Tom King constricts us tight in Poison Ivy’s vines. And it’s awesome.
Warning: Mild spoilers for Batman #41 ahead.
The Green is the elemental force which represents all plant-life in the DC Universe. You might remember its protector, Swamp Thing, who joined forces with Batman to solve a murder mystery in Batman #21‘s “The Brave and the Mold.” I gave that issue a perfect 10 rating, declaring it not only a defining accomplishment for Tom King’s Batman run, but his ouevre.
King hooks us up with the Green once more in Batman #41, this time through longtime Batman adversary, Poison Ivy. Much like King’s first foray with the all-encompassing plant realm, “Everybody Loves Ivy” is a story that flourishes on all levels.
Before we get into King’s narrative though, let it be known that the art by Mikel Janin (pencils, inks) and June Chung (colors) is unreal. Poison Ivy, from her first page appearance in an ethereal dream vision (and looking like an amalgam of Christina Hendricks and Bryce Dallas Howard), emerald eyes gleaming, hair whorled like red ribbons into a verdant backdrop whose pattern her sleeveless green dress replicates to a later scene where she conjures a citadel of convolute vines and flowery shrubs from the ground up like some botanic Dr. Manhattan is nothing short of mesmeric.
More stunning implementation of the plant-life motif comes in the form of a double page sequence where mossy vines branch about the page like a network of veins, punctuated by images of seemingly random people — an airplane pilot, a cyclist, a baseball player up to bat, a woman sitting on a park bench — and even superheroes, like Superman soaring through the sky and Wonder Woman leaping into battle, who all repeat the same thing: “I love you too.” It’s a clever way to show how Ivy’s jurisdiction of the Green stretches across the globe — how no one, even the World’s Finest can escape her mind control.
Except for Batman that is. When we first see him in Batman #41 he jolts awake from a deep sleep, sweat-drenched, blue eyes wide as dinner plates and stumbles from the bed where his wife-to-be, Catwoman, lays muttering, ostensibly dreaming the same dream he was only moments prior.
“Sir? Where are your clothes?” a confused Alfred asks Batman as the latter topples to his knees on an expensive-looking rug in the Wayne Manor library in nothing but his Fruit of the Looms. Much like us, the butler is confused as to what the hell is going on. And that’s when Batman punches him directly in the face.
That’s the type of batshit-crazy yet enigmatic ambience that pervades Batman #41 — and King sprinkles the narrative seeds with masterful form, divulging just enough of Ivy’s plan to keep us hooked from the jump. His characterization and dialogue too is top-notch, particularly with Ivy, who in concert with Janin’s skillfully rendered facial expressions and camera angles exudes an aura of preternatural arrogance.
“A few years ago, the Joker decided he could best Superman,” Poison Ivy explains later to Batman in chiding fashion. As she explains where Joker’s plan went wrong Batman vaults from the bedframe and tries to take her out with a single punch. Ivy of course, handles this in… interesting fashion. To reveal any more would be a crime, but let’s just say that King does an amazing job of leaving us just as bamboozled as Batman as to what the hell is going on, making Poison Ivy seem untouchable and having us dying to know what happens next.
TL;DR: Praise be to Tom King’s Green thumb.