It’s redhead versus redhead combat in Gotham City as Batgirl faces down her former Birds of Prey partner Poison Ivy. How bad are things going to get? Your Major Spoilers review of Batgirl Annual #2 awaits!
Previously in Batgirl: Barbara Gordon was inspired by the example of her father, Commissioner James Gordon, to take up the battle against crime. She also had another inspiration, in the form of Gordon’s close working compatriot, The Batman. Though side-tracked by an injury (which may or may not have been the bullet fired by the Joker in ‘The Killing Joke’), she returned to the role of Batgirl just in time for the revived DC Universe circa 2011. Barbara has also been working with Black Canary in her clandestine group, code-named Birds Of Prey. Among the other members of that group was Doctor Pamela Isley, also known as the criminal Poison Ivy, whose exit from the Birds of Prey was… Let’s say, awkward. What has she been up to since then?
THE CHANGING OF THE SEASONS
There is a downside of the interconnectedness of the DC Universe: Though I’ve followed Batgirl’s solo adventures, I dropped ‘Birds Of Prey’ some months ago, and never saw the full story of Ivy’s face/heel turn and betrayal of the team. Luckily for me, the creative team took that into account, and even uses the old-school Editor’s Note to explain the bones of what happened and where to find the story. The first chapter of this book takes place in the recent past, before Ivy left the BoP, and has the most wonderful bits of explanation from Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon on why she’s along for the ride in Black Canary’s makeshift crew. (“So,yeah… I just love her, alright?”) The first chapter gives us the (you should pardon the expression) seeds of our story, with an untold mission in which Ivy nearly loses her cool and a mysterious villain known only as “Mister Rain” makes her a mysterious offer. Each chapter of the story represents a season, and that spring quickly gives way to summer, as Barbara Gordon helps her roommate Alysia to build a neighborhood garden for help the people of their (somewhat less-than-savory) neighborhood of Gotham City to have access to healthier food. Poison Ivy shows up again and the trail of the mysterious Mister Rain picks up again, but with Batgirl and Ivy as uneasy allies at best. The art team of Gill and Garron (no explanation of whether they collaborated or split duties) gives us an interesting looking summer-swollen Poison Ivy, as well as a lovely Barbara Gordon running around in her civilian clothes planting.
“HATE IS THE SEED I GREW FROM…”
The main focus of the issue is on Poison Ivy, and her plant-like nature, echoing long-ago tales of Alan Moore in their expectation that Ivy, like Swamp Thing, will change with the seasons. It makes for an interesting take on Pamela Isley, perhaps even one that offsets some of her wildly variant behavior over the years. There’s even a wonderful moment wherein Batgirl takes her to task for not caring about humans, only to have Ivy quietly explain about her one friend, her Harley Quinn, and turn the conversation around on Batgirl to indicate that Ivy thought she might get more friends eventually. It’s a strong moment for Poison Ivy in an issue that’s all about her, something which I truly appreciate in the world of interchangeable brooding cyphers that passes for comics villainy these days. The actual plot of the issue is less compelling, but it’s really only the MacGuffin to get Batgirl and Poison Ivy together, with one trying to save innocents and the other drawn in by Mister Rain’s promise to “fix” her. The winter chapter pushes the conceit a little too far for my tastes when Pamela rages, lashing out against the villain and declaring herself Poison Ice, but it feels less like a misstep than it is a little bit of “overacting” by Ivy for Barbara’s benefit. Things are all wrapped up nicely at the end, with Poison Ivy agreeing to turn herself in to Arkham Asylum, while ominously warning Batgirl that any favors that she owed are now paid in full, setting up the possibility for future conflict.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A SPOTLIGHT FOR PAMELA ISLEY.
Perhaps the best bit of the issue comes in a moment of Batgirl’s internal monologue where she mockingly refers to the Justice League’s matching high-collared uniforms, a moment that I enjoyed and agree with, but also can’t believe got through the editing process. Still, with the rumors of another time-jump in the near future for the DCU, it’s nice to have an issue that not only wraps up any errant Batgirl/Ivy questions, but positions Poison Ivy to be a newly revitalized major player for DC. (Here’s hoping they actually do something with her.) The art feels inconsistent throughout the issue, changing subtly which each season, which makes perfect sense for Ivy’s seasonal changes. Unfortunately, it makes less sense for Barbara Gordon’s facial features to change from Summer through Winter, but I do love the fact that Batgirl changes up her uniform accessories and weaponry to match the needs of the season. All in all, Batgirl Annual #2 is a pretty solid issue, making Poison Ivy a character that I care about and relate to, and even a few wobbles in the art don’t completely undo the spell woven by Simone’s writing, leaving the issue with an impressive 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. Any story that ends with a “broken” character making the choice that Ivy does is a good one by me…