Poison Ivy’s poisonous orphans

As hard as it is to complain about Batman’s rogue gallery (which may be the finest in comics), most of his baddies don’t have any superpowers.  They’re mobsters, psychopaths, or clowns, but they aren’t running around flying or throwing cars.  Not Poison Ivy.  She has superpowers out the wazoo.

Dr. Pamela Isley began a promising career as a botanist until her crazy professor Dr. Jason Woodrue injected her with experimental plant toxins that made her poisonous to the touch and allowed her to control greenery.  Thus began her criminal career as an eco-terrorist.  And not the sort of terrorist with beards and rocket launchers.  Here’s a quick scene from Gotham City Sirens #26:

Yeah, now that’s a supervillain.  Which makes it even more impressive when Batman takes her down with kicks and batarangs.

Today, we’re going to follow the story that took place in Batman: Gotham Knights #61-65, written by A.J. Lieberman and drawn by AJ Barrionuevo.  Y’see, in order to fully appreciate this article, you have to know a little bit about the major Batman event, No Man’s Land, that took place in 1999 and 2000.

A 7.6 magnitude earthquake hit Gotham, and unfortunately, the city happens to be along a fault line. The damage was so severe that the United States government evacuated and quarantined the city. Anyone who stayed behind would have to live in a crumpled, broken city with no electricity, no water, and no laws.  Also, unable to leave.  Immediately, the supervillians carved up the city among themselves and thus began a year-long turf battle between the remnants of the Gotham City police department, the Arkham Asylum regulars, and the Bat family.  It was an awesome story that took place over 11 different series and 88 total issues.  Read it.

But more importantly, Poison Ivy’s portion of the massive event triggers this story in 2005.

I mentioned that back during No Man’s Land, the supervillains each took portions of the city to claim as their own territory during this literal anarchy.  Not surprisingly, Poison Ivy grabbest the city’s largest park.  A group orphans, their parents killed during the earthquake, sought shelter and safety inside Robinson Park, not knowing Poison Ivy had taken up residence.  Instead of wiping the floor with these kids, she became a sort of replacement mother and protector.  Unfortunately, she’s also a lunatic supervillain, so it was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened:

And our mystery begins.  Who could have driven these kids to suicide?  Luckily Poison Ivy is a doctor, so besides using trees to crush apartment buildings, she can also read medical charts.

Mystery solved.  Cue a bunch of self-loathing

You know what comic books are naturally really good at?  Montages.  The panel format works perfectly.  And while I’ve been skipping large portions of the story, like her confrontation with Batman, Ivy’s meetings with the supervillain Hush, her battle against one of the orphans, and secret lab experiments from some unnamed bad dudes, I wouldn’t dream of letting you miss this: Poison Ivy doing science.

As you can figure out from the green thought boxes, she’s going to use her brainpower to reverse her condition and just go back to being a hot botanist.  Sadly, her science isn’t good enough.  So she goes to someone with the financial backing and smarts to help her.  Enter Bruce Wayne.

And finally her dream becomes a reality:

Now she can love again.  Now she can touch people again.  Her life can begin anew without having to commit crimes or worry about saving the environment from evil lumberjacks.  Fortunately, a situation would never, ever arise that would require her Poison Ivy powers again.  Right?  Please?

Yup, turns out that Poison Ivy wasn’t killing them after all.  I mean, her spores or whatever could have given them some nasty migraines or boils, but her powers had no fault in the suicides.

Looks like she made a mistake.  Will she sacrifice her newly found happiness to save the remaining orphans and avenge those who died?  Not if Batman has anything to do with it.

With Batman’s feelings effectively hurt, she can attempt to reverse the process.  Except for one tiny problem.  Turns out, Bruce Wayne won’t do it, and she has to go the back alley scientists.  In this case, Hush.  And besides his hokey medicine, she still has to deal with the evil organization that turned the kids into biological weapons.  A few pages of struggles:

Problem solved by violence.  Remember that, children.

You see those eyes in that last panel?  No matter what color her skin, no matter what powers she possesses, she’s always going to be a supervillain.  Ain’t no rehabilitation for this woman.  That fact alone makes this story terribly tragic, as she’s permanently tied to her destiny as a criminal and terrorist.  And while she didn’t chose this path originally, society and jerk professors forced her down the only path she’ll ever be able to walk.  Oh, and it gets sadder.

With that, Poison Ivy dies.  A poetic ending for a tale of redemption and revenge.

Well, you see the vines growing over the grave?  While all plants die in Autumn, they always bloom once more in Spring.  Including Poison Ivy – she’s back a few months later.  Because who else’s giant man-eating flowers will terrorize the citizens of Gotham?

One Comment on “Poison Ivy’s poisonous orphans”

  1. Reblogged this on Twilit Dreams Circle and commented:
    Tragic villains, always interesting.

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