“It’s the issue you’ve ALL been waiting for!” said the solicitation for today’s Poison Ivy chapter. I imagine it will be, IF you are a person who never tires of seeing Poison Ivy hook up with Harley Quinn. Anyone who follows my reviews, meanwhile, will know that I’ve been quite critical of these two as a pair. Hopefully though, this issue brings us a good opportunity to discuss the relationship these two currently have in no half-measures.
Before getting into the execution of the Harley and Ivy relationship in this comic, let’s talk about the positives. The best thing about this issue is that Marcio Takara is back on the artwork. Not only that, this is probably his best artwork for the entire series. No character was out of proportion. No page doesn’t look gorgeous. The petite character designs and soft, but colorful scenery help give the comic an ethereal feel to it. It helps to enhance the sense of euphoria over Harley and Ivy’s reunion (if you agree with that characterization, that is, but we will get to that in a moment). I continue to think Takara is one of the best artists to have ever handled Ivy as a character.
I tried to think of more positives to bring up with this issue, but honestly, the more I thought about it, the worse my evaluation became. That’s because this is an entire chapter dedicated to the Harley and Ivy relationship. Written as it is now, I think that relationship is quite terrible. Don’t believe me? Well, let me at least explain why…
The Saccharine Relationship
Fellow Batman News reviewer Jackson Luken introduced me to a word to describe the relationship between Harley and Ivy: saccharine. The dictionary definition of that word is “excessively sweet or sentimental.” I think that’s a perfect word to describe the relationship between Harley and Ivy as it is now. Sure enough, they haven’t even spent 30 seconds together in this comic before clothes fly off and they are in bed together. In fact, 70% of this issue is spent with these two mooning over each other. Now, one might argue that Harley and Ivy’s behavior makes sense since this is a long-awaited reunion. You must understand, however, that Harley and Ivy have behaved this way in EVERY comic that they have appeared in recently. They act as if they are on their five thousandth honeymoon.
The Problem with This
This kind of relationship isn’t a good way to depict a romance between any two characters. No two people remain perpetually in their honeymoon stage. No relationship is actually defined by two people gazing longingly at each other when they aren’t ripping each other’s clothes off; no relationship includes two characters blindly accepting each other no matter what the other does.
During the course of this issue, Harley tells Ivy that none of the terrible things Ivy has done matter to her. Not Ivy eating a man, not her cheating on Harley, not her going on a murder spree intending to kill every human including Harley. No, Harley still loves Ivy – unconditionally. I have a very hard time believing that Harley would be unaffected by Ivy’s actions, though. Harley formerly dated a serial killer and is now trying to be a hero. Ivy’s wrong doing should, potentially, hurt Harley even more than anyone else. She’s the person Harley has looked to for support the most, and she could mentally snap against her in a second. That in of itself could be the source of an interesting exploration of their relationship going forward.
Modern day Harley and Ivy can’t do anything other than affirm their unconditional love for each other, however. Gratuitous fan service sweeps conflict and story potential away.
To G. Willow Wilson’s credit, however, she does try to give reasons for Harley and Ivy’s over-the-top romantic affection. Harley claims that Ivy has merely been punishing herself for her actions as Queen Ivy. With this, Harley claims she sees the REAL Ivy, a good and heroic person. I appreciate the attempt to actually explain the current connection between the two. However, this is telling me things that the story hasn’t actually shown.
Ivy’s crimes weren’t just forced upon her in her Queen Ivy state. Ivy has decades of history where she has killed and tried to kill many innocent people to reach her goals. Her most recent attempt to end humanity in the first 6 issues of the series most certainly wasn’t her “punishing herself.” Wilson is trying to portray Harley as smarter and more insightful; she’s trying to use this to explain Ivy’s attraction to her. But it doesn’t work when Harley’s insights aren’t supported by what we’ve actually seen in the comics.
It also doesn’t help that Wilson, like many other writers these days, chooses to emphasize Harley’s childish voice and personality above all else.
Another thing in this issue that goes against what we’ve seen is Harley’s reveal that Ivy had actually never lost the green in the first place! Really? If that’s true then why did she have to regain it at the end of issue 6? It feels like a bit of retconning is taking place. I imagine the goal is to remove any sort of tension there could be between Harley and Ivy. It also seems to be happening to set up Ivy further as a hero. As someone who enjoyed the initial story of Ivy losing her connection to the green, I can’t be happy about that.
Some Final Thoughts
I’m aware of why Ivy’s character and her relationship with Harley is being written this way though. Twitter seems to have influence over comic book writers now more than ever. Ivy’s had a group of people on the platform for a long while who have advocated for her to be a hero, and you can see how that has affected her comics. Likewise, there has been a group of people for a long while now who have had this romanticized head canon of what the Harley and Ivy relationship should be. I can see how fan art, fan fiction, and advocacy have influenced the dynamic between these characters. These two never really had that kind of relationship, however.
To be sure, Harley and Ivy’s original relationship had elements of caring for each other. However, it greatly relied on the push and pull of the pair’s very different personalties and even their toxic traits. That’s what created the great chemistry between them. Gone is that chemistry. In its place is a new relationship that might as well be any two women who unconditionally adore each other. Because you can always do that, if you force the characters to be that way.
It’s ironic that people who loved Harley and Ivy’s initial dynamic have now pushed them into becoming something entirely different than they ever were.
- Marcio Takara is your favorite Poison Ivy artist.
- Harley and Ivy swooning over each other will never tire you.
I believe what we have here is another Harley and Ivy “hallmark” issue. However, I’m seeing the same problems with the relationship that I always have seen. DC writers do their best to make it as ideal as possible, but an idealized relationship isn’t actually a believable or relatable one.
The changing of previously established plot points to facilitate the new direction for the characters makes it even worse. I do have to wonder how long Internet chatter is going to influence all of the writing around Poison Ivy’s character.
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News a copy of this copy for the purpose of this review.