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Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass

by Mariko Tamaki

Other authors: Steve Pugh (Illustrator)

Series: Harley Quinn

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13710165,561 (3.91)16
With just five dollars and a knapsack to her name, fifteen-year-old Harleen Quinzel is sent to live in Gotham City. She's not worried, though--she's battled a lot of hard situations as a kid, and knows her determination and outspokenness will carry her through life in the most dangerous city in the world. And when Gotham's finest drag queen, Mama, takes her in, it seems like Harley has finally found a place to grow into her most "true true" with new best friend Ivy at Gotham High. But when Mama's drag cabaret becomes the next victim in the wave of gentrification that's taking over the neighborhood, Harley gets mad. She decides to turn her anger into action and is faced with two choices: join activist Ivy, who's campaigning to make the neighborhood a better place to live, or join her anarchist friend Joker, who plans to take down Gotham one corporation at a time. From Eisner Award and Caldecott Honor-winning author Mariko Tamaki (This One Summer) and Eisner Award-nominated artist Steve Pugh comes a coming-of-age story about choices, consequences, and how a weird kid from Gotham goes about defining her world for herself.… (more)
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Teen-aged Harleen Quinzel is sent to live with her grandmother in Gotham City only to discover upon arrival that grandma is dearly departed. But never fear because Harleen is taken in by Mama, a drag queen who lives in the same building as Harleen's deceased grandmother. She starts attending Gotham High where she meets Ivy, a fellow student and activist fighting against racial and gender injustices and for a stronger community that doesn't get gentrified by greedy corporations. Meanwhile, Harleen also meets a mysterious fellow calling himself the Joker, whose penchant for chaos is intriguing to the young teen. Will she join Ivy's peaceful protests or go for the Joker's more extreme measures?

This is a fun twist on the making of anti-hero Harley Quinn. True to form, Harley means the best but doesn't always go about it in the most careful of ways, opting for destruction more often than not. As more of her back story is revealed, we learn this has always been her way; her line of thought calls for a lot of retribution in getting towards fairness. I love the introduction of many beloved Bat-universe characters in unexpected ways. Ivy is so decidedly not a villain here in any way shape or form, while the Joker's true identity is revealed. The book tackles heavy social justice issues but maintains Harley's free-spirited, tongue-in-cheek tone. I didn't love at first how she kept talking about herself in the third person while telling her story, but the reasoning behind that eventually became apparent. The artwork is done extremely well and fits the story perfectly. ( )
  sweetiegherkin | Mar 12, 2022 |
This review is part of a longer post covering the first four DC INK graphic novels.
That post goes live on 9/12/19 here: www.loveinpanels.com/comics/DC-INK-Series
***
Harley's book is a bit of a rollercoaster, just like Harley. Harleen's mother leaves to work on a cruise ship for a year and sends her to live with her grandmother. Only her grandmother already passed away and there's only a middle-aged gay man there to take her in. Harley's new family is comprised entirely of drag queens and I honestly loved them all. The first (only?) friend she makes is Ivy, a Black teen activist. (Ivy is the best character in the book, fight me.) Ivy teaches Harley about gentrification and the mega corporation that's buying their neighborhood and pushing everyone out. They even manage to get all of the buildings condemned, a move that leaves the residents and business owners no choice but to leave. Ivy's family organizes protests, but Harley, who has always been a scrapper, decides to take more violent action. She winds up meeting The Joker along the way, but I can't tell you more without spoiling the book.

Breaking Glass is a weird book, in the same ways that Harley Quinn is a bundle of contradictions. She's innocent but violent, empathetic but obtuse. She doesn't quite grasp what Mama (the man who takes her in) means when he says he's "an old fairy," and she doesn't understand why Ivy gets mad when she doesn't defend Ivy during a meeting with the racist school Principal. She does learn, but she's so busy jumping to conclusions and running ten steps ahead that she often misses what's directly in front of her face. Very true to character.

Breaking Glass is full of action panels and colored with red and green, a clashing combination that fits the overall chaos of the plot. Fans of Harley Quinn will likely be captivated, but some readers will find her meandering thoughts and speech muddle the plot.
***

