One of the most common things I hear about from following professionals in the comic industry is the crunch time that artists have to endure. This can also be the case for writers – god knows I struggle with writer’s block with half of my reviews – but with illustrators that need a certain amount of time to accomplish their best work, the time constraints that are composed on them can be a real detriment to both their work and their personal lives. It’s why Jason Fabok went from a monthly Justice League book to infrequent one-shots, and now has spent over a year working on Three Jokers. I don’t blame any artist for wanting as much time as they need to finish a product, and it’s a shame that deadlines often come first before a person’s work or health.

This is not to say that Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy necessarily is suffering from this – I don’t know the story of the creators behind it. That said, I’d understand and sympathise if it was the case: it’s been less than a month since issue 4, and I really think I’d appreciate the book a little more if it had some more time dedicated to crafting, refining and polishing it.

I don’t have an awful lot to say about this issue that I haven’t said before – I think this will make for a genuinely enjoyable trade where the whole is a little more satisfying than the sum of its parts, but going from issue to issue makes the story suffer for me. I built up a lot of expectations on the book in its initial issue, and perhaps it was too much to expect from a simple road trip story. Even so, I don’t think playing it safe like this book does can really make the outcome anything more than solid, even if it were polished to perfection. That said, when the story began, seeing Ivy in such a vulnerable state made me believe we would see a more vulnerable version of her, but that concept has been largely dropped; unless the legitimately intriguing final page is hinting at further exploration of the concept in the next installment. Meanwhile, Harley’s writing is relatively fine, and despite some duds, she does have several genuinely funny lines in the issue.

I’m mainly disappointed that the relationship between Harley and Ivy doesn’t really go beyond the two of them being “great friends trying to be heroes together”. I’ve mentioned before that I’d appreciate this book a little more if it showcased their relationship, but we’re on the penultimate issue and I don’t think I see that happening at this point. Their attempts at heroism are also interesting and make for a decent through-line for this issue in particular, though I’m hoping to see one of them come to a more definitive conclusion about their place in the world. So far, Harley has been attempting to be a hero the best she can, with Ivy playing along for Harley’s sake – which has remained relatively unchanged since issue one. Batwoman’s guest appearance doesn’t offer much, but is a nice contrast against the other two attempting to fill a hero’s shoes. She also provides probably the funniest line in the issue!

Overall, though, the writing is about on par with the rest of the story, despite feeling a little slower than usual. Most of it seems like buildup to the final issue, where the confrontation and resolution of the plot will come into play. The main downside of this issue is that I just don’t feel the art is up to the standard of previous chapters.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I really like Adriana Melo’s work! I think her art in issues 1 and 4 in particular had some great moments, but I don’t know if I can say the same here. In a lot of pages, poses feel a little bit off, mouths feel slightly askew, and expressions don’t always line up with what the writing is trying to convey. This set of panels is a pretty good example of all three:

That’s not to say there aren’t some great panels in this issue! Some of the work on Ivy is particularly well-done, especially at the end. That said, the ending also represents a good example of the book feeling somewhat rushed. Spoilers ahead:

Spoiler

In the penultimate panel of the issue, we see Poison Ivy reacting to another version of herself emerging from a flower in Floronic Man’s lair. Throughout the whole issue, Ivy’s lettering has been highlighted with a green border around the text bubbles, until this very panel. If it’s a lettering problem, I’d probably call this nitpicking on my part – but judging by the dialogue and hairstyle in this panel, I’m pretty sure that the character in question is meant to be Harley, and has been coloured to look like Ivy.

Obviously this is not Adriana Melo’s fault, as colors are done by Hi-Fi (whose work I also like!). But in seeing this, I can’t help but think that mistakes like this were made because of the need to push this book out on its designated deadline, and I honestly feel it’s a shame. I’m sure some of this could be corrected in a trade, but it doesn’t change how I feel about this issue as it stands.

To clarify, I don’t want to give this book a negative score, and I will not. I think it’s got a lot going for it: the characters gel very naturally with one another, the premise is charming, Batwoman is a welcome addition as a guest character, and the art style remains easy on the eyes and captivating! My critique does not come from a place of dislike, but a desire to really like this book – frustration of what I want the book to be, rather than what it is. Is that my fault? Maybe; but I don’t think it takes away from where I feel the book can improve, especially if you’re looking to purchase it. If it wants to be a simple adventure book, that’s more than fine! But I think it can improve on that front too, and stories won’t get better if creators don’t consider ways that they can work on them.

Recommended If…

  • The story has been charming to you so far!
  • You’re looking for Harley and Ivy content that’s refreshingly less heavy than Heroes in Crisis.
  • Batwoman interacting with Harley and Ivy is something you’d like to see.

Overall

This book is a good time if you want to relax and read something that’s low-stakes, fun and wholesome – however wholesome former villains turned sort-of-heroes can be. I just don’t think this issue in particular is completely solid, and I hope that the final issue has the development time it needs to be a satisfying conclusion.

Score: 5/10

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Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.