When I received my copy of Poison Ivy #2, I was very cautious. I’m not saying the first issue was the best thing I’ve ever read in comics, but it was really a breath of fresh air– in a day and age when comic book characters have gone through so many changes and mischaracterization– to finally feel Ivy has come back into her own. It was like seeing an old friend again. But I know comics. You can pick up the first issue of a new title and it will be amazing, and then the next issue can immediately nosedive in quality, ruining the entire series. Does the second issue of Poison Ivy do that? Let’s take a look.
The second issue, disappointedly, does not do a lot to move the story forward. Instead, it’s almost entirely set in a café with Ivy thinking about herself and her relationship with the world and the humans in it.
Right off the bat, remember how I said that I hoped this Ivy series wouldn’t just become about Ivy’s relationship with Harley again, and how I complained that the first issue was already focusing on that relationship too much? Well, jokes on me, because the very first page in this comic is a big spread of Harley and Ivy together, romantically. It IS drawn with amazing art, with Marcio Takara continuing to prove he’s the perfect artist for an Ivy book, along with colors by Arif Prianto. I love how all of the flashbacks are shaded with warm colors: yellows, oranges, etc. They always emphasize the burning emotions Ivy is having towards the past. Whether it’s a comforting moment with Harley, the violence Ivy would deal out to her enemies, or the rage she feels against her powers being taken away from her.
Back to Harley though, I continue to struggle with how much she defines Ivy’s character now. She lives rent-free in Ivy’s head in this comic, with her every thought being directed at Harley, and even wearing a necklace with Harley’s triple diamond symbol on it. If we’re going to overshadow an Ivy solo book with her relationship with Harley, however, I might as well explore, further, why the relationship doesn’t work for me. Going back to Harley and Ivy’s first meeting, all the way back, 30 years ago in Batman: the Animated Series, why did Ivy care about Harley over any other human being? It was ultimately over sympathy for Harley being an abused woman who didn’t seem to even know how to help herself. Essentially: it was pity. It can be argued that Ivy might see a lot of her old self in Harley, since she was once taken advantage of by Jason Woodrue for his experiments, which is what made her Poison Ivy. But the thing is, having sympathy or empathy for someone is not the same as putting them on a pedestal. Ivy said in the last issue, if there’s one person in the world who deserves the beauty of the world, it’s Harley. What? Harley’s never really been a great person, and once again, Ivy cared for her because she felt sorry for her, not because Harley, single handedly, did anything to prove the human race is really valuable.
I know it’s an unpopular opinion right now, but I’ve never been able to buy Ivy’s recent desperate love for Harley. In fact, I see the relationship as something Harley fans wanted, because they saw Ivy as the best relationship option FOR Harley. But it really doesn’t matter if the relationship came about for the sake of Ivy’s character or not: it’s no doubt why this comic got greenlit in the first place. Only after tens of thousands of hearts and retweets given to every Harley/Ivy post on twitter did DC dare give Ivy another book. While G. Willow Wilson definitely seems like she wants to address the other controversies around Ivy’s character, this comic does feel like another thinly veiled Harley/Ivy story.
But let’s talk about how G. Willow Wilson is dealing with those controversies around Ivy’s character, and it definitely seems that she’s aware of them. These controversies have mostly been seen on twitter, but one of them has been whether or not Ivy eats meat or plants, and Wilson comes out swinging on that controversy, giving Ivy a lengthy monologue on how she’s a carnivore, and the substitutes vegans eat actual end up harming plants when they think they are helping. Dang, those are fighting words! But I appreciate how strongly Wilson came out in addressing that little part of Ivy’s character.
I also loved the flashback sequence of Ivy yelling at Gardner for interfering and taking away her powers. It does very well to show the different layers of Ivy’s character. A part of her is self-righteous as she seeks to “save the earth” by destroying it’s worst oppressors: human beings. And since Ivy is now human herself, she believes that she must be killed off as well. But, according to the flashback, there is an honestly selfish part of Ivy that simply misses the power she once had. It speaks to a more sinister and selfish side of Ivy, one that she’s never really honest about. She enjoyed having the power to mutilate her enemies at will, even just dumb men who would hit on her. She enjoyed having the power to create her own paradises and, I suppose, the feeling that she was connected and important when it came to protecting the green.
But a problem with all of this still persists and gets bigger in this issue. It’s a lot of talk about Ivy’s inner workings rather than really pushing the narrative forward, but the book still struggles with whether it wants to define Ivy as a hero or a villain. What is key in this chapter is that Ivy meets people: a poet/thief and a friendly café manager, etc., who remind her that some humans can be very redeemable, but she’s consistently resolute in her mind that they should be killed for the greater good. She even makes sure to plant her fungus inside them so that they will eventually die, though she rationalizes it will be painless. So what am I supposed to make of this? It’s like the story wanted to plant seeds for Ivy changing her mind on her suicide course by making her help some humans and be reminded of humankind’s redeeming qualities, but that’s totally ruined by having her so callously let the people go to their deaths which she herself caused. Near the end of the story, she gets into her van, revealing she’s kept the fungi corpses of two of her pervious victims, whom she talks to by name as if she’s Norman Bates. Am I supposed to sympathize with Ivy or be horrified by her?
Of course, I’m wondering if the point of this is that we’re hearing everything from Ivy’s insane mind, and from that perspective her rationale wouldn’t make any sense at all. But I get more of the feeling that this is more confusion on DC’s part on how they want to execute Ivy’s character, but it’s rather too late for a reception arc with how heinous her actions have been in this book thus far.
- You see Poison Ivy as “Harley’s Girlfriend”
- You want to see where the “who is Poison Ivy” debate leads next
- Marcio Takara’s lush, floral artwork would go great in your collection
Poison Ivy #2 is less a big advancement to the story and more of a musing over who Ivy’s character is, taking into consideration how she’s seen by many today. Wilson still generally has a good voice for Ivy, but some story missteps make me wonder if this miniseries will ultimately be worthwhile.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News a free copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.