So, I’m three issues into this series, written by Jodie Houser and illustrated by Adriana Melo – and it’s now the longest-running series I’ve reviewed so far! Three issues may not seem like much (because it isn’t), but to me it’s been a big learning experience in how to handle longer stories, rather than graphic novels or standalone tales. I was very proud with how I tackled issue 1, and I was overjoyed to see that the creators liked the review!
(Well, they liked a Twitter post about it which really means nothing, but still.)
That made it even more difficult when I found myself giving issue 2 an average score; but the experience taught me about how to critique a piece of art without insulting the people who put hard work into it. (Plus, I didn’t put any plant puns in my second review, so who’s the real villain here?)
Throughout this process, my relationship with the series itself grew. At first, I thought it’d be an in-depth exploration of Harley and Ivy’s relationship (note that I do NOT say friendship), with the fun premise of a road trip to keep some brevity in the story. By the second issue, I hadn’t been swayed; merely under the impression that this story was being told ineffectively. After reading the first few pages of this issue, I’ve decided I need to change my perception of what this series is.
The opening of the issue begins with exactly what I’ve wanted to see from the series: a look into how Poison Ivy is feeling. Heroes in Crisis did a number on Ivy’s physical and mental state, and she had never really recovered from what she was in “therapy” for in the first place. She has a lot of problems to deal with, and when we see Ivy’s narration on the first page, there was a moment where I thought we’d see her handling it.
Unfortunately, that’s most of what we get regarding Ivy’s introspection. True to her usual form of “completely forgetting she’s a trained therapist”, Harley rejects the notion of tackling what Ivy is dealing with, and instead opts for consulting the Mad Hatter on a mind machine that could get her groove back. That goes about as well as you could expect – the rest of the issue is dedicated to Harley and Ivy getting out of that scrape, and continuing on their joyride across the country. It’s a shame to see them avoid a path with such potential, but the sting isn’t as painful this issue; mainly because it’s a fun read regardless. Anything special? No, but it doesn’t have to be special to be good. Poison Ivy is a great example; just because she isn’t being psychoanalyzed doesn’t mean she doesn’t steal the scenes she’s in, particularly in the latter half of the issue. Ivy may be a rather passive player right now, but that changes the moment Harley is in danger; watching her transformation, both mentally and physically, into Harley’s guardian angel, is a genuine good time; a benefit of sidelining Ivy for half the issue is that I can’t help but smile when she pulls out all the stops in the second half.
Harley is handled well too; Houser doesn’t force any jokes that don’t feel natural in the moment, so while Harley doesn’t do much that we haven’t seen in the first two issues, she brings a natural charm to her scenes without having to chew each panel all to herself. I definitely get the feeling like Harley’s more her Batman: The Animated Series self, which is a Catch 22; Harley has developed as a character since then, but that show had a winning formula with her. I honestly can’t blame Houser for sticking to what clearly works, in regards to Quinn’s writing style. Hatter comes off less impressively; he’s not spouting all of the same one-liners we always hear when Hatter’s in a story, but it’s not leaps and bounds ahead of the norm. He gets a few funny moments in the story, however, and he works as a suitable foil for the titular characters to beat up.
What this all amounts to is a simple story with simple execution; the writing does little in the way of going beyond the base premise, but it does what it says on the tin, and I appreciate its honesty in that respect.
Credit where credit is due though; Adriana Melo brings a lot to the table, and her work really is what carries this issue! If you’ve read my previous reviews on this series, you’ll know I’ve enjoyed her playful style, but had mixed feelings on her faces and character posing. There is a marked improvement to ALL of this in issue #3, and while not perfect, you really get the sense that Melo is refining the difficult art of penciling a monthly book. Her experience with Plastic Man is nothing to scoff at by any means, but in comparing her work in issue #1 to this issue, I couldn’t find a single pose I was dissatisfied with. Every movement felt dynamic, impactful and well-suited for the panel, which was my main criticism in the first two issues. I’ll use this spread of Poison Ivy as an example: not only because it has some great action poses and some effective visual storytelling – with Ivy gaining more and more “armor” as she destroys the Hatter’s creations – but also because Melo clearly enjoys drawing Ivy, and that comes across on the page!
If the art remains at this quality, I’ll be satisfied; if it continues to improve, I’ll be delighted.
There’s a particular moment in the story I’d like to discuss, and it’s one that speaks to both this comic’s biggest strength and biggest flaw: the relationship with Harley and Ivy. Their interaction in this scene – and indeed, the entire comic so far – isn’t particularly substantial. Ivy plays a mostly quiet role in the story while Harley does what Harley does. But then, we see a little sign – if only a small one – that Ivy appreciates their relationship just as much as Quinn. It’s a shame to see their interactions so restricted, and is a reminder of the potential I feel is being squandered – but when we see that connection, especially at the end of this issue, it becomes very rewarding.
Issue to issue, it reads a little too standard for my taste – but in a collected edition, I can see this being a well-liked read for fans of both characters. It’s not particularly deep, but maybe I shouldn’t have expected that; it’s not trying to be, and that’s perfectly fine.
…That said, Ivy has kissed Mad Hatter more times than she’s kissed Harley in this comic, which seems insane to me.
- You’re looking for what is essentially a “comeback” for Poison Ivy.
- Harley and Ivy are a relationship that you’re invested in! Some really cute moments in this issue.
- Mad Hatter is your favourite villain…? Do you guys exist?
- You enjoy a simple, fun, and rather wholesome – if so far, very disposable – tale with charming characters.
Reviewing this series has actually been one of the most challenging tasks I’ve had on this website so far: in finding new things to say about each issue, addressing critiques in a constructive manner, and establishing how I score my reviews. This is not a fantastic series, but it’s in no ways a bad one either. It walks that nebulous middle ground that’s hard to rate… but not hard to recommend if you have some spare time and love the characters. If you don’t? We’ll see how the full miniseries pans out.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.