This review contains some minor spoilers.
After the initial five-part Two-Face arc, Scott Snyder’s All-Star Batman is now settling down into a series of one-shots that showcase a certain villain from Batman’s rogues gallery, under the loose banner of ‘The Ends of the Earth’ story arc. While this might simplify things on a macrocosmic level, Snyder’s microcosmic storytelling is just as impressive.
After Mr. Freeze released an ancient virus from the Alaskan frost last issue, Batman has travelled to Death Valley, Nevada, to persuade his old enemy Poison Ivy – an expert on toxins and antidotes – to help him contain the infection that’s sweeping through Washington. But can he convince the notorious plant-lover to save human life?
First of all, a round of applause to writer Scott Snyder for possibly the best handling of Poison Ivy’s character we’ve seen in years. The reawakening of her empathy for other human beings is particularly reminiscent of the occasionally tragic portrayal of the character in the beloved Batman: The Animated Series. Though, remarkably, Snyder was also brave enough to sneak in a callback to Ivy’s darkest hour in Batman & Robin – Batman wears a pair of wax lips to survive her intoxicating kiss, just as Robin does in that movie. At least Snyder doesn’t have her doing a strip-tease in a gorilla costume…
Often, Ivy is reduced to scantily-clad femme fatale, but what Snyder does is put a welcome emphasis on her brain power. Through references to the research she conducted to help people before her transformation, we’re reminded that Ivy was once Dr. Pamela Isley, a skilled botanist and a highly intelligent woman. She even outsmarts Batman here, as she correctly deduces that his story about a young plant-loving girl dying from the infection is just a story he is using to appeal to her heart.
That said, Ivy’s sinister sensuality is a core part of her character and Snyder uses it in an interesting, more humanizing way here. For instance, her introduction in the issue is a memorable one. When Ivy hypnotizes a boorish store clerk to do her bidding, she makes sure he does right by his family. “Now go pay for your kid’s school, you ass,” she orders him.
Snyder’s writing is ably matched – and possibly exceeded – by the artwork of Tula Lotay, who is on the triple duty of pencils, inks and colors. Her psychedelic, pop-art style leaps off the page, with its vibrant greens, purples and reds. Her Batman is intriguing – with a unique suit with green lining – but Lotay’s Ivy is the star of the show. Slightly less bare-skinned than usual, Ivy’s eyes are depicted as her best weapons here, with her emerald-green eyes popping out of every panel. There’s a cheap, misleading trick used in the coloring of the lettering at one point – Batman’s words shouldn’t be green if he isn’t really under Ivy’s control – but that’s hardly much to criticize.
Meanwhile, back-up story ‘The Cursed Wheel’ reaches its sixth installment this issue. Though it’s always interesting to check in on Duke Thomas’ continuing training as Batman’s latest partner, this part is a little less compelling than other issues as it doesn’t have much more to do than tie-up part five’s cliffhanger and then set up another. Still, it’s worth a read as it will be intriguing to see if and when Duke’s training will coincide with the main storyline.
Much like the previous issue, All-Star Batman #7 is more of a character study than the usual Batman vs. villain punch-up, but it’s all the more superior for it. Despite what I said about it being a standalone issue, Snyder is also weaving a bigger threat in the background, one much more insidious than the supervillain-of-the-week. If the quality remains as high as this one in coming issues, I can’t wait to see this series bloom and grow.
In All-Star Batman #7, Scott Snyder delivers a superlative character piece about the often poorly-depicted Poison Ivy.