Review: Harley Quinn & Poison Ivy hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

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It's hard to ignore the static surrounding Harley Quinn & Poison Ivy, whether there's anything to read in the initial creative team replaced by another or the rumors regarding editorial edicts. But it's the blandness of the story that most prominently suggests trouble behind the scenes; anyone with a real affection for these characters or any sense of their shared history would know their miniseries should be much more dynamic than this. Ultimately I'm surprised and impressed by a miniseries as well set within the day-to-day goings on of the DC Universe as this one, something that doesn't happen all that often; the miniseries itself, however, in no way lives up to the promise it might have held.

[Review contains spoilers]

As a continuity wonk I did enjoy that this book takes place squarely during the events of "Year of the Villain" — that, in fact, it stands as both a Heroes in Crisis aftermath book and a "Year of the Vilain" tie-in in one. I'm sure we can find examples in both directions but I think it's rare especially for a spin-off miniseries from one event to be also a tie-in to the next. And the Mad Hatter name-checks Batman: City of Bane, and the Floronic Man appears after events in Justice League Dark (events, curiously, written by Ram V, who was originally announced for this miniseries before it went to Jody Houser). In fact, this book does so well cementing itself as part of the "real" DC Universe that it's surprising it doesn't do better lining up with the Harley Quinn title itself, which has its own, separate madcap "Year of the Villain" ties.

Houser writes Harley pretty well here; the book is never laugh-out-loud funny, but neither is Harley's voice more formal or less than one might expect. Arguably Houser's Poison Ivy has been through a trauma, might be semi-amnesic (though that's largely told more than shown), and in the end isn't wholly Poison Ivy at all, but there was a certain amount of coldness to Houser's Ivy and her interactions with Harley — that Ivy calls her "Harley," for instance, and not "sweetie" or "sweet pea" as in Harley's own comic. This is among our first indications that Harley and Ivy's romantic relationship, a considerable part of the Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti run on Harley Quinn, will be largely downplayed here.

It rather felt like the book warmed to Harley and Ivy's relationship as it went. Things are friendly but largely unromantic until about the penultimate chapter, when artist Adriana Melo punctuates Harley and Ivy holding hands with a heart glyph. That glyph appears one more time, when Ivy is thinking back over her recent road trip with Harley, which also includes images of them lounging on the couch and sharing a milkshake. There is very little of this earlier in the book, which otherwise mostly involves Ivy trying to re-form herself and Harley fretting; the audience has preexisting care for Harley and Ivy, but I think more scenes like this would help the reader care for the pair within the story itself. Not to mention that Ivy kisses Mad Hatter full on the lips here but only has a chaste kiss on the forehead for Harley when they say good-bye.

Otherwise, Harley Quinn & Poison Ivy just meanders. There's an issue where they fight Floronic Man, two where they deal with Mad Hatter, one where they stop off at "Dinosaur World," and then two where they battle the evil Ivy with help from Batwoman. For a "road trip book," it's not much of a road trip, nor do the conflicts in the book seem intended to build in any thematic or narrative way — they run afoul of Hatter instead of, say, the Brain and Monsieur Mallah, and it seems like Hatter could as easily have been Hugo Strange or someone else for all the difference it makes.

The book's middle chapter seems to try for some Harley-style comedy when the duo pause for a bathroom break at the aforementioned Dinosaur World and find that a crazed, elderly employee has fashioned herself "Dracorex," eating the tourists. Dracorex is thrilled to think Harley and Ivy have noticed her, but when they try to leave, they must suddenly face her "wrath." Not unlike Conner and Palmiotti's early New 52 Harley Quinn issues, we've got here a silly antagonist in a silly costume (see Harley's early encounters with Sy Borgman and friends), ostensibly a lampooning of superheroics in general. That's fine, and it's fine for Houser to go there, but it's an odd misfit with the rest of the miniseries and we've seen Harley and Ivy in this kind of situation before, done better. It's not that this is bad, just not particularly new or interesting, the same thing that afflicts most of the rest of the book.

Support Collected Editions -- Purchase Harley Quinn & Poison Ivy

No question that Harley Quinn & Poison Ivy is a wasted opportunity, and indeed we've seen this done better and purer elsewhere. We know that current and outgoing Harley Quinn writer Sam Humphries reports not being allowed to use Poison Ivy himself, but we can hope that's an edict finally lifted before the next Harley series comes around. This book leaves things rather open-ended — it hardly resolves things, and for that matter Ivy could've just gone bad again at the end of Heroes in Crisis — and I'd be pleased to see a more substantial Harley writer really address Ivy's death and rebirth in a way this miniseries did not.

[Includes original and variant covers, page pencils — Rating: 2.5 out of 5]

Comments ( 1 )

  1. Adrianna Melo seems to have developed a specialty in penciling 6-issue DC miniseries written by female writers.


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