No matter their situation it’s often quite good for most people to step back and cut loose or just enjoy life for a moment. Then again most people don’t have to worry about the hallucinogenic and overall deadly fungus they once cultivated and thought was under control spreading where potential self-help grifters can put it to use.
That’s because none of us happen to be one Pamela ‘Poison Ivy’ Isley, at least I’m pretty sure none of us are.
There are numerous absolute joys about reading and reviewing this series each month (still cheering about the recent news of it becoming a full ongoing series), chief among them being the deep character development and moments that we get to focus on that enrich the series but also the DC Universe as a whole. Right next to that is another perfect element, that being that one can never fully predict where these issues will go, leaving it very much a surprise with every page turn. Start off thinking Ivy is heading down to maybe find out that Gwendolyn Caltrope and her “conscious capitalism” healthy living company Glop (hello shades of a certain similarly named real-world celebrity) are going to be some shady villainous thing only to end up with mushroom-dosed drinks, Janet from HR and Ivy hooking up, a mushroom induced connective orgy, and revelations about how Ivy’s lost control of her lamina spores.
Between all that G. Willow Wilson continues to explore Ivy’s mindset, showing us that the encounter and history with Jason Woodrue are still affecting her despite having killed him at the end of the first arc. It speaks to the idea that trauma and its lasting effects don’t just fade away because the situation or the perpetrator is gone. It takes time to heal, and even then some things stick with you. In some ways, through her thoughts about Glop, we see that Ivy is somewhat wanting to find trouble and bad people, someone to punish, which pushes her mind potentially to ‘see’ Woodrue glimpses here or there that can’t be real. Or are they real? As I said, this book is a surprise and delight with each issue so I would not be surprised at anything Wilson might pull out of the proverbial hat.
When the series began there were a lot of eco-horror elements that really framed a lot of the first story, but alongside them, one of the biggest strengths has been just how wonderfully Marcio Takara and Arif Prianto have been able to capture the human/emotional aspects of the story. Much like the last issue with Harley, this one leans far more heavily on the personal and emotional and we get a lot of great framed shots that keep us up close with the characters. We can see their emotions very clearly but we can also feel the energy of the scene even better because we very much feel like a fly on the wall/participant of the adventure rather than someone watching only from a distance.
Takara showcases emotion and also creates such lush and lived-in and natural-looking spaces, dipping into great detail in some places and pulling back to create an atmosphere without the deep details in others. This is reflected in the coloring choices that Priaf makes, continuing to create a world that is both vivid and colorful but also toned down and a bit shadowy all at the same time. Nature and other elements are very strongly colorful, those greens and other colors popping off the page, while the figures and more human-made setting elements have a sort of toned down and ‘normal’ appearance to them so that they stand out from the more natural and in some cases fantastical elements.
One thing that I thought about here very much is how even though Ivy is just wearing a pretty normal jumpsuit and isn’t decked out in a costume, there is a choice here to make her pop more compared to others. That jumpsuit green is brighter and her hair is quite fiery red, this means that no matter what the situation in any given scene she stands out from everything else, and our eyes are focused on her, as they should be with her being the title character and all.
One thing I’ve tapped previously is the great uses of lighting within these issues. How the bright outside space is far lighter than the indoor only a few openings/windows barn that we have a good portion of the issue within. That instant change in the color tones to make sure that the lighting change happens as it would realistically is just a great touch. While we love these stories for many of the fantastical elements, the elements that ring true to reality to somewhat ground these stories to be in a world at least tangentially similar to our own are quite nice.
So many elements come together in a comic to make sure that the story is delivered and (hopefully) received just the way it’s meant to be, and lettering helps bring it all home. Images are powerful and often in a medium such as this one they can somewhat tell the story on their own, or at least a story, as we spot the emotion and the action moments when they are depicted so well. Lettering puts the punctuation (yeah…I know) on it all because it allows us to not just see emotion or tone or feeling but we can even hear it.
Hasssan Otsmane-Elhaou is masterful at manipulating lettering to cause whatever emotion or tone or whatever the issue needs at any given moment. Simple things like shrinking the font, and changing from caps to sentence case, in order to show a character is whispering or muttering to themselves or shooting a font to huge sizes that make the speech balloon explode in order to really hit home that someone is being loud. On the one hand, it’s simple as a concept but in execution, it’s so massive because without those changes hearing the character’s voices accurately would be something we have to sort of guess on our own, rather than it being made clear exactly how they should be head.
There is another member of the regular creative team that has a big impact on the title that I’ve been remiss in not mentioning in these reviews, though I did tip the proverbial cap to them during our 2022 Best Ofs at the end of the year. That would be cover artist Jessica Fong who has been there for each issue providing the very first image we see before cracking that book open. Fong has a truly gorgeous style that perfectly matches the energy and smooth but rough sort of quality that represents the story and Poison Ivy herself. Each cover hits the tone of what we’re about to find inside. Just look at that image above at the top there.
Placing things where we’re witnessing Ivy and Janet through a store surveillance mirror is so unique and taps into the overall aspect of how Ivy always stands out from the crowd and is a bit dangerous when milling about normal folk. The creepy blink and you might miss it blood Ivy is wiping on the wall and the terrified look on Janet’s face, which fits with what we see in the issue itself, all just work. Each cover is an unforgettable bit of imagery and knowing Fong will still be around to carry on bringing these fantastic images to us for the foreseeable future of the series is fantastic.
Anyone who even flips through this series should be able to easily tell why it was given the green light recently to become an actual ongoing series. A series leaping from one six-issue arc to a second six-issue act to an overall ongoing/long-running series doesn’t happen all that often. It takes something truly special and amazing that resonates with readers to achieve that, and that is 100% what Poison Ivy is as a series.
Poison Ivy #10 is now available from DC Comics.
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