Poison Ivy #1 Explores Beauty in Horror

Poison Ivy has been torn apart and put back together — literally, and it’s left her bereft of most of her powers…but not of purpose. She’s planning something big, and she just wants you to know one thing: Death is not something to be afraid of. Poison Ivy #1 is written by G. Willow Wilson, drawn by Marcio Takara, colored by Arif Prianto and lettered by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou

There’s a certain kind of love song. It makes you uneasy, and puts you on a sense of high alert. It’s a shot of adrenaline that, god help you, you want more of. It’s everything you were warned about, and everything you had to have. There’s a certain kind of love song that spells trouble, and that is what we get with Poison Ivy #1.

This comic is gorgeous, right from its very first panel. I want to emphasize that — the very first panel. Every so often a comic will come along whose art is so gorgeous that it’s almost difficult to read. The story demands I move forward, but my eyes want to linger on the art. Simple green fields with blue skies above, a mountain range in the distance, and narration torn from a journal page as Ivy tells us this story might not be what we’re expecting.

You don’t see the blood too well, not at first, but it’s there. There is such serenity there, even in the death laid out in front of you, in the bloodied rot advanced by Ivy’s mushrooms. There is a vividness to the colors that’s as renewing as life itself, but balanced with just enough hypnotic, pale shading to keep you calm. 

You zoom in on this death. On the rot — on the life that blooms forth from it. The vivid yellows, the ruffled blues, the gray-maroon mushrooms; bright spots of bloodied red glisten in the sunlight. Death’s made welcoming, soothing — or, as Ivy herself puts it:

Death on the wing

Spinning straight out of “Fear State,” Ivy’s life is taking a bold new direction: seemingly, the extinction of the human race. The events of “Fear State” may have reunited her split selves, but doing so caused a major disruption to her powers — she’s no longer able to reach the Green. Her wings have been clipped. Her control over plants, minimal. And her body? Already subject to a slow decay, but she’ll be damned if she’s going to go out alone without using every trick up her verdant sleeve to try and find her way back to the Green.

This series brings us straight back to Poison Ivy: the single-minded killer. Risen from the ashes of her own death, ready to burn the world down, surrounded by well-meaning allies and lovers who were afraid of her own power, really, the Phoenix comparisons are inevitable, but Ivy’s got a lot more agency than poor Jean ever did back then. 

If the art has, somehow, not been the thing to draw you in, then the writing absolutely will. Ivy’s got a plan here — in fact, she claims she’s already set it in motion. It’s hard not to be intrigued by what, exactly, her overall scheme is, and how far she’s truly willing to go: journeys through beautifully drawn landscapes, and to crowded, late night bars along the way. There’s a sense of surreal calm about it — you’ll be awash with a sense of peace, Ivy will say something about how nice a woman she meets is, and then chill you the next second with a throwaway, “I can imagine her decomposing.” 

Harley and Ivy

We’re also given just enough flashback scenes to catch up both old and new readers — giving new readers just enough backstory to not mire them in some pretty complex continuity, and some new stuff for people who are all caught up but want to know what set Ivy down this path. 

I’m in love with the lettering. The wobble of the speech bubbles, the soft intensity in boldened words, the slight slant to the narrative journal entries that serve as Ivy’s voice, and the surreal, Delirium-like strangeness when Ivy’s final victims in this first issue fall prey to her mushroom’s euphoric hallucinations.

This series presents Ivy as a monster, caged by good intentions, now unleashed by a need for vengeance against a world that caged her and that’s choking all that she holds dear. There’s just one exception to all of that — she can’t bring herself to be mad at Harley Quinn. There’s no escaping that Harley would be one of the billions to die if Ivy has her way, and though Ivy doesn’t let herself think about that, there’s an awareness of it — it’s a sadness that tints every kill Ivy makes. This is no mad villain, no crazed ecoterrorist. Ivy’s mission is a gentle, regretful smothering of a species she believes has gone too far. It’s her regret that makes it chilling. It’s the kindness she brings to death that makes this book so gloriously unsettling.

Beautiful Horror of Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy #1 is a book about the danger at the heart of something heartachingly beautiful. It’s in humanity, it’s in the flowers, it’s in the poison that causes such gorgeous hallucinations. It’s in the limitations of Harley Quinn’s love, and as the last panel of the issue seems to imply…it’s in Ivy, and what she overlooks in her quest to find what she needs. It’s a gorgeous vibe, one that’s alluring as it is uncomfortable. Extinction never looked so good.