A Human Touch: Reviewing ‘Poison Ivy’ #8
by Scott Redmond
‘Poison Ivy’ #8 continues to build off its stellar opening story arc, showcasing even deeper character growth and moments for the protagonist as well as those around her. Truly gorgeous energetic ecological horror meets the beauty of humanity without losing any of its edge as a sharp justified finger continues to point at the broken system that plagues our world daily. This is a comic book with a lot to say and everyone needs to be listening to what it has to say.
Poison Ivy might be a series focused on a villain, but at the end of the day, it’s a story about a human being.
Throughout the first story arc, we witnessed Pamela Isley confronted by the toll that her crusade against humanity might cost, proving to herself that not all humans are the issue regarding the ills that plague the world. In this eighth issue, G. Willow Wilson takes all of that and shows us just how far Ivy has come when a life hangs in the balance.
Some of the best moments of this series have revolved around Ivy connecting with other human beings and getting glimpses of the good that is out there. So, it’s great that we get way more of that here with the intro of Janet from HR (actually a return, and now I need to find the Gotham City Villains Anniversary Special) who I instantly just adore as a character. She’s been through so much, struggling with so much, and has so much on the line but is still willing to help when things are looking dire for Ivy. Janet in many ways represents so many of us out there, not just in the sense of struggling with things in life and making ends meet but being the human element behind so many of the corporations doing wrong out there.
As explored in the previous issue with the workers, corporations are doing horrible things, but their presence often can mean jobs and health care, and other things for the people that need work and income. Tearing down a corporation might save the planet some or help things, but it can leave humans caught in the middle in terrible spaces. The Ivy that we witnessed at the start of this season would have just moved on, with a bigger body count, but the Ivy we’re with now takes care of the company CEO in a much different way and also comes through to help Janet with her health issues.
Everything about this book hinges upon character work and the growth we’ve seen through these eight issues is amazing, all of it is totally earned too. Just one of many reasons that this series was tapped as one of the 5 Most Progressive Comics of 2022 by our site.
As much as this is a character study there are also a lot of ecological horror vibes baked into the whole thing, and Atagun Ilhan does wonders to showcase that as they wrap up their guest artist role with this issue. There is a smooth quality to this art that allows it to flow around the page whether through various panels or just one large spread on a page. Even a page that has paneling that approximates the idea of ‘standard’ literally is outside the box by having characters stretching beyond the panel borders into other panels, hovering over everything. So many of these panels play into the character aspect of the series by giving us close-ups of these individuals, which allows us to get closer to them but also really soak in the perfectly rendered emotions or body language.
As much as the artwork is smooth there are plenty of rougher sharp edges to be found, which makes the more horrific elements stand out even more. Ivy’s body on the second page is twisted and pulled into the various growths coming from within her as the lamia spores are out of control. It’s natural yet grotesque at the same time, speaking that the natural world has beauty to it but can also become something truly horrifying under certain circumstances.
All the greens make us feel that something is more natural and less scary, but the sharp bright reds that come with these particular spores as well as the almost putrid yellows are what spice up the horror. We get all that thanks to the continued amazing work of colorist Arif Prianto, who has such an interesting color palette and style in this series, and in this issue, Ivan Plascencia is on board to help with those colors. Many of the natural elements, as well as the fantastical elements, are likelier to have a more vibrant pop of color, setting them apart, next to the more common human-made elements that are bright but in a more toned-down sort of way.
Another element that always catches my eye is the wonderful application of appropriate lighting and how it affects things. For example, on the third page, there is a panel featuring Janet reaching for Ivy where the top half of the panel shows the nearby floor with some sunlight creeping in, but there is a line where it has yet to reach leaving the rest of the panel in the shadows. Janet is beyond that line and therefore she and Ivy are both dulled down at that moment as the shadows envelop them, yet the lamia spores under Janet are still just a smidge brighter causing them to stand out in a way that reminds us what is there.
It is often said that a good letterer doesn’t stand out because the work they do blends in so seamlessly with the comic that one doesn’t really inherently even notice it. From my point of view while true, the really great letterers are just like every other artist involved with comics, they have their distinctive style and energy that can add so much to a story. That’s what we get with the work that Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou does, which is definitely why he was tapped as one of Comicon’s 5 Best Letterers of 2022. With Otsmane-Elhaou behind the lettering, all the various elements are able to showcase a lot of that ecological-horror elements when needed right next to the more normal or standard type of lettering.
Ivy’s dialogue font here is just creepy but also makes you worry for her because it’s so huge and dark and broken within the jagged green bubbles that are coming from her, and her plant proxies later on, before slipping into something lesser as she begins to regain control and normalcy. It’s not just that lettering though as all the rest from dialogue to captions captures the tone/volume, energy, and personality sparks that are needed to make moments bigger or smaller as they need be. You can hear the terror or anger that should be coming from a character at the moment, as well as the almost detachment that comes from Ivy’s caption boxes as she mulls over the situations.
Bubbles that are misshapen from the standard, following the style of the font within, that shrink or grow are something that always catches my eye. I love watching as the lettering gets as creative as everything else around it because it should have just as much energy and style as everything else. Great lettering should 100% be something you notice and point out because every member of the creative team on a comic is important and should have their work applauded.
Poison Ivy #8 is now available from DC Comics.