This is it. The issue I’ve been waiting for since the Poison Ivy series began. The issue that will answer the question, is Ivy a hero or a villain? What direction does DC want Ivy to go in next? Will that direction disappoint?
Well, I unfortunately have to say that it does disappoint. How could this be? After all, I’ve been pretty positive on the series for the majority of its run, how could the finale let me down so much? Well, let me break it down.
Ivy’s Character is Confused (Again)
We pick up with Ivy at the mercy of Jason Woodrue (the Floronic Man). Ivy, leaning into the suicidal thoughts she’s been having for the entire series, feels she might as well let him win. However, once Woodrue threatens to hurt Harley (with some terribly on-the-nose dialogue) Ivy gets her second wind. (There is something very wrong with this catharsis, but I’ll talk about that in my “Harley” section).
Ivy then undergoes a 180 degree turn and all of a sudden regains strength and a new perception on the world around her. The world is not a totally dark place. There ARE good people around. Ivy realizes this as she thinks of all the good people she’s met on her journey…
…that she has mostly killed.
I hope everyone realizes the problem here. Ivy is being treated as a “chaotic good” character, someone who was doing everything for the greater good and merely needed to have her eyes opened to see that some people are worth saving. However, Ivy has killed so many innocent people. She killed farmers who were just trying to save their animals from her, and then she carried the farmer’s corpses around in the back of her van! She made friends with a cute poet/thief at the diner whom she also poisoned and killed. Luckily, she did not kill the co-worker she hooked up with, but that was overshadowed by the fact that she cheated on Harley with her (which this comic confirms was cheating, as Harley and Ivy are confirmed to still be “girlfriends”). With almost every nice person that Ivy has met, she has left with the solid resolve to still kill them. If not, she would leave some kind of dark shadow over their interaction.
Poison Ivy THINKS she has always been in the right, and that is accurate to how her character has always been portrayed. She describes herself here, not as a hero, but as the VILLAIN the world needs. We’re supposed to take this as if she is Dwayne Johnson’s Black Adam, who is always willing to do whatever it takes to stop evil people, even if it means killing and torturing. However, Ivy has spent most of her time killing innocent people for a plan that, as revealed by Woodrue, was never going to work on her terms anyway.
Poison Ivy is a crazy person, and this comic has done nothing but illustrate that. Her logic does not add up with reality. I want to be clear, it’s not that I think Ivy can never work as an anti-hero. She worked fine as that in Amy Chu’s Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death as someone who chose to leave humanity alone so long as they left her alone. But this comic is trying to get me on board with seeing Ivy as the actual good guy, when she’s done way too much damage to make that possible.
The Bizarre Cannibal Sequence
We also get a very strange sequence where, in order to survive her wounds, Poison Ivy devours the corpse of Woodrue after having killed him. Now, far be it from me to say that writers cannot take stories to intentionally gross and uncomfortable places, after I myself have both read and written plenty of horror stories. The problem is this sequence doesn’t seem to have much purpose. Ivy stumbles out and finds a nice little boy who somehow reconnects her to the green a few moments later. So, why not write it so that Ivy is just barely able to crawl out of the wreckage, until she meets the little boy that reinvigorates her with the green? That way, she revives herself without eating somebody.
Of course, the little boy that somehow gives Ivy the green is an entirely different problem, because how does that even work? This feels like a Deus Ex Machina is being used at the end of the story. It’s as if Wilson knew of some story beats that she wanted to cover, but was unsure of the rest, so odd stuff like this was thrown in.
Ok, now we can get to the stuff about Harley. As I said, Ivy’s big change of heart came when Woodrue said he was going to hurt Harley for the fun of it. Makes sense, right? Ivy cares about Harley. What could possibly be my problem with this? Well, the problem is Ivy herself was perfectly willing to kill Harley if it meant enacting her plan to clean the earth! Is Ivy’s mentality that no one can hurt or try to kill Harley except herself?
