I’ll be honest, I’ve lost track of superhero comics in the past few years. So this debut issue of the new Poison Ivy mini-series is probably the first superhero comic I’ve read in a while, and maybe that’s why I wasn’t that impressed. It reminded me of why I walked away from the genre in the first place. This comic felt to me as if DC was just checking boxes on a list of things that wouldn’t offend people or would make the comic feel more inclusive. Maybe Poison Ivy just isn’t that interesting of a character, or maybe there’s more to it than that. The story opens up with Pamela Isley (Poison Ivy’s alter ego) and her research assistant in a desert looking for a rare type of plant. It all feels very Indiana Jones-esque, but with plants instead of artifacts… Anyway, some of the local gangsters are mad that people are in their territory and come after them. Isley’s assistant mentions that these “bad men destroy the environment” setting up one of the major themes of the comic early on: the difference between humans and plants. Turns out that this rare plant can eat people, and it dispatches the two bandits fairly quickly. We return to Gotham to see Isley’s day job as a professor discussing plant hybrids and whatever else researchers with seemingly limitless incomes do. Apparently Isley has been given a second chance (her past isn’t really important in this comic) and she enjoys her work here as a researcher. All seems well until Harley Quinn comes in and stirs things up, disguised as a lab tech she wants Isley to leave work so they can hang out. This was a fairly abrupt way to introduce Quinn in this issue and was kind of a harsh transition. I suppose this was an intentional disruption of Isley’s work life, showing that she can never truly get away from her past.
After work Isley and Quinn are talking at a bar, supposedly one where super-villains can just hang out. Quinn traded her modest lab tech outfit for her more traditional costume, showing off for the male readership I guess. The discussion is continued about why Isley wants to have a normal life, leading to Quinn being jealous, maybe because she can’t just walk away from her own life, like that. Suddenly another woman at the bar begins getting harassed by some biker guys and Quinn and Isley leap into action, immediately beating the shit out of them for their blatant sexism. Isley even uses a new pheromone that she created that causes men to be attracted to each other, and leaves the bikers making out with one another (what a laugh!).
It’s all very cliché and comical, and feels like DC is just trying to diversify their character roster by using females, but without actually giving them any deep characterization. Like I said before it just felt like they were checking boxes with this one. Despite the fact that talented female writer Amy Chu penned this one, it just doesn’t seem like there’s much going on in this story. Near the end we do get this nice monologue about how Poison Ivy feels alienated from humanity for being part plant and part human, it’s nice and relatable (the feeling of alienation, not being part plant) and I hope that the comic takes a more personal tone. I’d rather not read about Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy’s dramatic relationship, especially when Ivy takes jabs at Quinn for still having a thing for the Joker. It’s just not relevant to the story, and makes their problems feel a little petty, but maybe that’s the point, to make these larger than life villains feel more human. It would suck to read a comic about Isley’s adventures in science, going day-to-day through the mundane world of botany. But it also sucks to read a flat underdeveloped super villain story where the two leads bicker about useless trivialities.
For fans of the character this comic will probably be pretty enjoyable, for me it felt a little stale. Hopefully Chu will amp things up in the coming issues, especially with the cliffhanger ending the first issue had. DC is obviously trying to diversify their roster, and it’s commendable, but it doesn’t feel like they’re quite there yet. That’s obvious just from the cover of this comic, showing a sexy looking Ivy laying on some branches, it’s just not necessary. Poison Ivy is a cool, badass character, and Chu is obviously trying to bring out those traits.
Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death #1 Writer: Amy Chu Artist: Clay and Seth Mann Publisher: DC Comics Price: $2.99 Release Date: 1/20/16 Format: Mini-Series; Print/Digital