In this first issue, Pamela Isley is trying to start a new life on the respectable side, but violence seems to be following her no matter where she goes. Is it good?
Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death #1 (DC Comics)
Pamela Isley, aka Poison Ivy, has a brand new career back in the sciences and she couldn’t be happier about starting fresh as a staff member at Gotham Botanical Gardens. She’s still using her powers, but secretly and for her own ends, not for criminal activity.
But she can’t completely escape her past, as a visit from an old friend and a violent act committed at her new workplace shows her.
Is It Good?
I was really excited to read this book, as I’m not as familiar with the ladies of DC, but I’ve always been a fan of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, especially together. However, I was a bit let down with this first issue.
Maybe it’s first issue syndrome, but everything about the book felt low energy, somehow packing in a lot of story without any part being a big kicker. Possibly because Pamela herself is struggling with her plant vs human nature, so her human side seems to be lacking emotion.
One of the things that bothered me about this issue is that it’s full of contradictions. Ivy claims that she’s pulling back from people and human attachments, but she’s very close to Luisa and tells Harley she’s enjoying her new job because it’s bringing her closer to other folks like herself. She also seems to be trying to fly under the radar, keeping folks at the Botanical Gardens from knowing Pamela Isley is Poison Ivy, but she reveals her powers repeatedly in public while in plain clothes. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
But my biggest problem with this book is a lady one. Time to put on my feminist cap, so get ready. Poison Ivy has had a complicated history in comics and has flip-flopped back and forth with using her powers to seduce and influence men. In recent years, pairing her with Harley seemed to help take control of her narrative and give her some heft. And I could see places in this story where Amy Chu tried to include some girl power—like Luisa mentioning that she managed to get Pam hired, despite the managing director’s sexism, or Harley and Pamela defending their waitress from harassment at a biker bar.
But these feminist touches are completely undermined by the art. Clay Mann can’t seem to let go of the inappropriate T&A that so many artists think comics need. Take our first look at Pamela in the book:
Her fairly practical field work outfit is undermined by the unnecessary cleavage. Compare her to a similar working outfit worn by one of my favorite badass lady scientists, who also happens to be a biologist:
Almost the same outfit, right? But the filmmakers respect us to know that Ellie can be sexy even in a practical getup.
I know, I sound like a total buzzkill. And don’t get me wrong, I love cheesecake and characters that look sexy in the right context. However, it’s little touches like these all through the issue that add up, and distract from what’s happening in the story. The waitress being harassed by the bikers at the bar has the lower part of her butt hanging out of her shorts; a shot of Luisa introducing Pamela and her work to a group of students has a schoolgirl in a very short skirt in the forefront; Harley walking in as her alter ego, proclaiming she has a PHD in a skintight outfit that makes sure to highlight her legs and cleavage.
Art like this bores me, and it makes me feel tired. It looks very five years ago; with the strides that many female characters are making in other books across publishers, this book feels like a step back. It doesn’t help that overall, the style of art feels very static. Even the action scenes don’t have a lot of life or movement. The various characters don’t show much emotion and it seems like Mann was more concerned with keeping the ladies pretty than giving them some interesting facial expressions.
Overall, I came away with a feeling of “meh”. I’ll probably pick up the next issue, but the art may be a big reason I don’t stick with it.