Among comic book fans, there is an opinion that Batman’s Rogues Gallery of Villains are more interesting than The Dark Knight himself. That’s largely because many of Batman’s villains tend to have motivations we can relate to. In many senses, they are heroes in their own right in ways other villains aren’t. Poison Ivy is one such villainess. Her main M.O. is that she just wants to protect the environment and is willing to do so at all costs. She’s a true radical in her methods, but unwaveringly human in her maternal compassion, and that is a core facet of Ivy’s best depictions.

READ: Get caught up on POISON IVY with our review of #3!

Thankfully, POISON IVY #4 continues this trend. Ivy needs to retrieve her stolen research, and who better to call than DC’s premiere purloiner, Catwoman? Together, Ivy, Catwoman, and Darshan, Ivy’s friend/love interest, break into a supposedly abandoned building in the Gotham Botanical Gardens in order to retrieve the research, but a horrific snag forces them to change course. I won’t spoil the stand-out part of this issue, but I can say that it makes you sympathize with the character even more. This book takes the villain component out of Poison Ivy and instead establishes her as the protagonist, and in doing so, we see why her extreme methods are what they are. It isn’t the classic case of a villain gone too far. In this book, her compassion for life isn’t irrational; it is desperate and tragic in that she must fight so hard to defend it against man.

POISON IVY #4

READ: What has Catwoman been up to recently? Here’s our review of #51!

To that end, writer Amy Chu is humanizing Ivy on a level that hasn’t been done before, and it’s fascinating to watch. It may be having a female writer helm the book that allows this to be accomplished because there is a distinctly feminine sympathy devoted to Ivy that is not normally awarded to her. True, Robson Rocha still draws her in her typical femme fatale attire (which is an admittedly great design), but it feels necessary to the statement being made. The complaints of covering up Wonder Woman were valid, but sex appeal was never a part of the character so there was nothing wrong with it even if it was unnecessary. With Poison Ivy, sex is an enormous component of her character and if Robson had covered her more, some of the point Chu is trying to make may have been lost. With POISON IVY, Chu is reclaiming Ivy’s sexuality. She was made by men and for men as a dangerous titillation, but in POISON IVY, Ivy is the owner of her own sexual vehicle and more than that, it is not all she is. It’s all a little similar to that scene in WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT where Jessica Rabbit tells Eddie, “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.”

POISON IVY #4

In fact, this book hardly makes mention of her sexual appearance. It’s there, of course, but as we explore the depths that drive her character, we come to an understanding that Ivy’s sexuality is not at odds with her maternal compassion, but is harmoniously in-line with it. Catwoman makes sly mention of Ivy’s bisexuality early on, but in the context of this book, it isn’t a brush with lesbian fetishism; rather, it is a natural end to her deep love of nature, of which sex is a part of.

The biggest triumph of POISON IVY thus far has been that Chu has been able to explain all of the facets of Poison Ivy cohesively without dismissing any of them. If this book achieves nothing else (which is entirely untrue), it will be that it creates a successful feminist rendering of one of DC’s premiere villains. She’s not a villainous harpy or victim of her emotions this time around. No, Poison Ivy is a hero for unabashedly passionate love, and that’s something worth celebrating.

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