A Relatively Healthy Heap Of Character Growth: Reviewing ‘Poison Ivy’ #12

Much like many books, life tends to happen in chapters, where the conclusion of one tends to lead right into the next. After a year-long journey, at least a year within our reality, Pamela Isley/Poison Ivy has reached the end of the journey that began with the launch of this run and is ready for the next.

What began as a mission to wipe out all of humanity using the lamia spores has been a truly gorgeous, emotional, powerful, character-developing journey like no other. It would be totally possible for this creative team to call it wraps with this 12th issue which caps off a complete story with a beginning, middle, and ending.

Thank goodness, though, not only do they not want to wrap it all up, but the audience didn’t want them to do so and therefore DC Comics made the series a full ongoing one after it started as a six-issue mini that was extended to twelve issues. Look at that, just like the title character, the series itself is undergoing constant growth.

A character starting off a series with a goal of mass murder, where we saw them causing many people to die horribly along the way, only to become someone who still will kill but also will work hard to save lives would normally seem like a stretch. Especially in the relatively short span that is twelve issues, or a year, of monthly comic books. Unless that is you have a writer like G. Willow Wilson behind the proverbial wheel, packing as much development, adventure, confronting of trauma, sexiness, relationship conversations, emotional growth, wacky nightmare scenarios, deep messages about capitalism/corporate systems/the environment, and more into every single issue.

Just this issue alone has so much going on both inside and outside of Ivy, and it all just flows so smoothly and never feels like too much is happening. Comic books that are dense but fun reads with lots of great character work and amazing visuals are always welcome in this house. Wilson guides us through this storyline and brings it to a satisfying but still open conclusion, because there are clearly more ties to come down the line, allowing us a large space of time in the middle of the issue to really fully reflect on how much Ivy has changed and how much she also is still the same.

Often part of growing as a person requires some exploration of where you came from before, and sometimes it means confronting that in some way. Not only do we have that happening literally within the story as Pam deals with the lamia but also her mental visions of Jason Woodrue, but visually the issue gets to explore the past in a sense. By that I mean we see a natural return to a lot of the eco-horror aspects that we began with and have dotted through numerous issues. Marcio Takara and Arif Prianto continue to do masterful gorgeous work just as they have this whole run, only getting more and more spectacular with each issue (if that’s even possible since they are just so so so great together).

Truly, I love how Takara so easily can have characters that are so realistic with solid form, expressions, and presence on the page and on the very same page go so wild and out beyond right field with some of the grotesque/body horror/eco-horror/psychedelic elements that come to life on the pages.  White space framing many of these panels just works because it in a way keeps the eyes drawn to the figures within the panel because of the stark contrast. Other pages though forego that to use every single bit of space to stretch the panels out as they stack over each other and highlight the chaos of the moment in some cases.

There is even a page where the thing that used to be Gwen and the lamia powered-up Ivy are mostly blurs of colors with some elements of humanity on display and it never once feels hard to follow. It’s so stylistic and part of what makes this book stand out so much. I’m one of those that feels that comic books should get weird, experimental, out there with the visuals because this medium affords so much room to do that compared to other visual mediums that have limitations either with technology, budgets, or just what is possible in a human space.

In a similar manner, Priaf does this with the colors too. In many cases they feel quite natural and realistic to what a space might or should feel like, and in others they leave all reality behind to really home in on a specific tone/quality. So many vibrant fantastical colors in some cases and then in others there are similar but far more toned-down varieties of those colors. Much like the white space mentioned previously can draw our eye in, the way the colors shift and change and flow through the pages can keep us focused or help us bounce around as we try to take it all in splashed across the pages.

Basically, we’re seeing two different versions of the world existing in the same space and we can feel that even more because of those color changes. Visually, we can already tell that these things are different from how Takara draws them, but truly if the colors were all just uniform across the different elements it would not feel the same or even right, in my opinion. Going for these wild swings of color makes it all hit so much better.

Art and the colors are experimental places full of color and wild swings to really bring things to life, and a great letterer does the same with the letters. We have that every issue with Hasan Otsmane-Elhaou who is easily one of my favorite letterers working. A powerful energy can just be felt through any words on the page, easily capturing the tone and voice of the character and the moment. This is a series where standard bubbles would just not cut it in many cases, and Otsmane-Elhaou gives us a vast array of jagged, sharp, colorful, and wild speech bubbles that fit both the more realistic but also fantastical sides of the comic.

It’s not just the characters and environment that Takara draws and Priaf colors that get to really stretch into the horrific and bold. Beyond the aforementioned things that are done to the speech bubbles/font, the SFX from Otsmane-Elhaou are true works of art. Colorful, rough, jagged, gross, horrific, beautiful, there are so many words that could describe each one and no two are fully described the same. It’s not just those things though as the still-going Ivy caption boxes with their green quality (love the little growths coming off them too) and sharp quality continue and are a delight every single time.

One year down for this beyond-amazing series, and hopefully many more to come.

Poison Ivy #12 is now available from DC Comics.

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