Batman ’66 #26: “Poison Ivy’s Deadly Kiss/Batman’s Aim Must Not Miss!”
Written by Jeff Parker
Illustrated by Jesse Hamm
Colored by Kelly Fitzpatrick
Lettered by Wes Abbott
This has been quite a year for villain introductions in Batman ’66. From the phenomenal debut of Lord Death Man back in March, False Face’s retooling as Clayface, Harley Quinn’s introduction last month, and Bane next month, the creative teams on this book have brought inspired interpretations of some of the most notably absent, beloved characters in the ’66 lore. Some characters make sense as to why they weren’t included in the show’s original run: Clayface just would not work at all on the budget they had, Lord Death Man is still relatively obscure to this day let alone back in the Sixties, and Harley and Bane hadn’t been created yet.
Then there’s Poison Ivy.
For a casual fan, the absence of Pamela Isley might seem strange; after all, she is one of Batman’s most notable villains, female or not, easily ranking near the top as a recognized character in his rogues gallery. In recent years alone, she has had one of the best episodes of the animated series that still stands as the definitive take on Batman for an entire generation or two, featured in a major motion picture, and has even starred in books including Gotham City Sirens and Birds of Prey. That’s not even mentioning her friendship with Harley Quinn, which has become one of the most beloved and recognized teams in comics history.
So why was she never on the show? Well, considering the series premiered in 1966 and Ivy wasn’t introduced in the comics until June of that same year, it’s easy to see why she wasn’t ever included. Granted, there were some fairly obscure comic book villains that did make the cut (I’m looking at you, Archer and Puzzler), but the show already introduced one brand new character to much fanfare, so another may have been overshadowed.
Thankfully, that’s what we have this comic for: to introduce and use new characters and concepts that wouldn’t or couldn’t have worked on television. So how does Ivy’s introduction into the mythos stack up? Read on, Batfans!
Louie the Lilac, that pompous purple-hued purveyor of perfume, is dead. For a series that typically sees the bad guys end up in jail at the very worst, such a macabre opening is fairly surprising. But what’s this?! A kiss on the cheek? Could that be a clue as to the mysterious cause of Louie’s untimely demise?
While the police book the Lilac’s goon, Batman and Robin run some tests in the Batcave. The findings… are startling.
Batman discovers that the lipstick on Louie’s cheek contained a chemical from a rare bush that, when absorbed through the skin, can be deadly.
You know where this is going.
The Dynamic Duo head to police headquarters to question Macurdy, Louie’s crony, and we get to see Chief O’Hara play bad cop. It’s amazing.
Louie, you see, would always come back from his supply runs with custard. With “this being America,” as Robin puts it in one of his amazing lines this issue, that’s hardly a clue, as there are custard stands everywhere. Batman, the World’s Greatest Detective and “Good Cop” for once, deduces that there is only one supplier of said frozen treat that would still be open late into the night on Louie’s runs. It also happens to be next to an abandoned nursery.
You know where this is going.
At the Isley Nursery, Bruce reminisces about the days when he and his mother would visit the establishment and interact with the titular esteemed botanists, as well as their red-haired daughter Pamela, who Bruce seemed to get particularly awkward around. As it turns out, Ivy’s father accidentally pricked himself with the nettles of a particularly poisonous plant, which caused both his health and their business to go under. The family moved south and the nursery was closed, which in Gotham just means that it’s a perfect lair for plant-themed villains.
Wouldn’t you know that’s exactly what happens. Ivy, as it happens, has inoculated herself against poisonous plants and decides that she needn’t stop there and aims to master all flora and fauna. It’s… an interesting take on the character. The theme is consistent, as well as the immunity to toxins, but where Isley has long been established as an environmentalist who takes things to the absolute extreme, here she’s effectively a bank robber who also happens to like plants. Granted, pretty much every villain in this universe is “a bank robber who also happens to _____”, so it’s not that shocking of a change.
What didn’t quite work with me is recasting her as a Southern Belle. She speaks in slang like “y’all” and calls Batman “babydoll.” I appreciate that Parker was trying to do something different, but I felt like this personality would have worked better with, say, Roxy Rocket. With Ivy, the Southern charms don’t quite work, and it doesn’t help that I kept hearing her lines in the voice of either Dolly Parton or Lurleen Lumpkin.
But I digress. Ivy’s whole plot, as it is, is to… steal jewels and rob banks, I guess. While being the Queen of Plants, of course. She winds up at the Meow Wow Wow, Catwoman’s old night club, and decides to cut a rug when Batman and Robin attempt to apprehend her.
This is the funnest scene in the book, and has another amazing line from Robin (“Sop Go-Going me, miss– I have to help Batman!”), but it just makes everything else feel disjointed. The issue is far from terrible, but the action seems to go from setpiece to setpiece rather than having a truly connected plot. It also just kind of ends abruptly, but at least it ties back in to the “death” of Louie.
That said, this is a great issue to look at. The green of Ivy’s costume has always been good to add a nice splash of color to even the dullest page, and that’s just as true here. Kelly Fitzpatrick gets some nice shading done on even the smallest of panels, and it’s bright and easy on the eyes even for this series’ standards. Some of Hamm’s panels look a little rushed or lacking in detail, but he draws some great faces and does some really impressive perspective work. He also plays around with panels and layouts really well, especially in the fight in the night club scene.
It’s as fun as this book has ever been, and the attempt to recast Ivy as a Southern charmer as opposed to a sultry vamp is at least admirable, but it just didn’t quite work. Even then, I’d love to see more of Poison Ivy in these pages, as she is charming indeed.
- You love this take on Batman.
- You like Poison Ivy.
- You want to see reinterpretations of classic characters.
- You just want to have a good time for 30 or so pages.
Overall: One of the weakest issues from this book this year, it still isn’t bad, and considering how strong it’s been in recent months a little lag is understandable. This isn’t the Poison Ivy I’m acquainted with and it’s not how I would have written the character, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad, just different. This remains one of my favorite books I’ve ever read, let alone get to read here, and the mere fact that Parker and crew are willing to have fun and take risks makes it worth coming back to each month.