How would you define the relationship between Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy? Would you consider it a friendship? A romance? I’ve made my thoughts on the matter pretty clear, but it’s not a completely fixed concept. It certainly began as a friendship in the storyboards of Batman: The Animated Series, and I think different creators have different perceptions of how far things have progressed from there. I like seeing them in a relationship, though – no one understands the other better, and they have a natural chemistry that’s neither forced nor purposeless. They come from vastly different perspectives, but they come together to complement each other. Ultimately, I think the creators of this issue agree with me… but whether it’s an editorial issue or something else, they weren’t able to fully commit to showing their relationship. That said, I think this issue capped off a decent, low-stakes story with a solid and surprisingly high-stakes conclusion.
I’ve discussed this a lot with people in the comments, but the decision to make this series a fairly simple road trip action adventure was, in my opinion, an unwise one; but my enjoyment of the series began to pick up again when Ivy began taking a more active role in the story. Now, with a conclusion all about Ivy, Houser takes some time to explain her decision to initially put Ivy on the backburner, and it does make sense. Without spoiling too much about the comic – seeing as the details of the reveal is one of the biggest reasons why I might suggest reading the issue – Ivy is brimming with personality and charisma, working as not only a compliment to Harley, but an excellent foil. I now wish that we saw more of what we have in this issue, because there’s a surprisingly large amount of potential to be mined with the concept Houser has conceived. Ivy works better than I could have expected as a figure at odds with Harley’s personality and goals, and the way it was handled was so natural that I suddenly wanted it to go on for an extra issue.
The art also deserves serious recognition: while I’ve had plenty of constructive criticism for Adriana Melo’s work, I’ve also wanted to make a point of acknowledging improvements between issues, along with understanding the difficulties of a monthly comic book with a tight schedule. Here, I’d like to focus on the positives: everything I have liked about Melo’s work is prevalent in this issue. For one, Ivy’s absolutely glows in the illustrations depicting her! It’s never been clearer how much Melo enjoys penciling her; her design in this issue is so regal, imposing and appropriate, that I can’t help but hope we see the character embracing more costume decisions like this in the future.
More than that, the body horror in this issue is rather on point. That’s been consistently my favourite part of the series, and I sorely wish someone would consider pursuing a Poison Ivy horror story ala Wytches because of Melo’s work here. While I like this panel, the image below is not my favourite of the creepy images in the issue; but anyone who has read it will understand why I enjoy how beautifully grotesque the climax was, almost reminiscent of The Thing.
Really, though, I wanted to get these comments out of the way so I could discuss the crux of this issue: what does it say about Harley and Ivy’s relationship?
When I put a gaydar in the beginning of this series of reviews, I was only half kidding; I didn’t expect them to go anywhere new with their relationship, but the acknowledgement of what their relationship is would have been nice. Melo and Houser make it abundantly clear that this relationship is, ultimately, built on love: the love Harley has for Ivy, and the love that Ivy can’t help but return. I agree with this! While I want their relationship to be romantic, the most important part of the story is the bond that holds these two together: a bond of, despite everything, understanding, camaraderie, and passion.
…That said, you can NOT tell me the picture on the bottom right is remotely heterosexual.
What makes it especially frustrating is that it felt like the entire series was building up towards a kiss. There’s a scene just before the climax of the story where Harley and Ivy get one final moment of solitude with one another, giving them a brief moment of time to clear the air with each other. The two know what’s about to happen, they’re both crying, leaning in with their faces close together, and we turn to see a splash page of…
…Ivy tilting her head up into a forehead kiss.
S m e k.
I honestly can’t imagine either Houser or Melo were keen on this, frankly, queerbaiting, as I have admired both of their works outside of this project. Then again, I could be wrong – maybe it’s too presumptuous to blame it this on editorial. Whatever the case, I can’t disapprove more of whoever elected to end the comic with this fakeout. We have seen Harley and Ivy kiss in other material, but those moments either exist in alternate worlds or the convoluted reality of the Harley Quinn comic. When faced with the opportunity to show this couple being a couple, DC has frankly balked, and it’s honestly a shame when the rest of the issue felt so genuine.
It’s not enough to sour my enjoyment of the book, mind you. This issue managed to stick the landing to a series that I had my doubts in, and ending the series on a higher note like this was great to see – even if it perhaps didn’t bring us everything it should have.
- You’re interested in seeing what made me change my mind about this book!
- Ivy’s complexity appeals to you, and you’re looking for more of that in her portrayals.
- You want a solid ending to a collection of mishaps from America’s dream couple.
This book has had a series of ups and downs for me, but it also means a lot on a personal level: this is the first series I have reviewed to its conclusion, for better or for worse (better!). I have to thank Jodie Houser and Adriana Melo for giving me so much to talk about, and for being incredibly kind enough as to notice my review of their first issue together. I can’t give this book a strong recommendation, but if you’re looking for an extended episode of Batman: The Animated Series that stars these two and manages to stick the landing, you can’t find much better than this.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provides Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.