Tamaki, Mariko. Art by Steve Pugh. Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass. DC Comics, 2019. 196p. ISBN: 9781401283292. $16.99. MS HS *****
Harleen Quinzel has been sent to live with her grandmother in Gotham City while her mom works a yearlong shift on a cruise ship. Harleen quickly figures out that her grandmother has long since passed and calls upon the kindness of Mama, an older drag queen, who has been living at her grandmother’s address for some time. Mama and her fellow drag queens take Harleen in on the condition that she stays in school. There she meets Ivy, a girl whose parents are local activists and who also run the neighborhood garden. Neighborhood tensions are kicked up as Gotham property moguls, the Kane family, starts to buy up housing and businesses. Ivy’s garden and Mama’s drag show are both threatened by buy ups as an anonymous terrorist threatens the value of properties. Harleen, with her own sense of justice, tries her best to keep gentrification of her adopted neighborhood at bay while trying to figure out the intentions of a masked man who calls himself The Joker.
Harley Quinn’s origin story, how she got to Gotham, what dictates her thought process, and how she ends up with her namesake are all sweet and fun. Tamaki writes a plausible story, all while making the concept of gentrification, without naming it, accessible to middle grade and teen readers. The character designs are beautiful and detailed, though the color pallet is simplified. Facial expressions are spectacular and tell a lot about each character’s intention without having to spell it out with dialog. I highly recommend this graphic novel for older middle grade readers as well as high school readers.
-Jessica Lundin, San Jose Public Library