Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy is published by DC Comics, written by Jodie Houser, art by Adriana Melo, inks by Mark Morales and Wade Von Grawbadger, colors by Hi-Fi and letters by Gabriela Downie. In the wake of Ivy’s death and resurrection in Heroes in Crisis she still struggles to feel whole again. But when a surprise gift from Lex Luthor shows up at her and Harley’s door it will take all of their will, cunning, and devotion to each other, to see Ivy whole again.
I don’t have a lot of history with Harley Quinn. While some of my encounters with the character have been fine, I often find her to be way too much to deal with. But I’ve always heard wonderful things about her and Ivy together, and wanted to give the ladies a fair shake. While I can’t call Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy a flawless victory, it does a lot of stuff right. Especially where it’s two title characters are concerned. First, lets talk about Poison Ivy.
As Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy opens Harley and Ivy have taken a break, settling into a nice house in the suburbs while Ivy tries to get her bearings back. And while she’s clearly giving it her all, it’s not going great. During a trip to get her some new clothes, as Ivy’s current form makes her look skinless, she literally breaks down into a jumble of vines in a dressing room. Harley then rushes her out of the area, as inconspicuously as possible.
The image of Ivy in that dressing room hit me pretty hard. I’ve had moments where I was doing a mundane thing like shopping and every mental aspect of me ceased to work. If I had been asked to describe what that feeling is like, that image would be by the top. But, even with these frustrations and setbacks, Ivy keeps pushing. Why? Cause she needs to, for sure. But often times throughout this book it seems clearly not for her. But for Harley.
Poor Harley. Someone she loves just died, came back to life, and is now struggling with what is likely a form of PTSD. Even though she is a trained mental health expert Harley doesn’t know what to do. And the only option that is clearly not on the table is giving up.
I have to give special praise to Houser here for how she writes Harley, particularly in the early portion of this book. Many of us have been where Harley is, to one extent or another. Someone we care about is struggling and we just want to fix it. But unfortunately so many problems, especially those of a mental health variety cannot just be fixed. They take time. And Harley Quinn is known for many things, but patience is not one of them.
Houser lets Harley worry and fret. Her expansive use of internal dialogue for both characters allows the viewer to understand the motives of both women with crystal clarity. But Harley’s for me hit the hardest. Smiling for a friend while being worried like hell for them can be one of the most emotionally taxing acts to perform. It wasn’t long into this book that I really came to feel for Harley.
With no better options at hand Harley decides to offer Ivy a mystery package that turned up for her from Lex Luthor. While the contents seems to help, shortly after using it trouble comes knocking. While the duo manages to make a hasty exit they are now on the run, along with everything else they had on their plates.
This is the only point in Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy where the story wavered a little for me. While I continued to enjoy the interactions between Harley and Ivy, and the mutual strength they garner from each other, the plot heavily stalls out for a couple issues. They have run ins with baddies, and some quick escapes, but these middle chapters feel underutilized. Not bad, by any means, but compared to the opening and closing, they just didn’t stand as strong.
The artwork in Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy provides an excellent canvas for its story. Melo’s art comes together with Morales’ and Grawbadger’s inks to capture its protagonists in all their emotional states with equal skill. Whether it be Ivy’s determination, Harley’s anger, or both of their moments of weakness and strength, every moment is captured clearly and powerfully.
The coloring work done by Hi-Fi keep the story bright and full of energy. While this mostly works well, there are a few moments that might have been a bit better served if the brightness had been turned down just a touch. While the coloring never inhibits the emotional impact of Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy’s story, I think it could’ve have done a bit more to enhance it.
Rounding out the visual presentation is Downie’s lettering. The dialogue is always clear, and the texts placement is never in the way of the art. A nice addition is added to Ivy’s text balloons, and the colored backgrounds of the frequent internal monologues did an excellent job of keeping the reader up on who is thinking what.
With all these elements together I can honestly say that Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy thoroughly surprised me. The emotion in the story feels real, and honest. It’s easy to over do things with a character like Harley at center stage, but Houser and company do a wonderful job of letting their main characters be themselves, without becoming too much of themselves. If an emotional road trip with a duo that are ready to face whatever life has to throw at them with, and for, each other sounds like a good read I highly recommend this this book.
Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy is available May 19th wherever comics are sold.
Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy
If an emotional road trip with a duo that are ready to face whatever life has to throw at them with, and for, each other sounds like a good read, I highly recommend this this book.