Suzanne received a copy of Breaking Glass for review. ( )
  Cerestheories | Nov 8, 2021 |
Every supervillain (or is Harley Quinn a superhero? Who knows, either way, she’s super!) needs a good origin story, and boy do Mariko Tamaki and Steve Pugh give her an excellent one! Setting the story as Harleen Quinzel arrives in Gotham City to live with her (unbeknownst to her deceased) Grandmother, she quickly falls into step with a colourful group of misfits. Drag Queen extraordinaire Mama sets the stage by providing Harleen a home and a haphazard family of queens, while at school Harleen allies herself with Ivy, a social justice oriented rebel who wants the school’s film club to be more diverse. Backing both plotlines is a pending conflict with the Kane family, with their corporation trying to take over Mama’s building and Ivy’s neighbourhood, and their son being the pain-in-the-ass (read: typical racist and sexist white boy) chair of the film club. Harleen’s transformation into clown-inspired Harley Quinn begins as a protest against the film club, but escalates when a brick is thrown through the window of Mama’s drag venue and Harleen takes revenge into her own hands. She’s not a girl to take things sitting down (already shown in flashbacks as having a criminal record and a penchant for taking down assholes), but when encouraged in her bad(ass) behaviour by a mysterious “Joker” character we can see the beginnings of how Harley Quinn could legit end up as bad news. For a YA-level graphic novel, Tamaki tackles some serious mileage in terms of storyline, character building, and thematic content, and paired with Steve Pugh’s gorgeously moody artwork, this book seriously exceeded my expectations. I haven’t actually seen a lot of new graphic novel content at this level for quite some time, especially not coming from the major publishers who generally seem content to sit on basic levels of sales rather than push boundaries, so I hope that this pair teams up again or that more talent of this sort makes it through! ( )
  JaimieRiella | Nov 7, 2021 |
*Received via NetGalley for review*

This retelling of Harley Quinn's story thankfully omits the abusive relationship with the Joker and focuses on the girl herself, and young teenager living with drag queens and making friends with Ivy.

Harley is clearly already mentally unstable (and very annoying), dressing up in harlequin makeup whenever she can and regularly skipping school, doing whatever she wants. Ivy the eco-warrior is her only friend, and she latches to her and attempts to encourage her to go bigger and more dangerous. When she eventually meets up with the Joker, we can immediately see why what he offers is so attractive to her, even though she can't trust him.

It's not quite in black-and-white, but rather in a kind of sepia: lots of muted tones and shades of blue and grey, with pops of color here and there, which is effective and arresting. ( )
  Elna_McIntosh | Sep 29, 2021 |
For more reviews and bookish posts please visit: https://www.ManofLaBook.com

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki (illustrated by Steve Pugh) is a graphic novel following Harley’s teenage years. Ms. Tamaki is a playwright, and performer.

Harleen Quinzel is sent to live with her grandmother in Gotham, only to find out she died and instead she finds MAMA, a drag queen. MAMA becomes Harleen’s family, and the neighborhood her home.

A developer is trying to change the character of the neighborhood, which includes kicking out the drag queen cabaret. Together with Ivy, a high-school friend, Harleen becomes a motivated to take action.

This title presents Harley and The Joker in their teenage incarnation. A strange choice for two criminal characters in an abusive relationship, which are by no means kid friendly.

Obviously, Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki (illustrated by Steve Pugh) is not meant for old farts like myself. My teenage daughter, however, loved it. The dialogue is snappy, and a good social justice cause is something most teens are interested in.

Word of warning: this graphic novel is not in the DC Comics canon, meaning it’s not part of the official story-line. The author takes many liberties, and the reader has to simply enjoy the ride. The characters are established quickly, in a quirky and fun way, however still different from the ones fans know.

This book could be part of the DC Elseworlds publications, and would have most likely caused less confusion if it would have been published that way. The narrative and art are imaginative, distinctive, and correspondingly absorbing.

By all means, the creative team certainly understand the dramatis personae they are writing about. For example, the relationship between Harley and Ivy, while not canon, nevertheless keeps the same balance. I enjoyed the slightly different takes on the characters. Especially Harley, who is not the insane, lovestruck, and unhinged maniac she is in the official canon.
But she’s not a doctor either – so there’s that as well.

The art was very good, I enjoyed the muted color tones, but the lettering was a bit difficult to read. That being said, once again, it’s not meant for these old eyes. ( )
  ZoharLaor | Jul 19, 2021 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Mariko Tamakiprimary authorall editionscalculated
Pugh, SteveIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Listen up, 'cuz I'm going to tell you this really great story and you're gonna love it.
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With just five dollars and a knapsack to her name, fifteen-year-old Harleen Quinzel is sent to live in Gotham City. She's not worried, though--she's battled a lot of hard situations as a kid, and knows her determination and outspokenness will carry her through life in the most dangerous city in the world. And when Gotham's finest drag queen, Mama, takes her in, it seems like Harley has finally found a place to grow into her most "true true" with new best friend Ivy at Gotham High. But when Mama's drag cabaret becomes the next victim in the wave of gentrification that's taking over the neighborhood, Harley gets mad. She decides to turn her anger into action and is faced with two choices: join activist Ivy, who's campaigning to make the neighborhood a better place to live, or join her anarchist friend Joker, who plans to take down Gotham one corporation at a time. From Eisner Award and Caldecott Honor-winning author Mariko Tamaki (This One Summer) and Eisner Award-nominated artist Steve Pugh comes a coming-of-age story about choices, consequences, and how a weird kid from Gotham goes about defining her world for herself.

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