THIS REVIEW OF ‘HARLEY QUINN AND POISON IVY’ #1 CONTAINS MINOR SPOILERS.
by Clyde Hall. Wackadoo’s been called. Aptly, given the summer Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy have been through. All that gets a quick, well-paced rundown faster than you can say ‘Blackbriar Thorn’. Then we’re on to new exploits of our teamed femme felons in issue #1 of Jody Houser’s 6-issue mini-series. Like creeping vines, tendrils from the Heroes in Crisis storyline cling to the narrative, even necessitate parts of it. Likewise, Year of the Villain.
But despite being a big event sandwich, liberally garnished with the seasonings of both, Houser works her own will into Harley and Pamela’s portrayals. Especially Harley. Finally, something said regarding Heroes in Crisis that made me laugh. Thanks, Harley. And thank you, Jody.
In the wake of HiC, exonerated mass murder suspect Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, resurrected but not yet fully herself, lie low in the hedged trenches of Suburbia. They’ve just made it back from No-Villain’s Land and both would probably say it’s overrated. In true Harley Stealth Mode, the ladies have dinner out and do some mall shopping with Ivy still in her humanoid-but-very-floral form.
Even that form is difficult for the freshly-sprouted Ivy to maintain, though, and she isn’t getting stronger over time. A Legion of Doom drone delivery may hold the key to improving her condition, but it’s certainly a package with a deferred payment plan attached.
Harley succumbs to introspection while watching Ivy struggle. Life. Death. Hero. Villain. The Future. She makes Ivy a proposition in inimitable Harley fashion. Twisted and twerked, but from a heart that’s much kinder than anyone suspects. Before an answer can be given, however, another of DC’s pod people arrives and may switch Harley’s entire motivation train onto a moot siding.
Houser gives us a Harley we can believe, and a Harley who’s bad in the best ways. Her introspection regarding her status in the ranks of villainy united is idyllic. She strives for respect by being the best of the worst, and she fears perhaps she’s hit her stride with only downhill ahead. It’s reasonable. After not long ago holding the Justice League at bay, Harl might view retail theft as a soberingly lesser evil. Houser has the right style to make Harley’s amusing stream of consciousness valid and on-point, and even poignant at just the right moments.
While Harley handles the narrative heavy lifting, Ivy is left more to the story-telling ability of Adriana Melo. The evergreen villain has little dialogue, but Melo shows us all the emotions Ivy can’t voice. It’s not a small task; Pamela packs a lot of internal turmoil. Uncertainty and disappointment at her withered metahuman condition one moment, affection and devotion to Harley another. Pitiable impediment when she can’t maintain a physical form and becomes a bushel basket of leafy parts barely held together by force of will. Exotic and yet inhuman allure a few panels later. Melo succeeds with every required version.
Melo also succeeds with flow, never getting bogged into backstory but selecting the simplest imaging from past events. She gets the reader onto the pages in hand efficiently. Her approach depicting the Green realm Ivy connects with is also winning. Ivy’s not the only verdure animate depicted, and Melo has a talent for making each their own garden of Earthy delights.
Those seeking an action outing may feel excluded. This story begins over a restaurant dinner, continues over a cuppa in the couple’s shared kitchen. It’s setting the ring for internal and external bouts to come, not joining the fight in progress. For those who must, there’s a fitted sheet murder that I was totally on board with, because I hate those things, too.
Colorist Hi-Fi breaks up all that chlorophyll coloring with a balance of Harley-centric hues admirably. Gabriela Downie brings some pleasant lettering surprises along with capable and easily followed dialogue fonts. The story titling grabs. The need for effects sounds is limited, but Downie makes them memorable. The double-Thud depictions were especially clever, the growls stark and rendered in a manner perfect for things composed of gutter leavings.
The launch is very much a Harley show on the surface, but a more careful viewing reveals each protagonist receiving due focus. The Harley we get is one of my favorite types in all her iterations. Not the demented murdery Joker disciple. Not the over-the-top loon, though sometimes that’s a fun take. This is a mellower, possibly semi-medicated Harl. Not anyone you’d want to cross, but someone fun to hang around with and perform dirt-cheap villainy deeds alongside. It dovetails with Ivy’s more vulnerable status as the story begins. Downside, it’s still Big Events laden. But upside? Houser’s in charge.
DC / $3.99
Written by Jody Houser.
Pencils by Adriana Melo.
Inks by Mark Morales.
Colors by Hi-Fi.
Letters by Gabriela Downie.
7.5 out of 10
Check out this 4-page preview of ‘Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy’ #1, including a twin variant cover set by Stanley “Artgerm” Lau, courtesy of DC!