Then Harley finally gets Ivy’s letters, meaning she knows everything: the fact that Ivy was trying to kill all humans (including her), the fact that Ivy killed plenty of innocent people, the fact that Ivy cheated on her, and the fact that Ivy ate Woodrue’s corpse. Harley’s response? She runs after Ivy with a “hold on, baby, I’m on my way!”
I’m feeling a real disconnect with the relationship between Harley and Ivy. There is so much wrong with this relationship, yet the writers at the helm keep portraying them as doe-eyed lovers who blindly accept everything the other does. It happened in the HBO Max Harley Quinn show as well, with Harley and Ivy on literally different sides of the moral spectrum (Harley works to save lives for good, while Ivy takes lives for the Legion of Doom) yet we’re still supposed to believe in their epic, eternal romance. A dynamic like that is not an actual healthy or romantic one, it’s a fake one; however, it is meant to appeal to a certain group of people who just want to SEE Harley and Ivy validating their love for each other, whereas anyone looking for logic in the storytelling will be out of luck.
Honesty in Storytelling
The portrayal of Harley and Ivy’s relationship and Ivy’s depiction as an antihero is a good way to bring up the importance of honesty in storytelling. The problem is not that Harley and Ivy have a toxic relationship at this point – a relationship being toxic does not make it badly written. What makes it badly written is if the audience sees a toxic relationship but the writer tries to make you invest in it as a romance. Likewise, the problem with Poison Ivy is not that she’s a crazy person who kills innocent people for her “cause.” The problem occurs when you never address her insanity and, instead, make her out to be a character that the audience needs to root for as a flawed but good person. Ivy might have acknowledged the good in humanity in this issue, but she never showed an ounce of remorse for the innocent people she killed.
It seems as though DC is trying to have its cake and eat it, too. They know people like Ivy as a villain, but they’ve also obviously been hearing the people who think Ivy’s environmental “activism” means she should be seen as a hero. However, I imagine the “villain Ivy” camp will be disappointed at Ivy’s somewhat more heroic turn, whereas the “hero Ivy” camp will probably hate how murderous she’s been portrayed. A classic case of “try to please everyone, and you’ll end up pleasing no one.”
It’s a shame, because I truly believe the reason this series had been doing so well is that most people were happy to see Ivy go back to her roots, where the story showed her as an objective villain. I can imagine this final decision will push people away from the next arc. I already find myself more disinterested in Ivy’s new mission into the fracking industry.
The artwork, I must say, is still pretty amazing throughout all of this. Brian Level and Stefano Gaudiano handled the darker beginning of the book with a more rugged style of artwork and a lot of black inking. Then Marcio Takara and Adrif Prianto took over with softer character designs and brighter colors for the story’s positive resolution. I wanted to separate that from the rest of my critique, because the team of artists on this book really did a fantastic job throughout. Both art styles worked very well with the tone of Ivy’s character. I just wish that Ivy’s character journey itself had finished as strong.
How can Harley be leaving Gotham to join Ivy in one issue, looking for her own killer in another, and arguing with the Joker back in Gotham in another issue, all released within a week of each other?
Why are people upset that Ivy is seen as a villain in her fight for the environment, but nobody cares that Ra’s Al Ghul is still seen as a villain? He’s a bad guy motivated to save the environment in multiple stories, isn’t he? Is it because Ra’s isn’t a woman in a leaf bikini?
Harley gave Ivy a note to read at the end of Harley Quinn #10 for when Ivy had figured herself out, but it looks like that plot line has been dropped.
- You want more great Poison Ivy art.
- Floronic Man is your least favorite character.
- Harley and Ivy are your favorite couple, no matter the context.
I still appreciate elements and previous issues of G. Willow Wilson’s Poison Ivy, but this finale has definitely been her weakest issue so far. It feels like we’re back to square one with Ivy’s character where she’s still split in two, trying to appeal to two different groups at once.
Oh well, sai la ve.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.