Poison Ivy: Thorns
Written by Kody Keplinger
Illustrated by Sara Kipin
Colored by Jeremy Lawson
Lettered by Steve Wands
Reviewed by KrisK
Poison Ivy is right. I said it, and we all know it’s true. She goes too far in her execution, but the cause remains just. My mom brought this truth to my attention, when Batman and Robin released. As we destroy our only home, and thus our future, Ivy’s truth only gains more traction. No, we shouldn’t kill all the men in the world. That would include me. We do, though, need to make some drastic changes.
Poison Ivy: Thorns tells an alternative origin story. Like the other YA DC graphic novels, this origin focuses on a teenage version of our eponymous character. She lives with her father in a mansion. Her absent mother raised Ivy with a passionate love of the green. A greenhouse at Ivy’s high school is named after her mother. Pamela Isley, aka Poison Ivy, spends much of her time there.
A nearby park, Bailey Park, faces deforestation for development. Unable to save the forest, Pamela releases a toxic gas, sickening construction workers and the surrounding residents. This forces Alice, one of Ivy’s peers, to stay at her mansion with her father and Ivy while the gas dissipates. This angers Dr. Isley, but he works with Alice’s mom and thinks it would be suspicious not to help them. The temporary living together trope is used as sweetly as you could hope.
At Pamela’s high school, drama unfolds as well. Pamela attended the homecoming dance with Brett before this graphic novel starts. Brett tried pressuring Ivy to go all the way, and she refused. Now, Brett brags to his friends he got laid. His lies eat at Ivy, but she keeps it to herself at first. Brett starts to harass her though, taunting her and still pressuring her to have sex with him. Alice has her back, thankfully, before you throw the book out a window. The girls return to the mansion, after the ordeal, for the weekend.
The mansion serves as a perfect gothic setting. Very creepy aesthetic. Ivy dresses gothic outside of school, too. Capes and nightgowns befitting Crimson Peak. Alice even rocks a puritan outfit worthy of a production of The Crucible at one point.
Alice likes Ivy, but Ivy and her father’s secrets slowly come to light. Alice and Ivy’s feelings grow, in defiance of the risk. Well, Ivy’s grow. Alice is a smitten kitten from the start. It’s adorable.
The twists around the secrets, while expected, suit the gothic tone perfectly. Gothic lives off the ambience, and this comic keeps secret cellars full of it. While the romance is cute, the melancholy of Ivy’s situation is inescapable. She teeters on the edge, and Alice longs to save her. Poison falls anyways though, but with Alice reaching out the hand to pull her back up.
The book pulls no punches. You don’t expect a happy villain origin story, but the themes of this story hit harder then the previous YA graphic novels. Child Abuse and misogyny run rampant. If these themes hit hard for you, you might want to skip this entry. You feel Pamela’s aching isolation as the men who say they care about her betray her. Her radicalization into ecoterrorism feels unavoidable, even if this wasn’t a Poison Ivy origin story. Two words to describe the story: beautiful sorrow.
The art by Sara Kipin creates the atmosphere of the book. Instead of detailed paragraphs for the rooms of the mansion, we get detailed illustrations. The mansion works well as a modern day haunted house, sans ghosts. Honestly, if we stayed at the mansion longer, we may have seen a few. The faces of the characters emote clearly and uniquely. I love Alice in every scene, because of how crystal clear her emotions are around her crush.
It’s good to see DC putting out material for Pride month. While I wish we got some more content year round, *cough cough young Wonder Woman and her gf back on Themyscira *cough, they beat Marvel, who seem to avoid acknowledging their LGBTIA+ characters a lot of the time. Comics have moved forward the last few years, but they still have miles to go.
Verdict: Buy! I loved this gothic lesbian story. It managed to carry the gloom of the gothic story, without the toxic relationships. I hope we see more of Pamela in this corner of DC.