Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Art: Marcio Takara; Brian Level
Inks: Stefano Gaudiano
Colors: Arif Prianto
Letters: Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou
Cover: Jessica Fong
Variant Covers: Stjepan Šejić, David Talaski; Tula Lotay
Publisher: DC Comics
Release Date: October 4th, 2022
Ivy continues to deteriorate thanks to the weaponized fungus she’s testing against the rest of humanity. But before she meets the end, she has a personal score to settle.
The first four issues of POISON IVY followed the titular character as she tested her modified fungus–each issue a character vignette depicting brutal killings. But throughout these issues, Ivy maintained that her actions were necessary to save the planet from its destructive human population–horrific actions but ultimately necessary for the greater good. As the series has gone on Ivy began expressing a measure of regret for her the actions she must take. But POISON IVY #5 reveals misguided environmental altruism isn’t all Ivy is after.
The thrust of POISON IVY #5 is Ivy confronting Doctor Jason Woodrue, the scientist she credits with the creation of Poison Ivy. As a grad student, she volunteered to be part of Woodrue’s work, only realizing later that he never expected her to survive. Years later Ivy went to the doctor looking to enlist him in her cause. Woodrue refused and warned Ivy that if she took the lamia spores (something he told her she couldn’t control) from him he would haunt her to her grave.
POISON IVY #5 is a less compelling departure from the series so far. To this point, Ivy has argued that none of what she’s doing is about her. She’s out to save the planet and is sacrificing her life to do it. And when she wavered in the last two issues, it was about whether there is hope for humanity in general rather than just her attachment to the people she encounters. Wilson calls those motives into question with this issue because it feels like no matter what else Ivy did, whether a success or a failure, this is where she was headed all along. It also adds an extra layer of complexity to Ivy leaving Harley because if this is an endgame of some kind, it’s more important for her to face it alone than without Harley by her side. But that’s not to say she’s alone.
Ivy’s deterioration from the lamia spores continues, and she interacts with a hallucination for much of the issue. Wilson’s choice of identity for the hallucination is interesting and not one I would have expected. That Ivy’s fungus-addled mind turned to this particular person and made them constantly second guess everything Ivy is doing is intriguing. This is almost certainly foreshadowing about how the story arc will end (there does have to be some resolution that stops Ivy, after all, since she can’t kill off humanity).
Takara (with a pencil assist from Brian Level) and Prianto make POISON IVY #5 the most visually disturbing issue yet–largely a result of Ivy’s deteriorating mental state. Panels are distorted, bleeding from one into another. Characters stretch and bend. The colors are wild with variation, ranging from the natural but somewhat ugly colors often associated with Ivy’s fungal infections to an almost psychedelic palette.
Takara also depicts Ivy at her most vulnerable (so far) in this issue. For much of POISON IVY #5, she lacks the strength that has been a hallmark throughout the series. She has her moments when she confronts Woodrue, but it is obvious that she is deteriorating.
Also important to note for this issue is Otsmane-Elhaou’s lettering. Ivy’s dialogue has been expressed through green-colored traditional bubbles throughout the series, setting her apart from every other character. In this issue, Woodrue’s dialogue is also green. But rather than using traditional symmetrical bubbles, his dialogue is inside vague, asymmetrical ovals. Additionally, the font for Woodrue’s dialogue is rough and irregular. The resulting contrast is an effective way of enhancing the differences in attitude and behavior these two characters are.
POISON IVY’s strength to this point has been in presenting character vignettes that link together to form a larger, ongoing narrative. Each issue presented insightful interactions with other people even as Ivy intends to kill off most if not all of them. POISON IVY #5 breaks that pattern. Ivy doesn’t spend any enlightening time with other people. The issue is not self-contained. As noted, this is obviously setting up the end of the arc. Unfortunately giving into that necessity results in the weakest story to this point. But the art, even more, interesting than previous issues, more than makes up for it.