Comic Review: New characters, old favorites

Batman #41

Hussain Khemani, Writer

Tom King’s latest Batman story pits Batman and Catwoman against one of Batman’s most infamous enemies, Pamela Isley, a.k.a Poison Ivy. This arc immediately shows that Ivy is a true force to be reckoned with as she essentially has the entire world under control.

King’s goal in writing this issue was to demonstrate Ivy’s absolute power. King achieves this goal by having Ivy narrate the first half of the issue and later displaying the full scope of Ivy’s threat. What this story also allows is a Batman/Catwoman against the world team up.

Ivy’s narration as the story progresses is unsettling in the best manner. She’s creepy, seductive and totally in power. At first as the reader, her narration feels confusing as it is more of a dialogue with an unknown recipient(s) who isn’t revealed until midway through the issue. The payoff is quite rewarding as it demonstrates the scope of Ivy’s power and the threat she poses. Spoiler: Ivy’s talking to everybody on Earth as she’s fully gained control over everybody other than Batman and Catwoman.

The story also has an amazing Flash cameo.

Mikel Janin’s art, as always, is fantastic. It may be a bit jarring for those new to his style. His artwork is able to veer from traditional comic book art as Janin is able to display human physique, specifically facial structures, in an almost polygonal more than 2-dimensional structure. This allows his characters to nearly pop off the page.

His splash pages are vibrant, detailed and lush. Janin has an ability to make images grand without relying on explosions or any such spectacle. I’m also extremely grateful that Janin, so far, is refraining from oversexualizing Ivy.

The main complaint I have about his work is that it doesn’t give Batman a noir, detective, grim, or urban feel that I like to see in Batman comics. David Finch, King’s earlier artist on the series, was able to capture that tone.

King’s run so far has been incredible. It’s undeniable, however, that there was a minor dip in quality since “The War of Jokes and Riddles.” For the past three arcs, we saw Batman tackling Talia al Ghul, exploring his relationship with Superman and teaming up with Wonder Woman. These story arcs were only two-three issues long.

King’s better arcs took more time to explore a more nuanced storyline for each character involved. “I am Gotham” explored the lengths that Batman took to protect his city. “I am Suicide” explored the depression/vices that plague Batman, Catwoman, and Bane. “I am Bane” explored the resiliency of both Batman and Bane. “The War of Jokes and Riddles” explored a young Batman driven to near madness by the turf war between the Joker and Riddler. These arcs took, at the very least, five issues each to read.

The shorter arcs since they were good, but not great. “Superfriends,” a two-issue arc, was able to perform better as it explored the dichotomy between Batman and Superman while displaying their relationship.

Ivy’s always been an interesting, albeit underused and misused character. She’s not a psychopath or a victim of trauma as most of Batman’s rogues’ gallery (Joker, Two-Face, Bane, so-on, and so forth). Ivy’s dedication to the Earth and all of its plants allows her goals to have some recognizable merit.

Her hatred towards humanity as it destroys plantlife, her true love, is understandable. She’s an eco-terrorist. This arc shows an eco-terrorist who won the war for mother nature, yet portrays the victory as a totalitarian as Ivy believes, the current society harms the Earth so she must control society.

I’m excited and interested to see what King is able to do with this character.