REVIEW: ‘Poison Ivy: Thorns’ is a Gothic Horror Origin Story

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Poison Ivy: Thorns

Content Warning: Abuse and Sexual Harassment

Poison Ivy: Thorns is written by Kody Keplinger, drawn by Sara Kipa, colored by Jeremy Lawson, and lettered by Steve Wands. Poison Ivy: Thorns is Pamela Isely’s origin story published by DC Comics as part of their DC Comics for Young Adults line.

Pamela Isely has never been as comfortable around humans as she is around plants. She’s especially uncomfortable around men. At school, she faces repeated sexual harassment. And at home, her father is controlling and manipulative, forcing her to keep dark family secrets. Pamela is paranoid, isolated, and lonely.

The plot of Poison Ivy: Thorns largely hinges on the secrets Pamela’s father forces her to hide. This is also where the gothic horror elements begin to come into play. Pamela’s mother, supposedly on a research trip, is actually deathly ill, hidden in the attic, like Mr. Rochester’s wife in Jane Eyre, another gothic tale. Pamela’s father refuses to take her to the hospital. He believes that through experimenting on Pamela, he will discover a cure.

Pamela is doing her best to keep everyone at arm’s length as her father requested, don’t let anyone into her life. But when her act of ecoterrorism, dumping toxic chemicals in the construction site at the local park, causes her classmate Alice to have to move into the Isley mansion, Pamela’s carefully constructed life begins to fall apart.

Keplinger explores how even before she becomes a full-on supervillain, Pamela has a lot of darkness in her heart. Pamela shows that she often values plants more than human lives. While she does care about her mom and later Alice, the lives of people she doesn’t love seem less important to her.  Poison Ivy: Thorns begins with the aforementioned act of ecoterrorism, which Pamela doesn’t feel guilty about. Workers are hospitalized, and families are evacuated from their homes. But she doesn’t truly feel bad until learning Alice was affected.

However, Keplinger also shows the reader that Pamela isn’t a one-dimensional evil villain. She does care about her mom, about Alice. She does want them to be safe and happy. Pamela is willing to undergo her father’s twisted experimentation because she wants so badly for her mom to get better. And Pamela distances herself from Alice, despite being in love with her, to keep her safe.

Kipa is great at drawing expressive characters. Pamela especially shows a wide range of emotions. Sometimes she has this mask on, carefully hiding how she’s feeling, just like her dad taught her. But then Kipa makes it clear when the mask drops and Pamela shows her true emotions; rage, happiness, sadness, regret. And as Pamela’s character development continues, Kipa shows her dropping her mask of “quiet, shy, meek girl” for good.

The art of Poison Ivy: Thorns is beautifully tailored to the gothic horror feel of the comic. Lawson’s colors look textured as if it was drawn on rough paper. It gives Poison Ivy: Thorns a feeling like it’s an old book. The kind of old book you might find in an old, haunted mansion like the Isely Mansion. And Lawson makes clever use of color, as everything is overall, done in very muted colors. But when Pamela is in the lab or post experimentation, Lawson uses bright, almost neon green colors. It really helps these moments stand out.

Wands’ lettering is overall good. It’s easy to read and follow. And the sound effects are well done. However, it’s challenging to read the text that introduces what new setting a scene is taking place in. These text descriptors aren’t necessarily needed. Because the setting can be discerned via context clues, but naturally, your eye is drawn to them to try and read them. I have to wonder why they weren’t made clearer. Done in a pale white, the letters are patchy and shakey. It’s clearly a style choice, but one that didn’t work out well.

At its core, Poison Ivy: Thorns is Pamela Isley’s corruption arc as she lets her desire for revenge take deep root in her heart. As she undergoes her character development, revealing her true personality and desire to be in control of her own life, Pamela is well on her way to becoming Poison Ivy.

Poison Ivy: Thorns is available now wherever comics are sold. 

 

 


Poison Ivy: Thorns
4.5

TL;DR

At its core, Poison Ivy: Thorns is Pamela Isley’s corruption arc as she lets her desire for revenge take deep root in her heart. As she undergoes her character development, revealing her true personality and desire to be in control of her own life, Pamela is well on her way to becoming Poison Ivy.