Bats On The Brain: Reviewing ‘Poison Ivy’ #5
by Scott Redmond
‘Poison Ivy’ is a hauntingly beautiful terrifying nightmarish peek into the mind of one of the best DC Comics villains as she struggles to complete her deadly mission against humanity while struggling with love and trauma, and the conscience that she tries to fight against. Every element of this series is just clicking and knowing that there will be a whole new story-line beyond the next one is fantastic, because this is a series everyone needs to be reading right away.
There are a variety of theories about the idea of confronting one’s trauma and returning to where it all began in order to move forward. When that trauma includes two botanically enhanced individuals, one of which suffered at the hands of the other, things are surely going to get pretty messy.
Poison Ivy has not shied away from the darkness of our world as Pamela Isley moved through the world on a mission to wipe out all of humanity, herself included. Following her time in a major corporate packing/distribution warehouse where she murdered a harassing/assaulting boss, Ivy is headed back to her beginnings to at last confront and put an end to Doctor Jason Woodrue/The Green Man/Florinic Man who was the one that changed her against her will so long ago.
It’s not a surprise at all that G. Willow Wilson manages to easily juggle the darkness, horror, human aspects, and even the comedy that make up this series. Ivy is dying as the spores she is using to kill everyone are tearing her mind and body apart, and those horrific hallucinations she’s enduring are not great. Yet, we get a bit of humor coming from the fact that Ivy and Batman have a sort of team-up in this issue because it’s Batman that she envisions as the voice in her head pushing her along and stating the obvious to her.
Sure this is a good gag, that it’s him of all people that she envisions, but it also is a really great element to add because it speaks to the depth of Batman’s impact on those he’s fought against or alongside over the years (much as we see their impact on him all the time in his stories). Because it’s just the way my mind works, I dove even deeper into what this vision of Batman really means for Ivy at this moment.
One thing we know about Batman and his relationship with his rogues is that while they see him as an antagonist they also have a bit of respect for the powerful force that he is. Just think about the classic beloved episode of Batman: The Animated Series titled ‘Almost Got ‘Im‘ where the gathered rogues are regaling one another with tales of how close they came to killing Batman. None of them have or seemingly can defeat him and they know that so to them the bragging comes from who came closest to defeating this strong powerful force that seems to always be there to stop whatever their crime or scheme of the day might be.
So Batman equals strength and tenacity and annoyance in many ways. At this moment we’re witnessing Ivy’s attempts to deal with Woodrue and the pain that he has caused her. Ivy is a powerful and fierce force of her own, but going to confront something that scarred and traumatized you is hard, so it’s not wild that her mind would put out a vision of a source of strength (even animosity can be a strength).
Previously we saw her having visions of Harley, and while there is undeniably a major strength to her relationship with Harley, there is also love. There is also no denying that love is a powerful strong force of its own, but it has other effects. Namely here that love and caring are the emotions that are causing Ivy to waver some in her mission and guide her to connect to others along the way. That’s not what she needs to access at this moment facing her trauma, thus why the voice within her head takes the form of Batman and what he represents.
Marcio Takara and Arif Prianto continue to do something truly gorgeous yet horrifying and powerful all at the same time with each and every issue. All of Ivy’s hallucinations are wild with panels doing all kinds of things that are beyond the so-called norm, speaking to the increasingly frenzied state of being that she finds herself in currently. There are plenty of panels that have a great depth of detail for the world, but there are tons of others that just perfectly are backgroundless to allow the focus to be fully on the characters in the story and what they are doing at any given moment. Action or dialogue scenes, it doesn’t matter, they all are cleverly put together and allow everything to flow smoothly using a variety of close-ups or wide shots to give us an in-depth view of emotions or moments (even some really grotesque but not overly gross ones).
All of this is elevated by the colors that Prianto spreads through the pages which shift from bright and vivid and whimsical to dark and heavy and toned down. All of the hallucination scenes and some of the outside/real-world ones are lit well and the splashes of colors stand out well. As mentioned above there are panels that have no background details and what takes their place are sploatches or full splashes of a variety of colors from bright oranges to stark grays and even just white backgrounds, all allowing the character moments or actions to take the focus.
None of the heaviness is ever lost, no matter how colorful things are, as together they make sure that we feel the growing impending doom that is following Ivy through this adventure. We see and feel her power, her fear, and acceptance, and the colors are shifted back and forth as she and Woodrue struggle for control, a struggle that he ultimately (for the time being) wins.
They’re not the only ones on art this issue though as Brian Level handles the first eight pages with Stefano Gaudiano inking them with Prianto on the colors. These pages are the first of the hallucination/flashback ones, and they very much match the nightmarish but hauntingly beautiful tone that had been set by Takara and Prianto previously. In a way Level’s art is even more terrifying as there is a roughness and a sort of elongation effect going on, as we get many of the first views right from Ivy’s perspective with Woodrue of the past lording over her. All the panels are shifted around in interesting ways, making way for a grotesque powerful full-page spread that is just a sight to behold.
Matching that energy beat for beat is Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou on the lettering killing it as usual. One type of tone is set right away with the journal entry captions we have from Ivy throughout the issue, which stands perfectly alongside the far more wild tone that comes from some of the text bubbles on the page. There is great work in display to make sure that tone or volume is clear with the way that the font changes shape or size, or having it sort of fade out or warp to indicate that reality is shifting or something unnatural is occurring on the page. Batman’s bubbles have an almost old-school sort of feeling but also out of this world aspect to them, and in some cases have great color to them, which is really fun. I like how Otsmane-Elhaou mixes sentence and capital case, using the former as whispers and the latter as a more normal baseline volume as it gives a great visual distinction when assessing volume/tone at any point.
Poison Ivy #5 is now available from DC Comics