Thursday, January 21, 2016

Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death #1 Review and *SPOILERS*

You Can’t Trust a Big Bud and a Stamen

Written By: Amy Chu
Art By: Clay Mann, Seth Mann, Ulises Arreola
Letters By: Janice Chiang
Cover Price: $2.99
Release Date: January 20, 2016

*Non-Spoilers and Score At The Bottom*

Hooray! It’s the book we’ve all been waiting for with bated breath, the comic that fans have been clamoring for lo these many years! It’s a comic book featuring our favorite, the best, most fascinating character ever shown in a four-color funnybook…Poison Ivy? Don’t get me wrong, I know every character has its fans, and I’ve certainly got nothing against the antisocial weirdo myself, but…Poison Ivy? When this book was announced way back in the warmer months of 2015, a lot of people reacted like finally, DC was getting its shit together and giving the fans what we want! And, uh, I don’t remember ever wanting this? But it’s cool! It’s cool, glad to have it, excited to see what Pamela Isley is doing with herself. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. Why don’t you read on and see if I stick my foot in my mouth a few more times?

Explain It!:

Dr. Pamela “Poison Ivy” Isley is a character that has been used sparingly in the New 52, and maybe that’s what has positioned her to helm her own six-issue miniseries. It’s a chance to flesh out the character, see what makes her tick and explore her motivations. We begin on a sandy desert in Lower Angola, where Drs. Nepolo and Isley are looking for a specific bit of flora known as “the Living Fossil” that is very old. Pamela has a chat with the plant and learns that it’s more than two-thousand years old, which fairly well freaks out Dr. Nepolo. Pamela gets the plant’s permission to relocate it, so they begin digging it up when two dudes from the local 4-H club arrive with assault weapons and menace the two doctors. It doesn’t work out too well for the guys with guns, then two days later we’re at the Gotham Botanical Gardens, where Dr. Isley has relocated the Living Fossil. That was sort of a weird cut. What happened to those two guys that threatened her? Where’s Dr. Nepolo? Did this create any political friction with local warlords? And so forth.

Dr. Isley is chatting with Dr. Luisa Cruz, who got Pamela her job at the Botanical Gardens by showing off her work with transgenic hybrids to the, uh, warden of plant jail. Just then, a class from Gotham Academy shows up, and yes it is all of our favorite characters from the comic book! Squee! We literally see them for a page of exposition telling us stuff we already knew, though, so don’t get your hopes too high. Dr. Cruz tells the class of Gotham Academy about the Living Fossil’s tendency to live for thousands of years and some other stuff we already learned about in the beginning of the book. Then the doctors take the kids into their private laboratory where they literally create freakish beasts more suited for the Island of Dr. Moreau. For instance, they inject a couple of white lab mice with some extracts from old-ass plants, and they live for over a year. Diabolical! Do ye ladies think yourselves as knowing as God Almighty?! A pox on thee!

Just then, Harley Quinn shows up in her guise as Dr. Harleen Quinzell because, surprise if you haven’t been reading any issues of her solo title, that’s a thing she can do now. So she barges in wearing her Clark Kents and demands some face time with Isley. They go to Bobby’s Biker Bar in Canal Point, where Isley tells Quinn essentially that it’s not you, it’s me. They get into a well-rendered brawl with some bikers, which seems pretty unfair because it is a biker bar—it says so right in the name! After they’re done kicking the snot out of fat older guys, Pamela tells Harley that this will be our last song together…words will only make us cry. Back at her apartment after a long night of walking around being dismissive of humanity, Dr. Isley goes night-night, and when she awakes she finds the Living Fossil samples she boosted from the laboratory to keep in her apartment have grown tremendously! She rushes downtown to tell Luisa what’s happened and to see the growth of these plants at the Botanical Gardens but wouldn’t ya know it? Dr. Cruz is dead and looks kind of she’s been in the mesquite smoker for too long!

This is your basic set-up issue, establishing who Dr. Pamela Isley is, where she lives and works, what her powers and motivations are, and throwing in some cast members that I’m sure will play their parts later on in the story. Problem is, it was all a little too innocuous and the arrival of Harley Quinn seemed largely pointless. I know it shows that Poison Ivy is losing or has lost her humanity, but that could have been accomplished without shoe-horning lil ol’ Harley into the mix. She’s rather busy these days, you know! The artwork was pretty good, but like the plotting it got a little stiff at times. Overall, not really a comic to deride or get angry about, but certainly nothing too compelling happening over here yet.

Bits and Pieces

The problem with “a day in the life” stories is that most days in anyone’s life are pretty unremarkable. So it is with issue #1 of Poison Ivy: Cycle of Life and Death; it’s not a bad comic, the art is pretty good and the pacing is fine, but the story is really dull. There’s no great payoff for long-time Poison Ivy fans or new readers, save for the inclusion of Harley Quinn—and seeing Harley in the DCU these days is about as rare as Jim getting diarrhea from eating crappy food. Personally, I liked seeing Maps Mizoguchi in that one panel a lot more.



  1. I ALMOST picked this issue up. It was a 'featured' issue at the local curio/clothes/comic chain. Thanks to recently discovering the Get Fresh Krew(sp), I have got back into DC's current offerings (instead of back-issue diving), and I like the emerging diversity of characters getting solo series. I like seeing neat, short series about DC's B/C/D-tier characters (where's that Metamorpho mini, btw??), and I instinctively grabbed this issue, leafed through and liked the art I saw well enough. But I didn't see much ACTION in those admittedly few pages, or really anything interesting at all. I was hoping to see a huge panel of Ivy all tripped-out in the Green or a crazy plant-man hybrid creature wreaking havoc in a lab or some shit. I want to support DC's efforts to showcase less popular characters, but they gotta be good. Is it really THAT hard to write an issue that kicks ass? Rant over. Thanks for the review. It has confirmed what I suspected and has prevented me most likely going back and getting this issue. I'll save that $2.99 for Metamorpho #1.

    1. It's too early to say for sure, but I'll bet that when all six issues are done, if the art stays at the same level of quality, this could make an interesting and worthwhile trade. This played out like a slow burn opener to a thriller, where everything is hunky dory and life is swell until you get home from work and your dog has been stuffed in the oven with its eyeballs gouged out. Perhaps unfortunately, several pages of Poison Ivy ranting and raving against humanity defused the shock we might have felt to see Dr. Luisa Cruz all dead and crispy-looking, or maybe it was the author's intent and will play out in the next issue. Time will tell!

      And the Metamorpho series will be folded into the 80-page anthology title Legends of Tomorrow,* debuting (I believe) in March!

      *Any similarity to CW prime-time television program Legends of Tomorrow is purely coincidental.

  2. I'm ALL IN for an 80-page GIANT anthology series! That sounds fantastic! Heres hoping it's only 25 cents...

  3. Great ideas , Thanks for your post. I’ve been thinking about writing a very comparable post over the last couple of weeks, I’ll probably keep it short and sweet and link to this instead if thats cool. Thanks