Writer: Amy Chu
Artists: Clay Mann, Seth Mann & Others
Collects Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death #1-6
There are reasons why Poison Ivy has endured for 50 years: She’s not only beautiful and deadly, but has found as many ways to confound Batman as she has been given backstories. Her first headlining venture hits the ground running and charts new territory that is anything but garden variety. Many fans were hoping this mini-series would force DC to turn over a new leaf and award her an ongoing, which won’t blossom anytime soon. I must confess I have some mixed feelings regarding this tale and I’m not expecting everyone to agree with me.
I won’t deny that writer Amy Chu has a firm understanding of the Poison Ivy character; she’s undeniably written to perfection. What puts you on a slippery slope, however, is setting her as the protagonist. Much like Deathstroke, she still murders people in cold blood and that may turn off some casual readers. I understand that when it comes to writing for Ivy or Slade Wilson, you may want to paint them as morally grey, which is certainly one viable way to do it. Or you could take the gloves off and play to their vile nature like in Lex Luthor: Man of Steel or Joker, both of which are stories that I enjoyed to a higher degree. But to each their own.
Pamela Isley’s new status quo sees her land a job at Gotham Botanical Gardens, a place that apparently doesn’t run background checks or pay attention to who the city’s most notorious criminals are; it requires a suspension of disbelief worthy of an episode of Batman ’66. Their staff is quite eclectic: Every man aside from her sort of love interest Darshan (whom I didn’t care for in the slightest) is either a sleazeball or an analog for Mr. Burns and Smithers, only more evil. Luisa is the best apple of the bunch but shares the same fate as an extra found in Central Park in the opening five minutes of any given episode of Law & Order.
As Ivy gets to the bottom of things, expect to see guest appearances by femme fatales such as Harley Quinn and Catwoman. Even Swamp Thing drops by, whom Chu made a wise decision including because pairing him with Pam always feels so natural. But I promise that the focus on the titular character is never lost. It’s her book through and through.
One thread that really took off was Ivy developing plant/human hybrid babies. Not only is this the backbone of the book, it felt like the logical progression of her half century long journey. Her children – Rose, Hazel, and Thorn – opened up many new possibilities for storytelling and cosplaying. Should any elements from this story every be reintroduced, we should see what those gals are up to. Their exit really reminded me of the ending of Multiplicity.
Before I get out of here, let me say that Clay Mann’s artwork is nothing short of breathtaking. While some other top notch artists contributed, I wish every page had been done by him. He set the visual tone for this title and the various transitions between pencilers and inkers is quite jarring a times. In short, when one cook bakes the perfect pizza, you don’t invite a half dozen more who have their own unique recipes.
Overall, Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death is a highly intriguing mystery with generous personality that doesn’t quite stick the landing. I must admit that I enjoyed reading it more as a collected edition than when I did month to month. If an ongoing series ever comes to fruition, the foundation may have to be rebuilt.
Images courtesy of DC Entertainment