Going Out On A Limb: Reviewing ‘Poison Ivy’ #7
by Scott Redmond
After getting off to a tremendous start in the first arc, ‘Poison Ivy’ kicks off the second with the same emotional eco-horror energy while building off what came before to enter a new phase for the green-loving villain. Everything about this book just works and fully proves the idea that any character can support a series with the right energy and creative team behind them.
Having literally devoured her past, Poison Ivy is renewed, refreshed, and ready to take on a whole new mission. World-harming corporations beware, a whole new arc has begun as Poison Ivy #7 sets its sights ever higher.
Originally announced as a miniseries, the first story arc of Poison Ivy did so well that it was only natural that a second arc of the series was commissioned. While that first arc was very much a complete story, beginning with Pamela dying and finishing with her thwarting her ‘creator’/foe Jason Woodrue & gaining a new lease on life, there were plenty of seeds sown there to lead right into more stories. Naturally, some of those seeds are germinating with the beginning of this new story arc, as Ivy realized that humans are part of the Green in a sense and don’t all deserve to die, just those at the top who are forcing harm on the planet.
I was wishing that this series would continue the second I read the first issue, and with this seventh issue, it’s beyond clear that as long as this creative team can keep up this energy the title should get a third, fourth, and even more story arcs. Pamela Isley is a compelling character and with her new attitude and mission, she’s even more compelling.
From the very start, this has been a series focused on the human qualities of Pamela, and G. Willow Wilson keeps that going as we’re very much in Pam’s head as she relates this tale and how she messed up in her approach to this new mission. A great story tool is having our main characters have flaws and vulnerabilities, stumbling sometimes instead of always winning, which works no matter if the main lead is a hero or a villain or something on the scale in between.
Another element that sticks out about these stories is how Wilson never shies away from the cold hard truths of this world, alongside lessons and messages. Taking down corporations sounds great on paper, but the hard truth is it’s not that easy because of the human element involved. As Pamela finds out here, destroying FutureGas isn’t easy because while they might be fracking and potentially creating monsters with the lamia spores she created, the city and its people depend on the monetary support and benefits that come with the company locating a facility in their small town. We saw this touched on somewhat, on a smaller more personal scale, in the first arc issue that dealt with an Amazon-like company, and here it is expanded to a more societal human level.
We, the audience, can feel for the people of this town because that message about how broken our system is, we must prop up harmful things in order to gain that which we need to survive, is something we’re all too familiar with. It’s easy to say that we won’t participate in part of Capitalism because of a corporation’s bad actions/ethics, but there are usually ten other just as bad systems that we’re still part of and cannot leave for a variety of reasons. Everything Amazon or others are doing to us, our banks and jobs are often doing to us at the same time. Change is very much needed but we have to be strategic about how we approach it, which is what Ivy is confronted with in this issue.
Much of the issue is a flashback (to the day before) leading up to why Ivy decided to disguise herself as a grounds worker to get into FutureGas CEO Beatrice Crawley’s home/HQ, leading to a pretty illuminating revelation. Crawley it turns out was someone involved in Pamela’s past, another former student of Jason Woodrue, but where Pamela’s relationship with him soured and turned antagonistic Crawley thought of him in high regard. Wilson ties things together so nicely here because while Pamela beat Woodrue and moved beyond him in a sense, the effect of negative influences in our life doesn’t always just fade away. Despite being dead, the type of ill effect that Woodrue represented still persists and pushes back against Ivy and her newfound mission and clarity, leaving her in a very scary dire position.
A big feature of this series is how it’s very much an ecological horror story on top of the super action and emotional human elements. Stepping in for this issue as well as the next is artist Atagun Ilhan who picks up on all that horror energy that we saw from Marcio Takara and others in the first six issues. Ilhan not only captures that more horror-tinged tone but provides art that really ramps up the mystery at play in the issue, featuring really solid smooth action (as Ivy fights the plant monster), with a style that captures all the details and emotional/facial work in a way that is pretty smooth with a bit of roughness to it (befitting of Ivy really).
We get a slew of different paneling styles, shifting between more standard ones or those with room for negative/white space to others where the panels are stacked and shift past one another. It keeps our focus shifting where it needs to go, in a very natural way, but also really ramps up the impact of certain moments. One example is the scene where Ivy takes down the monster, her attack in a sort of triangular panel with the point leading downward to a close-up shot of her face and then the wide shot of the fallen creature ending with another stacked on close-up at the bottom. Sure that would have been effective as a handful of standard box panels, but it not only looks cooler this way but to me is far more effective at guiding us through the sequence of events.
Alongside Wilson, colorist Arif Prianto and letterer Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou are both back for another arc of this series.
Prianto has just such a great coloring style and sense, naturally switching between more vivid bright colors and toned-down versions so smoothly. Our opening pages are vivid and bright with lots of popping green, naturally, with the first flashback page taking a sharp turn to duller more toned-down colors that match the earlier sun-rising time of day that is being portrayed. It feels authentic and powerful, that real sense of how things can often look on at that time of day before the sun really hits that point where it bathes light across everything. It all slides right back into that brighter stuff as the daytime is reached, with a good amount of shadows and darkness playing into the surroundings which is both natural to how light works but also supports the darker tone that this series employs.
There is a solid weight to the artwork, and the color choices just enhance that and play into the feeling of this place feeling very wide and natural and a lived within world. Just like the aforementioned morning scene, the lighting choices within the FutureGas mansion are just so good because it’s heavily shadowed in many areas since the natural light is coming from particular windows, which would leave many areas less lit. It’s authentic but also spooky, which is the best sort of duo in this particular case.
It can often be understated just how much lettering also plays a huge part in setting the tone of a series, conveying so much with how a bubble or box or other forms letters might take on the page. Otsmane-Elhaou is just so good at showcasing the voice/personality of each character, making sure we hear their emotional state alongside seeing it. There is a moment where we see Ivy surrounded by darkness in a close-up of her face and she utters the line “I’m in landscaping” which is meant to be terrifying by the visuals (all those shadows on her face too). Otsmane-Elhaou makes sure we feel that shiver up our spine as she says this looking into our eyes because the bubble takes on a jagged shape on the bottom and the word landscaping changes fonts to something rougher and horrific and grows in size.
We’re not getting the really intriguing written letter caption boxes since that letter Ivy was writing to Harley was delivered last issue, but Ivy’s mental captions are just as solid in their own way. They get their own unique look because Otsmane-Elhaou makes the boxes green with the font taking on sentence case and a bit of an italics look that is as slanted as the boxes are. Using sentence case makes sure that it stands out even more from the spoken dialogue that is often right next to it on the page.
Poison Ivy #7 is now available from DC Comics.