Love Is In The Air: Reviewing ‘Poison Ivy’ #9
by Scott Redmond
There is no doubt that ‘Poison Ivy’ is one of the best comic books being published right now, and this latest issue takes it to even greater levels of amazing. A character exploration and development story through and through, this creative team is pulling out every single stop to create something that will surely be a definitive story for the title character and surely will be seen as a classic story one day.
Ever since the series began, Poison Ivy fans across various mediums have asked about Harley Quinn in numerous ways. Hard to blame them when at long last in recent times the romance between Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy went from heavily pushed subtext to just full-on text. Sure, there were the bits that we saw in the first story arc of Ivy’s visions and memories of Harley as well as Harley getting the letter Ivy had been writing that whole arc, but folks wanted more.
Well, folks, the series has delivered and delivered quite well.
Not only is the dynamic couple back together but we get our usual full creative team back as artist Marcio Takara rejoins G. Willow Wilson, Arif Prianto, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou following the amazing guest work done by Atagun Ilhanin the previous two issues.
I don’t like to say that things are perfect because it’s such a subjective term. One person’s idea of perfect will not match another’s, meaning the word can’t be used as a blanket statement about all things like many people often want to do in conversation. That being said, this is a perfect comic and I’m accepting no arguments to the contrary.
It would have been easy to slip Harley into that first arc and have her there alongside Ivy as she struggled but in one way it was Harley that helped put Ivy in the spot that left her so broken as the series began (she merged two parts of Ivy together again for love). Instead, Wilson made the (correct, imo) decision to focus solely on Ivy so that she could develop the character and help Ivy get back to a healthier place (for both her and for humanity since she uh, wanted to wipe them out and all). Now that Ivy has a new mission and even found a new friend along the way, that rescued her before she helped rescue them medically, throwing the former clown princess of crime into the mix brings a fresh infusion of energy and insight to the whole situation.
There is no big action piece or threat or anything here, it’s just pure character/relationship development and a love story. Issues like this are sorely needed far more often in the big comic book runs, because it’s the characters and their lives that keep us coming back. Sure, we dig the action and costumes and world stakes and all that, but we can get that stuff in tons of places these days. Our love for these characters and how they mesh or interact is a key that keeps us hooked on this medium and what it can offer. Wilson completely understands that and dives right into the heart of the matter and takes us on this amazing journey with Harley and Ivy. Harley playing the logical rock to Ivy here, pulling on her psychiatrist background (and proudly calling out her Ph.D. here, as she should!), just works so well as their relationship is one that even through all the ups and downs is loving, solid, and built around care.
This is just pure character emotional goodness, oozing out of every single page and panel, and if you couldn’t tell I loved every bit of it. Having Takara and Prianto back together has the issue singing because they naturally make all these character/emotional moments not only work but explode on the page. Every issue so far has been chock full of ecological horror moments, but those are dialed back all the way in this issue. Takara captures every emotion from these characters flawlessly, allowing us to soak in those emotions as we behold these characters on their journey from reunion to parting once more (but parting with an understanding of where they are and will be going).
We’ve seen what the Lamina spores can do with their trippy effect, usually something quite horrifying, but the way that Takara depicts Harley’s journey through them and the color choices that Prianto makes here turn something we were shown as scary previously into something beautiful. Out of all characters Harley is best suited to take a glance into this altered world that Ivy can see, her mindset already having been altered, as she can see it with loving joyful eyes and gives Ivy someone to share this beauty and joy with. These scenes are so bright and shiny with vivid popping colors, reflective of the characters as they are in a state of bliss at this moment.
We can feel the overall lightness through every page because the colors carry that energy. Rather than having heavier colors with some shadows mixed into the vividness, to create that horrifying aspect needed, this one sees far brighter vivid colors with generous outside light playing in. That comes from the location and the daytime they are mostly in, but also, they say that love can light up a room and that’s definitely true on this occasion.
We can feel and see what Ivy is going through here but Otsmane-Elhaou has the task of making sure we hear it as well. A giant chunk of the lettering in this issue comes from Ivy’s captions, as she narrates about her love and feelings and what she is going through, allowing the imagery sort of speak for itself. Our eyes follow the staggered and spread-around boxes and even the speech bubbles where we find them, in a logical way that makes sure our gaze falls upon every bit of the artwork. It’s a tremendous partnership, just like the characters of the issue.
There is a ton of really good lettering out there that achieves the goal of making sure we accurately hear a character as we’re reading, but Otsmane-Elhaou has to be at the top of the list of great lettering. It is inherently clear what tone or emotion is in play because of the way that he handles that text. Whispered or muttered stuff is done in sentence case to set it apart, while also shrinking it and making the balloons sort of rougher, while normal speech is done in the all-caps sort of style. Drop some bolds and font sized up a couple of levels and bam, the character is upset or yelling or dropping a louder exclamation of some kind. These little changes might seem small in some cases but they are huge because of how much they change the way one can read a moment so that we do not have to guess how something is being said, we just instantly know.
Poison Ivy #9 is now available in print and digitally from DC Comics.