After some drastic changes to her very being, Dr. Pamela Isley is on a soul-searching road trip in Poison Ivy #1. In it, writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Marcio Takara create a deeper exploration of a character that has been through hell and back.
The story in Poison Ivy #1 follows some pretty dramatic events that occurred elsewhere, and even a prelude in the form of a backup story in Batman #124 by Wilson, Dani, Trish Mulvihill, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou.
However, G. Willow Wilson makes sure readers can actually just start with Poison Ivy #1. The story begins through the lens of Dr. Isley’s journal, and that gives readers a strong enough understanding of the villain’s mental state to navigate this story even without an intimate understanding of prior events.
The plot itself sees Ivy moving through the state of Wyoming, leaving a trail of fungal infection in her wake. Her weapon of choice is Ophiocordyceps lamia (a fictional species of a very real genus of parasitic mushroom), and she uses it to devastating effect. Artist Marcio Takara renders the death in a gruesome fashion. However, Ivy’s current journey is framed by G. Willow Wilson not as one of vengeance, but of love. This is a character that is at a very introspective moment in her life, and the story decisions are driven by her character.
The nature of this story requires an artist that can capture all the nuances the character is going through, and Marcio Takara shines with expressive linework. Ivy feels like a real human being, from a focused look when driving, to small smirks and reminiscence in a dingy bar, Takara gives life to the turmoil within Poison Ivy.
This intimate look even occurs in the lettering of the book. Letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou does a great job with both the narrative captions and the way certain words get underlined for extra emphasis. The switch between a traditional capitalized lettering style and words that are case sensitive also helps give extra life to the dialogue. Ivy’s journal is rendered in italics, which helps sell the illusion that it’s handwritten without becoming difficult to read.
Arif Prianto’s colors don’t just tie the book together, they make it shine. There’s a real beauty to the work that Prianto brings out, even the dead pop out with their infections. Ivy is rendered in pale tones in the day, but in the evening, her skin takes on purples and blues, and two sequences abandon a realistic look altogether, aiming for something more psychedelic.
If there is one place the issue falters, it’s that there is no visual recap of the events Ivy is referencing. While it isn’t necessary to have read the character’s recent appearances to understand what’s happening here, it feels like a missed opportunity to not have this art team give a flashback to those stories and really solidify what Poison Ivy has been through for the audience. There are some teases that suggest readers might get these flashbacks in future issues, but doing away with the vagueness here would have put the issue over the top.
Altogether, Poison Ivy #1 is a gorgeous debut that looks at its character and their journey. G. Willow Wilson, Marcio Takara, Arif Prianto, and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou have made an intriguing character story that succeeds at nearly every level.
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