration if the newly-added content were to fit with the original tale. But Paul Dini and Pat Cadigan achieve the impossible and uses this opportunity to go all the way back into Harleen Quinzel’s days as a child growing up within an abusive household to dive deep into the character’s personality and history. Without ever feeling like content was being shoved into our throats, every single moment managed to draw upon a trait that you’d quickly recognize in Harley Quinn today. In fact, even little Easter eggs were thrown into her history for fans to spot and recognize as key elements that would later characterize Harley Quinn and her sporadically-violent behaviours.

What I also found ingenious about this novelization is how the story would visit themes of rehabilitation and mental health. While Harley Quinn is known for pouncing on Batman and his allies with a hammer as well as her love-hate relationship drenched in excess with the Joker, she still remains a successful and beautiful psychiatrist before anything else. Throughout parts of the story, Paul Dini and Pat Cadigan makes sure to fully-exploit this facet of her character by showcasing her therapy sessions with other criminals as well as her beliefs and motivations in life as a professional psychiatrist. With the amount of insight we gain from these new story lines, the character quickly grows on the reader and her development becomes a beautiful thing we watch unfold. This is why having Paul Dini on board on this project seemed like the most brilliant idea ever as his understanding on not only Harley Quinn, the Joker and Batman is flawless, but also that his grasp on Gotham’s culture is firm.

Harley Quinn: Mad Love is a magnificent novelization that not only stays loyal to its source material, it visits the iconic character’s history with authenticity and brings every character to life with pure conviction.


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Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada and Titan Books for sending me a copy for review!

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This story arc was adapted from the comic book Batman: Mad Love into an episode on The New Batman Adventures (Season 2 Episode 11)! Check out the clip above for one of the best moments in this series!

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19 comments

  • I’ve never read any Batman novelizations, but been tempted by the Knightfall one in the past. I actually only recently picked up the trade paperback comic of this, although not read it yet. It was in a store for £12.99 packaged with two really good figures of Joker and Harley Quinn. I noticed they weren’t selling any copies – they had put the collection in the child’s toys section because of the action figures I think – so I thought I’d wait for a price drop. It paid off, as I later picked it up for £6.99! Bargain, considering the package is going for about £25+ on Amazon still!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I haven’t ready any till now with the announcement of those three novelizations (The Killing Joke, Mad Love and Court of Owls). I was too curious to find out if they were really worth anything. And so far, they are! I’ve also heard about the Knightfall ones, and even the No Man’s Land one. I’m definitely open to the idea of visiting them at some point now. That’s a super nice deal. The story is worth checking out just for Harley Quinn and her origin. Otherwise, the animated adaptation episode would have served as a nice way to discover it too!

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  • Well Lashaan this is genius! Go back to the character’s childhood to make us better understand Harley! She is my favorite in the movie (but Margot Robbie did play fantastically !) . I will maybe digress here but when I watched the movie Fifty Shades of Grey I found it lacking compared with the book (and yes I understand if you don’t like the books LOL) because in the movies they completely brushed under the rug what happened to Christian Grey as a child! And it was precisely that part that made us understand and empathize with him in the book! So back to Harley explaining her childhood can only add depth to this series.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahahah thanks for reading, Sophie! And yes, the idea of going as far back as her childhood to be able to make a full novel was ambitious, but it was brilliantly done in my books.

      I didn’t dare read the books, but I saw the first movie and I knew just from watching it that they lightened it up A LOT! 😛 Didn’t even believe it earned its R-rating. 😀 Now, knowing that the dude’s childhood was also neglected from the movie just saddens me.

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  • The whole concept of graphic novels’ novelization is an intriguing (not to say “novel” :P) one. It definitely sounds like a right move to invite the author of the most popular Harley Quinn comic to work on the book, though! Seems like it’s worth trying out 🙂

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  • Fantastic, I’m yet to read the Mad Love comic (got to get to that soon!) so if I enjoy that, and no doubt will, I’ll add this novelisation to the list…I plan to check out the Killing Joke novel first.

    It’s great that Dini and Cadigan have been brought in to tackle this and I’m excited that they’ve expanded and deepened the themes further – giving you an indisputable reason to read the novel.

    Another great and insightful review my friend!

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    • Oh man, you sure do! There’s also a third novelization that was announced along with the two so far which will adapt Snyder’s Court of Owls story arc. It’ll be written by Greg Cox however, but I’ll be curious to see how that one will go as well. 😀 While I know your feelings towards Snyder’s New 52 run isn’t like “most” people, I’m going to assume you’ll still be curious for that novelization as well. 😀

      Yep, I love how they went all the way back into Quinzel’s childhood before truly adapting the comic book story. They really brought the characters to life; at times I could really imagine Harley Quinn and Joker in their animated versions, with their respective voices! It’s that good! 😀

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      • Well I actually liked the Court of Owls arcs (but yeah not a huge fan of the rest of his run) and Greg Cox has written a lot of my favourite Star Trek novels as well as the Man of Steel film novelisation so that one is a definite must read for me!

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